LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – First-year University of Louisville football coach Scott Satterfield says his players are in for a more rigorous start to camp than they’re probably used to, but that he needs to jump into some heavy contact drills as soon as permissible so that he can get a feel for who is ready for the real thing against Notre Dame on Sept. 2.
Satterfield talked about his plans at ACC Media Days in Charlotte on Wednesday. And players said they believe him, because their summer preparations already have been more strenuous than in past years.
Most coaches, including Satterfield, have drifted toward less physical practices in recent years. But this could be an exception.
“The first two weeks are going to be intense,” Satterfield said. “We're going to get after it. We'll hit. We'll tackle. Probably more than I've done in a long time, because we still don't know about some of these guys.”
It’s a fine line for Satterfield. On the one hand, he lacks depth, so heavy contact is a risk. On the other hand, going into a season on hope or faith is no way to be prepared.
“You have to weigh is it worth it to get somebody hurt, or do we need to see what they're made of?” Satterfield said. “So those kinds of things we'll weigh. But those first two weeks will be very intense, very strenuous on these guys, and then we'll start pulling back. But we'll get a good idea those first two weeks.”
They’re getting something of an idea from summer conditioning. The first few days, according to wide receiver Seth Dawkins, you’d see players try to cut corners, not touch a line, and strength coach Mike Sirignano put a quick stop to it.
“We had a 7 a.m. lift and we came in lackadaisical,” Dawkins said. “And Coach Mike ran the mess out of us. I’m talking about at least 45, 50 minutes straight – 28 or 30 gassers. He said, ‘You guys are either going to buy in, or they’re going to fire me.’”
Dawkins said the operative words for conditioning workouts are “Mandatory Enthusiasm.”
“Intense, fast-paced running, lifting, up-beat,” he said. “In the weight room, you have to be intense, happy to be there, or you get kicked out. You get in at 7 a.m., if you come in with sleep in your eyes, not talking, you get kicked out. It’s mandatory enthusiasm, but it’s contagious. Guys were getting kicked out a lot in January. But then you saw a couple of guys buy in, start yelling and getting motivated, and more and more guys got into it. So now, the weight room is a loud place when you step into it.”
There were a couple of key moments in the buy-in. One came in January when Dawkins and defensive back P.J. Mbanasor called a team meeting and spoke with their teammates.
"We’d had this punishment, and P.J. and I called the meeting, 100 guys, and we said guys, ‘We just need to buy in, and everything else will handle itself,’” Dawkins said. “We said, ‘Listen, Coach Mike is not going to change. It’s either him or you, and he’s not leaving, so it’s got to be you. You’ve either got to buy in or move on.' Some guys didn’t and they’re gone.”
Another key moment came toward the end of spring practice. Satterfield isn’t always a fire-and-brimstone kind of coach. But he began, in a spur-of-the-moment talk, to describe his vision for the program. And as he talked, his voice started rising, to a shout, almost like a street preacher. By the time he was finished, players were standing, cheering.
“He’s not really a coach to get up and yell, but he was getting passionate, we could hear it in his voice, he was dead serious,” he said. “And it just took a couple of us guys to buy in and then everybody bought in. It was a chain reaction.”
The mood and feel in offseason workouts has changed, as a result.
“Last year we ran and worked out,” Dawkins said. “But this is definitely a step up, like J.V. to varsity. If you took us from last year, in our best shape, I’m not sure last year we would’ve been able to make it through right now. That’s being completely honest. That’s because we run so much and lift so much, it’s very detail oriented. Coach Mike takes his job very seriously.”
Linebacker Dorian Etheridge said that the mood has changed, and it has as much to do with the entire staff as it does the head coach.
“He’s one of the most laid-back guys around the facility, but when he does speak, it gets your attention,” Etheridge said. “It’s a collective thing between him and his staff. A lot of times it’s all about the head coach, but the staff is just as much a part of your life, with the position coaches. And he made sure every position was taken care of. He made sure relationships were being built.”
On the topic of buying in, Etheridge said that was an easy decision.
“Why wouldn’t we buy in?” he said. “You saw last season. Clearly, we don’t have the answers. So we need to let these coaches do their work, follow them and trust them. This staff has gotten guys together pretty fast, so that’s pretty special to be able to do that. . . . Coach Satterfield knows everything won’t be turned around in a day. Our thing is to take no steps back.”
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