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It’s been more than three months since the University of Louisville football team captured one of the biggest victories in school history with a win over the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl.
The Cardinals will complete spring practice on Friday before taking the field at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium for the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Spring game on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“It’s been hard,” defensive tackle Brandon Dunn said of spring practice. “Everybody is competing and jobs are not settled. The young guys are learning from the veterans, and there is just a good vibe around the program.”
There is a different feeling around the program because it’s the most veteran team that head coach Charlie Strong has brought back in his four seasons. Fifty-three letterwinners return for the Cardinals, including 19 starters.
“Practice has gone smoothly,” Dunn said. “The meeting rooms are solid. There aren’t a lot of mistakes being made. It’s just a veteran team. It’s a disciplined team. They know what to do and what not to do. It’s a workplace. Everyone is taped and braced for practice and you don’t have to find players.”
Lofty expectations are being placed on this team based on its 11-2 record from last year and the return of many key veterans and a few transfers who sat out last season.
“Coach Strong has told us we played a good game against Florida,” defensive tackle Roy Philon said. “But that’s behind us. We need to start back over and try to go further this season. When coach Strong tells us something we listen to him because we know it’s in our best interest. “
Spring ball isn’t as much of a grind for the players like fall camp. The Cardinals conducted 14 practices before taking the field on Saturday for the spring finale. While players have the opportunity to work on their individual skill-set without having to focus on their next opponent.
“Spring ball helps you perfect what you have to do in fall camp,” Philon said. “Spring is basically fundamentals and working on yourself. It’s working on yourself so you can be better during the season. The defensive line took a step forward from last season. The defensive line looks good out there.”
For just the third time this spring, the Cardinals will compete in front of their loyal fans at the spring game. The Cardinals are looking for a huge crowd on Saturday to surpass the 25,000 that attended the 2007 spring contest.
“It’s a good thing,” Philon said of the spring game. “I hope we get a big crowd out there to show their support.”
There are lots of activities surrounding the spring game, starting at 9:30 a.m. There will be live music in the Street Fest area with food, $1 beers and carnival rides for both children and adults. Tickets for rides will be sold per ride or an all-day pass can also be purchased.
Once the gates open at noon, $1 beers will be available only on the Norton Terrace, and concession stands will be open throughout the main concourse.
The NCAA champion men’s basketball team and national runner-up women’s basketball team will be honored at the spring game and fans will be able to take their picture with the championship trophy from 10 a.m. -12:30 p.m. in Street Fest.
The women’s basketball team will sign autographs in the main concourse once the gates open at noon.
Charles Gaines looks good on defense.
Coach Bedford did not lie on Twitter today, Vante is the best WR in the country. Had a sick catch between Floyd and Pryor for a TD.
Dominque Brown looked great, and they weren’t shy in trying him out. He said the knee feels great.
Clark is super fast. Not sure how much he will be used in the stable of receivers, but he can play.
Finesse was earning his stripes today with a lineman skirmish (not fight, just a stand-off with O-lineman Manly). The team loved it.
Willie Bailey is no longer with the team. No reason, just gone.
Coach Hurtt, noticeably absent, is said to be on administrative leave in order to prepare his defense for the NCAA.
Spring Practice: Day 1
“We have a veteran team now. People know where to go, and what to do. Approach is different, because it is our first senior class. They know what to expect. The team has a lot of confidence, and the guy’s work ethic is outstanding. They understand the checks on defense much better”.
Coach Strong is looking forward to evaluating the new guys: Christian, Pike, and Clark.
On the O-line: They are looking for a lot of Joe Manly, and Nacho is currently in Alex Kupper’s spot. Kamran Joyer in Mario’s spot.
The message for Spring Ball is “team”. We have a lot of individual talent, but we will only achieve greatness as a team.
On the schedule: We have to play what is front of us, and I have to prepare the team to compete. We didn’t play all that well in a few games this year, so plenty to improve on.
Heisman possibility isn’t on his radar. “I am all about this team. We have good chemistry with so many players coming back”.
Teddy is looking forward to adding more TE packages now that G. Christian is in play. “He is a machine, can catch a ball with 3 defenders on his back. He is an O-lineman, Running Back, and Wide Receiver all in one body”.
One change being a year older is in his decision-making. He feels more decisive with his passes.
Regarding Sunny Will Stein: “Will is the guy that pushed me, and knew the offense so well. Now I have to do the teaching”.
Regarding Will Gardner: “A Star in the making”.
On Dental Work: “Now I love to smile, I love to have conversations with people, and it’s a great feeling. Couldn’t eat solid food for a couple of months, and lost some weight”, but he is getting back after it now.
15 players out with injuries/surgeries, but all expected to play in the Fall.
Will Gardner is solidly #2 in the QB rotation right now. 6’6″ and throws a great deep ball.
Reggie Bonnafon and DeAndre Herron attended the practice.
Teddy talked to some Florida players on the break he is friends with: Dunbar, Elam, Floyd – not a bad group. They admitted not being prepared for what Louisville brought that day.
Jermaine Reeve currently in Bushell’s spot.
