Bobby Petrino Previews the Spring Game

Bobby Petrino
Photo: AP

The spring football game is Friday evening at 7:30 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. On Thursday afternoon, head coach Bobby Petrino met with the media to talk about the game and the state of the team. Here is the full transcript from

Q: Before spring, you said you wanted to see how your guys competed. Now that spring is wrapping up, do you feel you have a bunch of competitors?

A: I do. I’ve been happy with the competition for positions, you know, guys going in the meeting room and learning the offense, and working to move up in the depth or keep my spot on the depth chart. And then the competition back and forth between offense and defense has been very competitive and very physical. So it’s been good spring in that sense.

Q: What kind of things offensively do you want to show the fans (Friday) night?

A: Well, we’re not going to do a whole lot on scheme. That’s not really going to be the most important thing to us tomorrow night. Just execute with our base offense, you know, base plays, getting back on time in our passing game, getting the quarterback back, getting the ball out of his hand on time, getting the receivers to exactly the right spots they’re supposed to be at. And you know, be physical in the run game. I think that’ll be what we’re looking for.

Q: In recruiting terms, you said you needed to get some familiarity with what you have to see holes. Do you have a better feel for those areas now and do you move guys around a little or are they things you address with recruiting?

 Well we have. And that was one of the things we decided during recruiting was to keep some initial scholarships in our pocket, so we could go through practice and spring ball and saw what our needs are and how we might have an opportunity still to fill some of those needs. On the defense, I feel real good about our front seven. I think we’re going to be good interior, I think our linebackers are going to be able to play the way we want to play. They’re very physical and fast and we have some very good length on the edges, and that’s without Lorenzo (Mauldin) out there. So him getting back there will help us. Without Keith back there, when he comes back that will help us. So that’s like two great signees right there. We’re a little bit concerned with our depth in the secondary and inexperienced at safety. So that’s an area where we’ve got to continue to work hard and get better. Offensively when you look at it, our depth on the offensive line is concerning to us. I feel good about our first offensive line group. I think there’ll be more competition for it, hopefully in the fall. And then we’ve got to play good at quarterback. (Will Gardner) is getting better. His decision-making is improved, his accuracy is improved. I think that’s the one thing that showed up last Saturday is we made more run after catch, and some of that was to do with we were more accurate with our passes.

Q: Are you interested in seeing how he reacts (Friday) night, the first time being The Guy in front of a crowd?

A: It’s good experience for him. There’s no question about it. Everything we’ve done he’s worked to go out and get better. He’s got a great attitude and is a natural leader, so we just have to get him in the situations that he’s going to see in a game, so that it’s somewhat familiar to him.

Q: What positions do you envision being open coming out of the spring game?

A: Really all of them. When you look at it, they all are. When you go into practice in August, it’s all open. Obviously there are players who have started and have experience that probably have theirs locked down, but we want to keep it open competition and continue to get better.

Q: You’ve had some guys who were banged up in the spring, and that’s another part of the fall is that you’ll get to see those guys for the first time.

A: Yeah, when we got here, there were a number of surgeries. We had a lot of guys need shoulder surgery, a couple with knees that we haven’t gotten to see at all. That’s kind of why our numbers have been down and we haven’t gotten to take as many reps as we would like to in scrimmages, because we’re basically, only working with two groups. You’d like to have a third group in there so you get more reps. But with our numbers right now we couldn’t do that.

Q: What has your wide receiver group looked like?

A: They’re a very good corps. You’ve got a special receiver in DeVante Parker, and then a special group around him with very good experience, good speed, they know the game and they can catch the ball away from their body, which helps a lot. That’s one area where there’s great competition every day. There you could see the depth changing on a daily or weekly basis just based on who’s working harder or who’s 100 percent healthy. So that’s a good group for us.

Q: Does that experience at receiver make for an easier transition for a new quarterback?

A: It helps a lot, yeah, there’s no question about that. When you look at the offense, for a new quarterback we’ve got a lot of positives. We’ve got an experienced offensive line, good at the tight end position, a good group of running backs, and a group of receivers that you can get the ball to and they can make plays. He just has to really understand that you let the reads and defense dictate who is going to get the ball, not force it to one guy or another, which, when you’re balanced at the receiver position, you can do that.

Q: Guys when they can enroll early seem to get a little head start. L.J. (Scott) looked so good (at running back) in the first couple of weeks. Do you think, “Okay, this is going to stop at some point?” Or does he just keep it going through the whole camp?

