Bobby Petrino likes Louisville football’s offensive line

Offensive linemen rarely get mentioned unless they’re getting blamed for lack of a running game. Not the case on the first day of football practice at the University of Louisville.

“I do like the young offensive line group,” said Coach Bobby Petrino. “We’ve got some of the young guys who have the size and the athletic ability that we need. ”

The likely starters include Geron Christian, Tobijah Hughley, Kiola Mahoni and Lukayus McNeil.  They took some lumps before getting their collective act together last season. Petrino has slowly added depth, with more than half dozen backups standing 6-foot-3 or better and averaging over 300 pounds.

Running back Brandon Radcliff likes what he sees, too, having often struggled at times to find running room with immobile offensive lines.

“They are more experienced,” Radcliff said. “They are scholars of the game. They are studying the game and learning the offense. I saw a lot of improvement out there today and I’m looking forward to watching this group continue to progress.”

Quarterback Lamar Jackson will like them even better.

Louisville, Bobby Petrino in contract extension talks

Looking down the road, navigating that collision course.

The University of Louisville Athletic Association has entered into discussions with football coach Bobby Petrino’s to extend his contract on a long-term basis. Terms are being negotiated by the attorneys, but UofL fans are eager to have Petrino around as long as possible.

Petrino signed a six-year contract with an annual $3 million salary in 2014. Since then, he has had two stellar seasons, including a 9-4 finish in his first year and an 8-5 mark last year.Bobby Petrino 11

On extending Petrino’s contract, Tom Jurich, vice president of athletics, said, “I just think he has done a great job.”

“He’s exceeded all my expectations when we brought him back. I knew he had a difficult proposition in front of him – certainly not from a talent standpoint – when he got here, but moving into a new league was a big upgrade for us.

“I’m very pleased with the direction we’re going, and I think we’re really poised for a great future with him.”

The Cardinals have high expectations on the heels of last year’s 8-5 season and the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M. Louisville  has been included in numerous preseason top 25 forecasts. However, the most backed teams don’t always win, raising the possibility of UofL making it into the playoffs.

Again next season, the toughest two opponents in the Atlantic Coast Conference are included among the first five games – Florida State on Sept. 17 and Clemson on Oct. 1st.   They, along with Houston, are considered national contenders.

“We have six teams who played in bowl games last season and three teams that finished the year ranked in the top 25,” said Petrino in a statement to the press.

He welcomes the challenges, however. “We have a lot of work to do before we start playing games, but with an experienced team returning, they understand the challenges ahead of them and know what preparation is needed to be a successful football team.”

Louisville will kickoff the 2016 season against Charlotte on Sept. 1 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.


National stage for Louisville and Lamar Jackson

Bowl Art

Nothing like a bowl game to bring out the best in University of Louisville fans, thousands of them flocking to Nissan Stadium for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Nashville. The venue provides a ideal platform for helping the program return to being a national contender.

Saddled with one of the toughest starts in the recent history, UofL lost its first three games. A rugged first three games that included Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Classic in Atlanta, a Houston team that finished 14th with an 11-1 record, and Clemson, which was ranked No. 1 in all the national polls.

One of the most frustrating beginnings ever for Bobby Petrino, attempting to compete with inexperienced quarterbacks, the loss of seven NFL draft picks and a patched-together offensive line. Winning seven of the last nine games a reflection of his competence.

“It’s not something that we ever want to do again,” said Petrino this week. “We did not enjoy the experience at all. But we fought through it. What I tell them is, it’s all going to happen to them sometime in their life where things are not going to go good for a few weeks or three weeks or a month, and hopefully this experience helps them understand what you have to do to get by it.”

One of the keys for Louisville will be a sustained effort from start to finish.  Are you listening, defense? Can’t afford to take any time off, any mediocrity as occurred during some ugly halves against Florida State, Pittsburgh and Kentucky. Texas A&M has a deep and talented offensive lines that will be highly motivated in protecting third-string quarterback Jake Hubenak.

The Aggies also have a powerful running back in Tra Carson, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound senior with 4.4 speed, who rushed for 1,049 yards and six touchdowns this season.  His last game at Texas A&M ever, hoping to leave a lasting impression, the prototype of running backs who punished UofL during those regrettable defensive lapses.

The biggest question, however, is how effective Lamar Jackson, UofL’s freshman quarterback, will be against quality competition. He’s had a lot of ups and downs this season. His most impressive performance was against a mediocre Kentucky defense that allowed him to rush for 186 yards while passing for 130 yards. Texas A&M has had a month to get ready for Jackson and will be prepared for him. If Petrino is forced to fall back on Kyle Bolin, things will not have been going well for the Cards.

Lots at stake for both teams, Kevin Sumlin’s job at Texas A&M possibly on the line, Bobby Petrino needing this one to get his team in the national discussion again. After one challenging season, Louisville fans deserve a happy ending.