On Saturday, April 15th, Louisville football will hold it’s annual Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Spring Game. This will be our last chance as fans to see the team for about 5 months.
It’s tough to determine in this glorified scrimmage just how much the team has improved or how well certain players will adapt in their new roles, whether it be as a starter or at a new position. The coaching staff will be trying different personnel packages, implementing different schemes and calling a variety of experimental plays.
Take it for what it is, a chance to see our guys in action. Even though it’s tough to gauge how great this team can be by the outcome or stats from this game, we can get a look at certain players of interest and individual position battles. Here are 10 things that I will watching with great interest.
- Offensive line one is a place that needs major improvement. There are several guys currently battling for a starting spot and others just trying to get into the rotation. I believe the only player to lock down a starting spot is Geron Christian. Coach Petrino said that Lukayus McNeil and Linwood Foy are going to rotate at guard and tackle this spring. The offensive line you see at the spring game could be a very different one from the one you see take the field on September 9th because the freshman who could impact the offensive line are still finishing up their senior year of high school and won’t be on campus until this summer.
- More specifically on the offensive line, is the battle for the center position. I was told by various sources that red-shirt freshman Robbie Bell would be the starting center this year. While that may end up being true, Nathan Scheler was taking first team snaps and rotating with Tyler Haycraft in the first open practices. All 3 rotated in the second open practice.
- The confidence of Reggie Bonnafon is something I will really be watching. It was said that he could be our secret weapon last year as he made the transition from quarterback to wide receiver. He dropped a few passes early in the year and never really seemed to get it going. I believe a fresh start will build his confidence. He is such a dynamic athlete and he needs to get touches as he is a threat to score every time the ball is in his hands.
- At the quarterback position I don’t need to see much from Lamar other than his ability to throw a short touch pass. That has to improve. I don’t need to see anything from Kyle Bolin because I know what he can do and I am fully confident in his ability to carry us if called upon. I am interested to see Jawon Pass simply because he was red-shirted last year. It was said that his talent is raw and needed to be polished up by Petrino. I have faith in coach and look forward to watching him develop under Petrino, Jackson and Bolin.
- Desmond Fitzpatrick is the receiver I have been dying to see in a game. With Jaylen Smith out all spring recovering from surgery for a stress fracture in his foot, other receivers will get a chance to shine. Dez, U of L’s highest-ranked 2016 signee, according to Rivals.com, seems to be the guy who can come in and make an immediate impact. Emonee Spence, who missed all of last year with a fractured foot, and Javonte Bagley have looked good so far in practice and could help with depth at wide receiver.
- Tight end is a pretty solid position but who of the 3 will claim the starting spot? Will it be senior Charles Standberry, junior Micky Crum, or Texas A&M transfer Jordan Davis? All 3 are great but I want to see them push each other.
- Running back took a hit with Brandon Radcliff graduating and LJ Scott transferring to EKU. It appears Jeremy Smith will inherit the starting spot but his bugaboo was ball security. In the spring game I want to see him hold onto the ball and I am dying to see Dae Williams in action. This kid is a beast. Biggest running back in a Louisville uniform since Michael Bush. I am not comparing their skills so don’t get too excited. I am only comparing their size. You won’t see him in the spring game because he is not on campus yet but remember the name Colin Wilson.
- New defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said he didn’t run a specific style of defense but would run whatever he felt worked the best for his defense. By all accounts he is running something that resembles the 3-4 defense. I’ll be watching to see the variation of that with the different personnel groupings. Also, he has simplified the terminology to allow the play calls to get in faster. That should help.
- True freshman and early enrollee, C.J. Avery, is a physical specimen who doesn’t look like a kid who should still be in high school. He plays a hard-hitting style very similar to Calvin Pryor and will be playing the “rover” or “star” position that Josh Harvey-Clemons played last season. Keep an eye on this kid. Like Jaire Alexander, he is very special and will likely only be at Louisville for 3 years. Enjoy them both while you can.
- Finally, I am looking forward to seeing the progress of the expansion inside Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. I’ve seen it from the outside but it will be exciting to see it from the inside. It gets me pumped seeing those construction vehicles on campus and makes me even more confident about the future of this program. I am proud to be a Card!
As Always, GO CARDS!