A: I think L.J. is a special player. He’s very, very mature. When I first got here, I’d come up to the office on Saturday morning and he would be just finishing lifting, be in the locker room by himself. I got to visit with him a lot. He’s very determined, and very dedicated, with great instincts. So I’m excited about everything we see from him in spring ball.

Q: What do you expect from fans (Friday) night?

A: Well I hope we get a good crowd out there. I hope we get a group that enjoys the competition. It’s the first time that we get to go out and showcase our team. It’s the first time this team has been together and we get to go out and put on a show and hopefully it’s a great crowd and we have fun.

Q: Do you get a sense that people in this town are excited about this new era for Louisville football and do you think tomorrow night could be a reflection of that?

A: Well I think we are. When you look at the schedule, and the teams we get to bring here, and play in Papa John’s, and the road games that we have, it’s something that Tom Jurich and Dr. (James) Ramsey have been working for for a long time to be able to play this type of competition and this type of schedule. So I think there’s a lot of excitement.

Q: There’s been a lot of talking and excitement it seems about black uniforms.

A: Yeah, I am. I think it helps a couple of things. No. 1, I think it helps your attitude, being positive, our guys we talk to them a lot you look good, you play good. I also think it helps recruiting, the world we live in right now. So you do it for two reasons. Guys feel good about it and get them playing well, and then it helps with recruiting. I think we’ll have some exciting things coming up with our new uniforms in the future.

Q: Alternate uniforms?

A: I’m not sure about alternate. But you’re going to see some — I like to go out there and look good.

Q: You talked about DeVante and Will, who are some other people who you’ve been impressed with that people should look for (Friday) night?

A: Well, you know, on the offensive side of the ball, I really like Gerald Christian. I think he’s done a really nice job for us at tight end. His ability to get down the field, elevate and catch the ball, and tight ends become a quarterback’s best friend on third down, and then when you get in the red zone to go in and score touchdowns. So I’ve been really happy and impressed with the way he works. Defensively, Trevon Young, another young guy that came here at midyear, has been very impressive, his ability to rush the passer and ability to pick things up quickly. That’s always the concern with new guys, with the volume we throw at them, but he’s done a really nice job with that. Both our corners are good football players and very competitive. They get tired, I think, of hearing about the receiving corps we have, and they go out and compete every day against a good group, so I’m excited about what we can do at the corner spot.

Q: What have you found with this team in terms of leadership?

A: You always worry about it. I just go back to continually what I’ve noticed since I got here. No. 1 is these players have a really good work ethic. They like working hard, they like grinding in the weight room, they enjoy practice, getting out there together. We’ve had positive attitudes about the change. They understand that things are different. Everything’s different, but they have been working hard to adapt and do that. And then I do think we have good leadership and guys who know what it takes to win games. So when you step into a job with that, along with some talent, it’s been very good four our staff.

Q: There has been some talk about stadium expansion here. What do you think about that possibility?

A: I think it would be great. But you’d have to talk to Tom about that.

Q: Where do you stand at the linebacker spot?

A: Well Kelsey has done a really good job this spring, him and Burgess have been working mostly with the ones.  Nick Dawson has rotated in there and he continues to get better. His instincts are getting better. He was playing slow in the beginning just because he wasn’t used to everything. And then we’re excited to have Keith Brown back. We get him back out there. He hasn’t even been on the field yet, but when you watch his leadership in the weight room and the way the kids follow him, I think he’ll be a big difference for us.

Q: How has the process of blending your staff gone?

A: I spend a lot of time, sometimes in practice I like to just spend a lot of time with the kids and jump right in and coach and spend time on that. But sometimes I will just step back and watch our coaching staff and evaluate how we’re teaching and in our individual periods, and you know something that myself and our coordinators have talked about it’s not only getting to know the players but getting to know the style of our coaches and where we need to improve as coaches. So we’ll work hard on that during the offseason and getting to know each other. We’ll spend some time next week on game-planning, so we’ll get to know each other on those routines and where our strengths are and where our weaknesses are.

Q: It’s not like after this week you get to go on vacation? What happens once the spring game is over? Do you recruit one day, game plan some, or how does that work?

