LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Scott Satterfield faced an obvious question during his first trip to ACC Media day as the University of Louisville football coach. It's the same question he'll face all season: As a first-time coach in a Power 5 conference, will there be a learning curve?
Certainly, at Louisville and elsewhere, we've seen learning curves for first-time head coaches. Charlie Strong identified things he'd have done differently after his first season at Louisville, so did Bobby Petrino. It wasn't surprising. Neither had ever been a head coach before.
Satterfield has. Still, he allowed that there will be a learning curve in any new job. He had one at Appalachian State. He also said that in coaching, the learning never really stops.
"I learned every day at App. I think I'm going to learn every day here," he said. "It is football. There's 11 guys on the field on every play. To me, it's people. It's how you deal with people. You guys have seen guys who were successful in business that can handle people very well. Joe Gibbs comes to mind. He was a Super Bowl winning coach, then he goes to NASCAR and wins championships. He knows how to handle people. I think for me, I always want to continue to learn. We're at a level now where national championships are coming out of this league. The best of the best. So for me, I'm going to look and see what's Clemson doing? What are they doing to win championships? Because that's the level we want to be. So a learning curve? I always want to be learning. I don't care what level. If I don't want to be learning, I need to get out of it."
Satterfield pointed out Clemson, because Dabo Swinney and the Tigers are on top. He identified Clemson a while back, in fact, making off-season trips to Clemson for four years to study what Swinney was doing. But it wasn't just Clemson.
"When Coach Satt was at App, they used to visit us every spring," North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren said. "Got to know him. Think a lot of him. Good coach, good man. He did a tremendous job at App State. I'm not sure what the workload looks like for him at Louisville. I know he's a guy that will do it the right way and work hard at it."
He got similar high praise from Wake Forest coach Dave Clausen: "I have great respect for him. I knew him when he was the offensive coordinator at Toledo and I was at Bowling Green. He did a great job at App. When we played Appalachian two years ago, his team was extremely well-coached, disciplined. Again, I certainly hold him in high regard, have followed his career for the last 10 years. I'm sure he'll do a good job there, hopefully not too good of a job because we have to play them every year. But I think Louisville is extremely fortunate to hire somebody of his character and qualifications."
How quickly all that leads to success on the field, however, is open for debate. Satterfield arrived to some numbers problems on the roster, and it may take a couple of seasons to resolve them. Nor do most preseason pundits think much of the team's current talent level. Most of the position groups are ranked near the bottom of the league rankings, something he's made a bit of motivational hay out of with some signs around the Louisville football complex.
"They saw somebody ranked each position group, and Louisville, we're down at the bottom of most of those position groups, so that's motivation," he said. "That's something we'll probably leave up for August. We'll take it down when the season starts. But they're human beings. Right? You're going to look at it. Now, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who's picked first in the ACC right now, or all conference. None of that really matters. You want to be picked at the end. That's when it matters."
One thing Satterfield has done, particularly on offense, is simplify the playbook. He has done this throughout his career, he said, emphasizing execution over scheme.
"When we first started putting this offense in at App a long time ago, our principle was keep it simple," he said. "I want to keep it simple so our players play fast and don't have to think a lot. So it is pretty simple. It's all about execution and playing hard. These guys understand what we're trying to do. They've caught on to the scheme. Now it's all about execution.”
But don't expect Satterfield's time at Louisville to be a carbon copy of his time at App State. He knows it's a different situation. He said he can't just lay the same blueprint down and expect the same results.
Still, he said, the new challenge won’t result in him being a different coach than he has been.
"I think you've got certain core things you'll do, but we tweaked it a lot at App too," he said. "You've always got to be asking is this the right thing? You're always looking. It's not an exact science. You've got your core principles and values, and that's what we're going to be made of. But then you have who our personalities are. We inherited this team, so they're different personalities than we had at App. But the core values are going to be the same. . . . It's a different situation here. I didn't know anybody when I got here, so that's a little bit different. But we're going to lay a good foundation."
What success will look like this season is a question Satterfield has been thinking about, and something he'll talk about with his team in the coming weeks. He knows he has a team that is hungry to win and that has quickly embraced many of the things he wants to establish.
He also knows football is a game of numbers and strength, and that may take time. It will certainly take fighting through more adversity. That's why most of the offseason has been focused on maintaining players' will to succeed, as much as anything physical.
"How we measure success will be important," he said. "We're going to lay that out in August. It's not going to be by wins and losses, I'll tell you that. It's going to be by a lot of other things, some intangibles. That's what we're going to base our success on."
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