“Game week. Finally got here.”
Coach Bobby Petrino spoke for a lot of people, declaring the long wait nearly over, the long hot summer for members of the University of Louisville football team finally behind them.
“It’s been a good pre-season. I like the way our guys work. I like the way our coaches have been coaching. It’s fun to see the new staff members and their personalities coming out. It’s been really good.”
An entirely new outlook from a year ago when the program was still struggling to find a quarterback in a nationally-televised game against Auburn in Atlanta.
A team full of first-time starters took its lumps early, losing its first three games before winning eight of its last 10 games, including a signature win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.
So much different this time around. “A year ago everything was new to them, what we did on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,” he said. “These guys have been through that numerous times and that should help us in getting prepared.”
Petrino wants to see his team “come out and execute, do their jobs, do what they are asked to do, work their technique and fundamentals, and play with great effort play in and play out. I want to see guys with effort habit, playing hard on every play.”
The coach also wants to choose the option of receiving the ball on the opening kickoff every game if possible. “One of the hardest things I ever had to do was tell our guy last season that if we win the toss, we’ll defer until the second half,” he said, noting that he never wants to do that again.
It’s obviously difficult for Petrino to contain his excitement when asked about the progress quarterback Lamar Jackson has made during the off-season. “He’s had a good camp. He’s harder on himself now. He expects more from himself, as far as his drops, his sets, his accuracy. That’s really fun to see.”
With a stronger, more experienced offensive line, Petrino is expecting more from running backs Brandon Radcliff, L.D. Scott and Jeremy Wright, as well as from freshman Malik Staples whom Petrino described as “a home run hitter, capable of going the distance on any play.”
Petrino chomping at the bit, eager to get started.