A: We’re going to crank it up more than just one day, because that’s the time of year that you do that stuff. So next week I’m keeping everyone here. We’re not going on the road next week, so we can spend the morning’s game-planning and working through that process, and then every afternoon will be recruiting. Then we’ll go out on the road for a week, come back, have everyone home again so we can evaluate the kids that we saw, have a good plan, then get back on the road after Derby for three straight weeks of going through the recruiting process. Something I’ve really enjoyed about college football is the different seasons that you have. You have the regular season, then you have the recruiting part of it, then the little period of offseason of working with your players and fund-raising and being with the boosters, then spring ball, spring recruiting, then summer camp in there with the young kids, then start it all over again. But I think having those different seasons is something that has always been enjoyable for me.

Q: Who is the No. 2 quarterback going to be?

A: Who’s it going to be? I guess we’ll have to find out. They’ve actually been having great competition. We’ve charted everything and they’ve kind of gone back and forth on who goes first and who is second, so we’ll figure that out by the end of the day and see which one of them runs out there first.

Q: When you say game-planning, you’ll be working on Miami next week?

A: Right. We’ll go through Miami, and we’ll actually go through the process of everything we’d do in a normal week on game-planning.

Q: On the depth chart it shows the normal number at every position, except at running back you have five. What goes into that?

A: I think it’s important to have a very good group, and then whoever is hot gets the majority of the carries. As the year goes on, they’re the guys who take most of the hits, most of the collisions, and every once in a while a guy will be nicked up and somebody will have to be able to step in and take over and get more carries than the other guy. We were very fortunate when I was here before to have a great running back group. They were able to stay fresh, do different things, and I’m excited with what we see at running back right now.

Q: Would you expect Dominique Brown’s workload to increase?

A: I don’t know what his workload was last year. Right now I would see him get the ball somewhere between 20-25 times a game, whether that’s carrying it or catching it. I like L.J. I think Michael Dyer has done a nice job here in the last six practices. And then it’ll be fun to see Corvin Lamb when he’s full speed because he’s the fastest guy on our team and he’s shown he can be a game-breaker. I went back and watched some of his video from the past and saw the long runs he made on screens for touchdowns. We need to get Radcliffe back. He’s out for the rest of spring. And I really like his work ethic and what he’s done for us this spring.

Q: How has your approach to spring ball changed since you were last here?

A: Not a whole lot. We just do what we do. We try to teach. There are days when you have physical practices and there are days when it’s about teaching and learning situations. We have a progression of what we believe in, and that’s installing a lot on offense and defense for seven days, then coming back and starting all over again, and then we’ll do it again in August. So we’ll go through the progression three times, then hopefully we get it.

Q: With Lamar Thomas going into Miami’s Hall of Fame, how cool is that, and does it help recruiting down there?

A: It’s pretty awesome for Lamar. That’s when I first met him was when I would go down and spend a week with their coaching staff and sit in the receiver meetings and you know, watched him interact with his peers and the leadership that he showed. I kept his name on a list and watched him play in the NFL, so when I got a chance to hire him that meant a lot to me because I had the chance to sit there and watch him in meetings and watch him practice. I’m really happy for him. It’s a great deal for him to be inducted down there, and hopefully he can do some reconnaissance down there and get us a few tips.

Q: It’s a special thing for a coach to lead his team out on the field for the first time, how will it be for you?

A: Well it’ll be different than the first time I was here. The first time we were trying to get them to get out of the locker room and go, and as an assistant I kind of had this routine where I was the last one to go out on the field, the last guy out, so I remember being down in that hallway and everybody sitting around and saying, “Come on let’s go, what’s the problem around here?” And one of the players turned to me and said, “Coach, they’re waiting for you.” So I said, “Oh, okay.” It was a rookie mistake. At least I’ll know to be in the front of the line now.

Q: Is it nice to have former players to pop into practice?

A: It’s been awesome. I think it’s great, guys who know me real well and have been through what our players are going through now. Brian Brohm is getting married on Saturday, so I’m a little bit upset at him that he’s not having his rehearsal dinner here during the game. A couple of the guys are going to be late to the game because of his rehearsal dinner. He should’ve had better planning, don’t you think?

Q: Is the Spring Game a big recruiting night for you?

A: Not as much. We did have last Saturday, a junior day, I thought it went well for us. We will have a few recruits in tomorrow night. There are some issues with that, always, on this weekend with Thunder Over Louisville and all that, so we actually try to do it the week before. We will have a number of our signees here. I like to do that for the Spring Game so the parents get to know each other and they get ready to be part of the family here for the next four or five years.

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