It certainly took a while, but I finally made it down to South Floyd Street on Wednesday to take in the final Louisville football practice of the spring season.
I have no idea how well or how poorly Steve Kragthorpe is going to do as the head coach at U of L, but there's no questioning how cool he looks in his sunglasses and Cards gear.
A few other observations from Wednesday:
If his performance on Wednesday is any indication, all the talk about Harry Douglas being "uncoverable" for the last two weeks has been legit.
The team ran 7-on-7 and then 11-on-11 contact drills for about half an hour, and I think it's safe to say that in that time Harry caught somewhere between 15 and 20 balls; far more than anyone else on the field. The kid looks like he's playing a different game right now.
Douglas abused Rod Council for a while, and then really took it to poor Lamar Alston when he came in. It got so bad, that when Council broke up a pass thrown to Douglas on an out route (it was a fantastic play by the way), the entire defense reacted as if they'd just won the Master's (Zach Johnson is an animal).
The funniest moment of the day - at least in my mind - came when "The Real Ocho Cinco" burned Council on a deep double route. When Douglas made his second cut, Rod was completely unprepared for it and let out an extremely audible "sssshhhhiiiitttt." He then proceeded to repeat the word for the three or four seconds that the ball was in the air, and could only hang his head as he watched it land safely in the golden hands of #85.
I don't know if it was the Orange Bowl performance or the realization that he stands to be making a great deal of money 13 months from now, but something has inspired Douglas to take his game to another level. He ran the fastest 40 on the team (4.34) two weeks ago, and is running routes and catching passes like the game in Miami was a week ago.
No matter how well he plays this season, he's never going to get the type of media attention that Brohm gets, and because of his size he's never going to get the love from NFL scouts that Urrutia does. This would crush the spirit and spark a backlash from dozens of college receivers with parallel skills, but Douglas is so level-headed and so humble that he simply takes it in stride and goes about his business.
HD has unquestionably been the star of spring practice, and he just may be the most lethal weapon Koach Krag has at his disposal.
Brohm was his usual self, hitting receivers in stride and making correct read after correct read. He did under throw a few deep balls, but on two occasions there was so much space between Douglas and the nearest defender that it didn't matter.
His ball looked as crisp as ever, and he seems to be getting comfortable with the new offense.
I thought that maybe it was just a coincidence in the games, but even in practice Brohm throws to Douglas more than Cantwell, and Cantwell throws to Urrutia more than Brohm. I suppose it's just one of those odd quarterback/receiver relationship deals that you can't really explain, but it just seems like Hunter and Mario are on the same page that Brian and Harry are.
Speaking of Cantwell, in case you hadn't noticed the kid has a cannon. He also seems to have adopted the "to hell with it, I'm chucking it deep to #7" philosophy when his first couple of reads are covered. I'm a major proponent of doing this at least once a drive.
George Stripling is running and walking with a very noticeable limp. However, it didn't seem to limit his practice time, as he received just as many reps as the other three running backs. Not sure exactly what his deal is, but it'll be interesting to see how he looks on Friday.
When I first got to practice, the offense was working on screen and flare passes to the running backs. Catching balls out of the backfield is something that Koach has really been emphasizing for the last two weeks (especially to Anthony Allen), and apparently the backs have got the message as I didn't see one drop in the five minutes or so that offense was running the drills.
The play of the running backs is what I'm most interested to see on Friday, considering it is probably the position with the most competition.
Anthony Allen still appears to have a hold on the starting job for now, but Brock Bolen looks a little slimmer and a little quicker, and Sergio Spencer (who I'm still convinced can be fantastic) looked awfully agile when he got his hands on the ball, although he was the recipient of a pretty solid lick from Lattarrius Thomas at the tail end of one play.
The battle for the #3 spot at wide receiver is also very interesting.
From the looks of things, JaJuan Spillman is going to have a lot of balls thrown to his way this season, in addition to the jet sweeps and flare passes that have become his claim to fame. It seemed like the coaches were making a concerted effort to get JaJuan involved in the passing game, and although he showed great hands and his usual tremendous speed on several plays, he was reprimanded for poor route running on more than one occasion.
Scott Long had a tremendous practice. He certainly has the body, and from the looks of things on Wednesday, he's well on his way to having the game to go along with it.
Long made arguably the play of the day when he ran a crisp out route on Council, showed every inch of his vertical to make a tremendous catch on an extremely high throw, and then secured the ball and came down in bounds. The last Thursday in August is still a ways away, but if you asked me right now, I'd say that Long is the guy to be the #3 receiver.
Not sure what's up with Corey Thompson, but he spent the majority of practice riding the exercise bike. No idea whether or not he's a go for Friday.
Trent Guy is absurdly fast. He was being used in the same slot role we saw JaJuan in a lot last season. He touched the ball on a jet sweep, made a nice catch on a deep ball, and was also used as a decoy on a pair of fake jet sweep dive plays.
I still think Guy's biggest contribution to the team will come from his exploits on punt returns, but when you have someone that fast, you've got to find other ways to get the ball in his hands. Of course when you have three or four players that fast, getting the ball in the hands of one particular guy (punny) becomes less important.
Josh Chichester is still a project. He continued to look a little bit lost on the field, the best example being when he was blocking downfield on a passing play that was obviously designed to go to him. Still, he's 6-8, he's athletic, and he's young.
The only two drops of the practice were made by the surprising duo of Gary Barnidge and Mario Urrutia. Barnidge had the ball go off his finger tips on a deep flag route, and Urrutia had the ball go through his hands on a short crossing route, which then led to a Johnny Patrick (who looked solid at his new position) interception and touchdown.
Breno Giacomini is enormous.
Word is that he was upset that he had to be moved from tackle back to tight end last season, and has been busting his ass to make sure he sticks on the line this season. He drew praise from the coaches on multiple occasions, and appears to have emerged as one of the vocal leaders on the offense.
Marcel Benson is still starting in front of Mike Donoghue at right guard for the time being, but word is that Donoghue is making a pretty hard push to become the starter. Either way, expect to see a healthy dose of both he and Jeff Adams on the right side of the line once the season starts.
Peanut Whitehead has added some muscle and now looks like even more of a beast.
It's hard for the pass rushers to get to the quarterback in these drills since so many of the passing plays are dumps and short crossing routes, but Peanut did beat George Bussey on the outside on a number of plays. He still needs to polish his technique - right now he's getting by mostly with pure speed - but his freakish athletic ability still makes him a force to focus on for any offensive line coach.
It's always amazing to me how slight our linebackers look in person. From a certain distance you can't tell Preston Smith apart from Jon Russell or Bobby Buchanan. I'm extremely interested to see how the linebacking core will look once Willie Williams is thrown into the mix.
What the defense may lack in talent, they certainly make up for in noise. I've never heard a more vocal group of guys, with Rod Council spearheading the cacophony.
As annoying as it might be for the offense to put up with, that type of excitement and energy is great to see this early in the not even season.
Rick Pitino and Tom Jurich were both in attendance, and both looking as suave as ever. I wanted to invite Tom to the CC kegger, but I totally choked.
If you're overly into math and anime, just imagine that this is a picture of Luke Skywalker, Captain Kirk and Optimus Prime and you'll feel the same way I do
Art Carmody also made an appearance late in the practice, at which time I promptly fainted due to the overabundance of mantasticness in one area.
Overall I was thoroughly impressed by my first Kragthorpe practice experience, and I can't wait for Friday night. On the other hand, I certainly can wait for the four months of loneliness and weeping that will follow Friday night.