Finally made it out to our first University of Louisville football practice session Monday, relieved that the long hot summer may finally be drawing to an end. Badly needing a fix after almost two months of withdrawal from UofL athletics.
Between 500 and 1,000 fans on hand, soaking in the 87-degree temperature and the high humidity, one eye on the football, the other on the vast supply of ice-cold Gatorade in the tent where the players get their daily break. No concession stands for the fans, someone is missing out on a nice profit opportunity.
Not disappointed, with an air of optimism surrounding the first combined practice involving the veterans and the newcomers. Another critical stage in Coach Bobby Petrino’s development process, needing to pull things together quickly. Orientation is over for the freshmen and transfers, time to get serious. Yes, guys, Petrino is everything they say he is, and nothing escapes his attention. Take a repetition off and he’s on your case.
So much going on in so many directions during these sessions but a few observations:
— Will Gardner, with his left knee heavily protected, appears to be mobile and flexible despite a third ACL operation. This after five days of practice on the knee, looking confident, knowing the plays, a year under his belt.
Gardner has never been a scrambler but he still finds a way to get the ball to where it needs to go. After a interning with the UofL sports media, he wants to be in front of the camera again, directing this team.
— Traveon Samuel, a freshman wide receiver from Phenix City, Alabama, makes the catch of the day, as far as I was concerned, making a Willie Mays’ type catch, pulling down a pass over his head from Gardner. Looking back at the very last second, as if he could do it all the time.
— Devonte Fields, the transfer linebacker from TCU is down on the depth chart, but not for long. He’s working his way back into shape and will be a starter no later than the third game.
— Lamar Jackson, the 6-foot-3 freshman quarterback from Boynton Beach, Fla., is every bit as good as all the local analysts keep saying he is. He’s been playing high level football in Florida and it shows. Super arm strength, he can throw the ball a mile.
— James Quick is doing a lot dancing around with the ball coming in his direction, focusing on tucking it in, then taking off, gaining more yards.
— Reggie Bonnafon still finding his way at quarterback, but Petrino likes what he sees and will mold him into what he envisions for Bonnafon. Petrino knows raw talent when he sees it.
— The young offensive line is facing one of the better defensive lines at UofL every day and will mature much more quickly than last season.
Much positive hype around UofL football for a team that lost so much on offense from last season. But that’s the way it should be, made more realistic by the fact that Petrino is calling the shots.
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A big shout out to Brevin Smith, after practice actually recognizing the observer as the moderator of Card Game. Saying he liked the site because it often includes developments across campus and administrative issues, in addition to athletics, checking in for several years (the site was launched in 2007).