The Louisville Cardinals conducted their first major scrimmage of the spring this past Saturday and while there are still several areas that need improvement, head coach Bobby Petrino was pleased overall after watching his team run nearly 140 plays in full pads.
“I thought we got a lot done today,” said Petrino. “I was happy for the most part with the scrimmage. I thought it was very physical on both sides of the ball. We came out and worked hard. I was also happy with the way we conducted our business before the scrimmage, in the locker room, in the training room and in our clap session.”
While the first year head coach, although in his second stint here, sees improvement with each practice he does notice that there are glaring holes on defense currently. That would be expected by most fans after losing the likes of sack-leader, Marcus Smith, big play defensive tackles, Brandon Dunn and Roy Philon as well as the defensive captain and middle linebacker, Preston Brown. Add in the departures of the dynamic duo at safety in Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith and it’s easy to see that the Cards have a lot to replace.
“On defense, I thought we gave up too many big plays,” Petrino said. “But on the other side, you are happy to see the offense make big plays.”
The offense figures to be the better unit heading into the ACC and for good reason. Returning wide receiver, DeVante Parker (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) is likely one of the top five receivers in college football and is poised to add to his already monstrosity numbers under the offensive style of Petrino. Parker caught 55 balls for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games last season. For his career, he has 113 receptions, 1,920 yards and 28 touchdowns.
While Parker is the headliner on offense, he’s not the only guy ACC defenses will have to watch. The Cards also return leading rusher Dominique Brown (825 yards/8 TD’s) and the third, fourth and fifth leading receivers from last year in Eli Rogers, Gerald Christian and Robert Clark. Kai DeLa Cruz also returns and when healthy, is one of the most dynamic players on the field.
Another seldom used receiver last season that looks to be climbing the depth chart is senior, Matt Milton. Milton (6-foot-5, 205 pounds) had a great scrimmage catching three long passes including a 67-yard touchdown. His size and ability has Petrino smiling ear-to-ear. When asked about Milton, Petrino said,
“I thought he did a good job running after the catch with the exception of the one time he turned the ball over in the end zone.With his size and combination of speed, he can take a short throw and turn it into a long gain, which is a great thing for a quarterback.”
Speaking of the quarterback, Will Gardner seems to have a nice hold on the starter spot for now but Brett Nelson played well Saturday and may have put his name up there in the running.
“Will has had a good week,” Petrino said. “He has gotten better throughout the week. Wednesday was his best day of practice. He was really accurate and got the ball out quick. But it’s competition. They keep competing. I thought (Brett) Nelson did a good job today. He made some nice throws and showed he can get the ball out on time. He might have gotten himself in the competition after he performed today.”
Louisville returns to the practice field Tuesday at 4:00 PM. I should be out there again this week and will get some photos to share of the team and coaches.