More than 1,000 Cardinal fans made their way out to the practice field adjacent to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in order to take in day one of the most anticipated Louisville football season in five years.
The practice wasn't anything outside of what we've seen in past years in terms of structure. It did, however, feel much smoother than the opening days of Strong's first two years here. There was around the same level of yelling, but it was more along the lines of "come on, you know this" yelling as opposed to the "how in the hell do you not know this" yelling of 2010 and 2011.
Also, our players are a lot bigger and a lot more talented. I probably should have said that first.
Anyway, here's what stood out on day one of the 2012 Louisville football season.
If you were hoping to have your expectations for Teddy Bridgewater's sophomore season tempered a little bit, wel you probably left practice on Friday highly disappointed.
Teddy looked significantly stronger, remarkably accurate and incredibly poised as he entered fall camp as QB1 for the first time. If you watched tape of last year's practice and then compared it to Friday's, I'm not sure you could have believed he was the same player.
I hate putting these types of expectations on players heading into their sophomore seasons, but from last spring on Teddy has looked every bit like a guy fully ready to make the jump from stud to star.
Solid, if not spectacular day from Will Stein. He missed a handful of throws high that we've seen him hit with ease for five years now. No cause for concern.
You can never take too much away from the performance of a running back at these things, although I will say that Dominique Brown looked unquestionably quicker and in better shape than he did even as recently as last April. Senorise Perry, Corvin Lamb and Jeremy Wright all appeared interchangeable in no-contact drills, and I mean that as a compliment. Each looked appropriately prepared and quick.
Kenny Carter wasn't lying when he said that Brandon Radcliff was already physically ready for college football, because that young man is a monster. He also displayed the quickness necessary to play the position and didn't appear particularly overwhelmed by his first college practice.
This is going to be the most fun position to follow for the rest of fall camp and into the first few weeks of the season. The competition is so tight that there really is almost zero margin for error for any of these guys.
Remember how impressive Charles Gaines was at wide receiver a couple of springs ago? Well he looked even better running with the first team at the position on Friday.
I know people like to assign the title to Corvin Lamb or Senorise Perry or someone ele, but if there's a faster player on the team than Gaines I'd be shocked. Selfishly, I hope the staff leaves him at receiver because he's so fun to watch, but I understand there's still a possibility that he'll be shipped back to corner. Either way, I think there's a good chance that he'll be deep on either punt or kick returns, and that should provide more than enough excitement for Cardinal fans.
I really wish Matt Milton were eligible this season. The kid is enormous and may have had the best overall practice of anyone on Friday.
I know we're going to have several wideouts with significant game experience come 2013, but it's going to be impossible to keep Milton off the field when the time comes.
Along the same lines, watch out for Gerald Christian in 2013. It's not difficult to see why he was the top-rated tight end in the country coming out of high school.
DeVante Parker: still very good at football.
The longer Andrell Smith has been at U of L the more he has reminded me of Scott Long. He has all the physical tools and when you watch him at practice he looks at times like a surefire 1,000-yard receiver, but for whatever reason he hasn't had that breakout season yet.
I suppose it's now or never.
Damian Copeland is another receiver who was somewhat of a pleasant surprise on day one. He's missed significant time in each of his first two seasons at Louisville because of injuries.
The biggest shift from years past was the lack of players on the sidelines nursing injuries.
Cornerback Jordan Paschal sat out practice, as did freshman quarterback Will Gardner (who was on crutches, presumably still an after effect of his ACL tear last fall) and freshman offensive lineman Sid Anvoots (the curse of AnvootsFan rears its tiny head already). Michaelee Harris and Deon Rogers were both dressed out, but spent the vast majority of the day watching their teammates.
Jamon Brown and Stephan Robinson were both carted off the field after going down during the practice, but neither injury appeared particularly severe. Robinson had been having a very solid day.
I didn't see it, but apparently freshman Josh Appleby obliterated a punt early on in practice. The kid is a freak athlete who looks like he could be playing just about any position on the field outside of line or linebacker.
Even if he doesn't win any of the starting jobs as a freshman, I haven't been this excited about a specialist since Sir Arthur was wearing red and black.
For those wondering, Clint Hurtt was at practice and was characteristically vocal.
Very interesting to see true freshman Keith Brown starting off with the first team as the Mike (middle) linebacker. Preston Brown - the expected starter in the middle, who was back at his usual Sam linebacker spot to start off - said after practice that he, Keith Brown and Daniel Brown (the three current starters) are each capable of playing any of the three positions.
Preston has been brought up multiple times this offseason as a guy the coaches are really challenging to step up and become a leader on the defensive side of the ball. My guess is that this is a challenge being laid down right from the outset, and that Brown will do what's needed to be in the middle come Sept. 2.
Your current starting defensive line is the quartet of Marcus Smith, B.J. Dubose, Brandon Dunn and Roy Philon. Not a bad foursome to have in the trenches, although three of the guys behind them (Lorenzo Mauldin, BJ Butler and Jamaine Brooks) are essentially interchangeable with the first team.
There's almost always a cornerback whose pure talent allows him to stand out on day one of practice, and there's no question that person this year was Adrian Bushell. He's starting fall camp way ahead of all the other corners on the team because of his natural skill. Here's hoping that inspires him to work harder to maintain that status instead of resting on his laurels.
The kick returning job also appears to be Adrian's to lose. We all know he's fully capable of a 100-yard stumble.
A bit surprised to see Mike Romano running with the first team O-line, but I like it. By all accounts the kid is an absolute workhorse.
I still think Nate Nord appears more tentative than he was before his rash of injuries, but he is a terrific route-runner and possesses tremendous hands (think Belk Bowl catch). I've been a fan of his for what seems like 15 years, and I see no reason why his senior season won't be his most productive one.
Nick Dawson looked a little out of place on more than one occasion, but physically he looks about as ready to play linebacker as a true freshman as Dexter Heyman did five years ago. That's saying something.
It's also worth noting that Dawson's father was apparently in a motorcycle accident earlier this week, so the kid is probably dealing with a mental overload right now.
Via U of L, here's Charlie talking to the media after practice:
I'm in Columbus for yet another wedding as you read this, so obviously I will not be at practice today. If you are and feel the desire to write a Pulitzer-worthy report in the FanPost section, it would be greatly appreciated.
The 2012 Louisville football season is here.