Apparently, we will need to come up with a long list of Chuck Norris quotes for Gerald Christian. So get’em ready.
2012: Louisville Cornerbacks came back in 2012 entirely intact and the Cards jumped from 68th to 17th in Passing Defense. Some of that production was due to schedule and conditions (Southern Miss was played in a lake, Temple really didn’t threaten to throw). But cornerback play was definitely elevated from a year earlier when the Cards relied on a transfer and 3 freshman almost entirely. Still Louisville managed just 11 interceptions, 3 of which came against Cincinnati. I don’t think the Cardinal secondary saw many top level QBs in 2012 but when they did see a good QB, like Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Bryn Renner of North Carolina the Cards were susceptible. Nassib led Syracuse to Louisville’s first loss of the year throwing for 246 yards and 3 Touchdowns, while Renner threw for 363 yards and 5 Touchdowns in a failed last minute effort.
Overall I’d have to say that the Cardinal Corners played well. But I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Especially against top-level QBs.
Terrell Floyd (5-10, 199, JR) who could ever forget Terrell Floyd? Everyone remembers the opening play of the Sugar Bowl when Floyd picked off an errant Jeff Driskel pass and housed it for 6. Definitely on the list of greatest Cardinal plays in history. But Floyd also clinched the Rutgers game on the Scarlet Knights final possession with an interception of Gary Nova (meaning he had INTs on back-to-back snaps), and T Floyd also clinched the Cincinnati game in overtime with an interception of Munchie Leagux. Floyd made BIG strides from 2011 to 2012. Terrell as a freshman was on the field out of necessity and really wasn’t ready. In Spring 2012 I saw a totally different player and Floyd really came on for the Fall. I look for a similar jump from his 34 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sack, 3 INT, 5 pass break-ups, and a fumble recovery in 2013. Floyd should be a starter at Corner again in 2013. Floyd is listed as Louisville’s #1 CB on one side.
Andrew Johnson (5-9, 187, JR) is a Cardinal fan favorite after blowing kisses after a blocked field goal return for a touchdown against West Virginia. Johnson also had an Interception against Florida in the Sugar Bowl that stopped a Gator scoring drive. Mr. President struggled with some minor injuries during 2012 but still managed to play in 12 games and get in 26 tackles. Andrew is a sure tackler but isn’t the biggest or fastest corner you will ever see. What he is, though, is reliable on the field. He’s a very smart player and knows how to play the man across from him with the tools he has. Johnson, made the defensive play of the non-conference season when he broke up a potential game-winning play against North Carolina’s Erik Highsmith. Johnson is going to play A LOT and is probably going to start. Johnson’s main focus should be getting his body ready for a full season because there are a lot of young players who will be looking for a spot. Johnson will sit out Spring drills but is listed at #1 opposite of Floyd.
Stephan Robinson (5-10, 170, JR) is in his junior season from Central High School. Robinson is listed at 5-10, and whether or not we want to dispute that or not really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Robinson is VERY fast and also very physical at the cornerback position. I think the coaches really like Stephan against ‘running Quarterbacks” and that is a big reason why we saw so much of him versus Cincinnati, South Florida, and Temple. But Robinson really was susceptible to jump ball situations and this was really evident in the South Florida game against Andre Davis (6-1). Davis is a very good receiver, but he isn’t overly big. Robinson can cover a lot of ground but he definitely needs to work on recognition of the ball in the air and getting off his feet to contest the ball at the high point. Overall though, I feel really comfortable with Robinson on the field. I’d like to see him get a little bigger but I think Stephan gets a lot more than his 8 tackles. There is going to be some competition coming up, so Robinson better be ready. Robinson is listed #2 behind Terrell Floyd.
Anthony Branch (5-10, 182, SR) former walk-on from Manual. Played in 5 games (the last 5 of 2012) registering 2 tackles.
Mitchell Nelson (6-0, 185, Soph) walk-on from Male did not appear during 2012.
Jordan Streeter (5-9, 165, Soph) walk-on from Ft. Thomas Highlands did not appear during 2012.
Adrian Bushell is going to be missed and it seems like we were just getting to know him after his late (and very timely arrival) prior to the 2011 season. Bushell will likely play in NFL after a pretty nice combine performance. The Cards will have to find a replacement for Bushell who started 13 of 13 games for UofL in 2013 and was 4th on the team in tackles with 62. Bushell wasn’t really an interception guy, but he covered a lot of ground with his speed and is a very sound tackler.
Zed Evans transferred to North Texas. His last play as a Cardinal was a HUGE hit on Florida star Loucheiz Purifoy on a kickoff return. Both players had to leave the game, Purifoy with a leg injury and Zed Evans because he thought it was Valentine’s Day. Big play. You can tell that the coaches liked him because he still played even with the coaches knowing that he was headed to the Mean Green. Evans will play right away at North Texas as he graduated and will be able to start working on some post-graduate work.
Titus Teague played in 8 games in 2012 and was the consummate anticipated ‘break out’ player in Spring Practice that never really materialized in the Fall. Teague will always be remembered for his Beef O’Brady’s dance off.
Jordon Paschal played in 8 games in 2012 (missed last 3) and registered 14 tackles (mostly on special teams). I’ll forever be disappointed that Paschal didn’t finish his 74-yard fumble recovery against Missouri State all the way into the endzone.
Raby Malemusa (5-6, 165, SR) walk on from Waggener did not appear in 2012.
Devontre Parnell (5-11, 176, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 and comes from Fairfield Central High School in Winnsboro, S.C. Clearly a place dubbed Winnsboro is bound to produce champions, and I’m very excited to see what Parnell can do. Right now Devontre is listed #2 behind Andrew Johnson at corner and his high school tape really impressed me quite a bit. Parnell has length at 5-11 and also seemed to have a lot of speed. I’m excited to see him in a college environment to see how he stacks up. I have heard good things about Devontre out of practice and we’ll see if he can continue to build when it matters. Parnell committed to the Cards in the 2012 class and held offers from UConn, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest.
Richard Benjamin (6-1, 180, FR) will be a true freshman in 2013 and in my opinion he is someone coming out of high school that is cut from a different cloth. Sometimes high school film can be deceiving, but I think Benjamin has a chance as a true freshman to come in and factor right away. If this was 2011 Richard would probably start, but this is 2013 and there is a little more depth and experience at this position, but not much more. I think Richard can REALLY be a high-level player for the Cards so his adjustment in the Fall to the college game will really determine how much he sees the field in 2013. I’m excited to have Richard. He chose the Cards over offers from Arkansas, Auburn,Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Miami (FL), Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, NC State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Purdue, Rutgers, South Florida, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCLA, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. It is possible that Benjamin could also end up at Safety, but I’m putting him at corner as that is where I initially expect him.
Willie Bailey (6-2, 185, RS-FR) transfer from Florida will have to miss the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bailey comes from Hallandale High School (basically North Miami) and in addition to his offer from Florida also held offers from Miami, North Carolina, South Florida, and Tennessee. We’ll keep an eye on Bailey (and whether or not he stays at Corner or moves to Safety) to see how he could fit in for 2014.
Charles Gaines (5-11, 188, Soph) is someone I also talked about in the wide receiver breakdown. Recently UofL released their updated depth chart and Gaines is back at cornerback. Since I first saw Gaines I loved him at Corner. I was OK with him at Wide Receiver, but I really always felt like Gaines could have a long career as a cornerback. I’m excited that he has been switched back to defense……….
But again, I don’t know if I had a bigger disappointment in 2012 than I did with Gaines. Think about this. Charles Gaines is one of Louisville’s most athletic players. Probably has one of the highest levels of potential and Louisville wiped the floor with Florida. Charlie Strong has shown TIME and AGAIN that he is willing to bench players who break the rules. We’ve seen several examples of Gaines being reigned in, and even though Charles may have learned some lessons the hard way, hopefully he’s found some maturity and is ready to handle his business. Gaines could be a BIG time contributor at corner.
Darius Skinner (5-7, 190, Fr.) is a walk-on from George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester, KY.
In Charlie Strong’s first season the Cards’ had two extremely reliable corners and they played 99% of all of the snaps. Since then though there really has been a lot of rotating players mainly because of youth, injuries, and just generally trying to find the right guys. I wrote about Jermaine Reve in the Safety section, but he could easily end up at Corner. The Cards need depth at Cornerback and only have 3 corners returning who saw significant action in 2012. I DO think that Terrell Floyd, Stephan Robinson and Andrew Johnson will factor in a lot, but the main question for me is whether or not Charles Gaines can become responsible enough to be trusted on & off the field. If Gaines can become responsible then the Cards will have a lot of capable talent at Corner. Also I’m interested to see how far a long Devontre Parnell is in his development, I think he is a natural corner and if the Cards have 5 solid guys at corner they can leave Reve at Safety and potentially also move Benjamin to safety and/or leave the red-shirt on him. But I actually think Benjamin is going to be too good to keep on the sidelines in 2013.
I REALLY like this group a lot. I think that the last 3 recruiting classes have been some of the best corners Louisville has had collectively coming out of high school in a long time. In the past, the Cards have had very good corners individually, and they have developed corners. But I don’t believe UofL has ever put together a group as talented as this one coming out of high school. It’s really impressive and exciting.
2013: Anthony Branch, Terrell Floyd, Andrew Johnson, Stephan Robinson, Charles Gaines, Mitchell Nelson, Jordan Streeter, Devontre Parnell, Richard Benjamin, Darius Skinner,
2014: Terrell Floyd, Andrew Johnson, Stephan Robinson, Charles Gaines, Mitchell Nelson, Jordan Streeter, Devontre Parnell, Richard Benjamin, Willie Bailey, Darius Skinner
2015: Charles Gaines, Devontre Parnell, Richard Benjamin, Willie Bailey, Darius Skinner
2016: Devontre Parnell, Richard Benjamin, Willie Bailey, Darius Skinner
2017: Richard Benjamin* (*if redshirt is used).