Lack of depth at several positions caused partially by injuries will force tomorrow's Red-White spring game to look more like a standard intrasquad scrimmage.
With just around 65 players available for action, head coach Steve Kragthorpe has opted to change the format of the spring game from its usual look to 12 series of scripted sets and scenarios.
"I really wish we could have a game," Kragthorpe said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. "Unfortunately, we don't have enough players to do that."
Kragthorpe says he expects the game to feature somewhere between 50-60 total plays. Just like last year, the first-team offense will take the field against the first-team defense, while the second-team offense will square off with the second-team defense.
Kragthorpe said that nine players are currently unable to perform because of injuries, and several of them are key contributors on defense.
The linebacking corps has been hit especially hard. Chris Campa recently underwent surgery for a torn labrum, and is out until individual workouts resume on June 2. Mozell Axson has missed the last ten practices, but will see brief action Friday night. And Miami transfer James Bryant has also missed time.
Defensive end Maurice Mitchell and safety Latarrius Thomas have not played at all this spring.
The three areas Kragthorpe said he is most concerned with are (in order): linebackers, tight ends, and the secondary.
Sergio Spencer has made the switch from running back to safety.
George Stripling has been suspended for the entire spring, and a decision about his future will be made by the coaching staff sometime next week.
The position where Louisville is currently the deepest is running back.
The uniquely versatile Brock Bolen will continue to be used in a number of different ways, and might actually see a little time at tight end. Probable starting tailback (and should have been '07 starting tailback from the NC State game on...still not off it) Bilal Powell is having a "good" spring, and has stepped up as one of the leaders on offense. But Kragthorpe said the most pleasant surprise at the position has been St. Xavier product Vic Anderson, who's been using his speed to get yards on off-tackle plays, but has also fared surprisingly well on runs up the gut.
Woodny Turenne and Johnny Patrick are your probable starting cornerbacks for the time being, with Travis Norton and Chaz Thompson likely serving as their immediate backups.
Kragthorpe says that the number of defensive injuries have been so vast that there have been practices where the defense has been forced to work strictly out of the nickel package.
Hunter Cantwell is your starting quarterback if the season started tomorrow, but the backup race between sophomore Tyler Wolfe and freshman Matt Simms is still too close to call.
With Mo Mitchell out, Earl Heyman has been working at both defensive end and defensive tackle. He saw time at each position last season.
When asked about the perceived drop in Brian Brohm's draft stock from this time a year ago, Kragthorpe didn't say anything about Louisville's lack of success in 2007 playing a factor, but noted that teams have had more time to analyze Brohm and find flaws in his game.
"Here's the story that hasn't come out," Kragthorpe said. "He declared he was staying (for his senior season) on Jan. 12, so there weren't the four-months to nitpick. The same nitpicking would have gone on in the four months of 2007 that have gone on in 2008, but that situation never presented itself."
Your weather forecast for tomorrow: 70-75 degrees with a 60% chance of late showers.
Kragthorpe did note that the team would not be showing its full hand Friday evening.
"Certainly we'll hold some things that we want to keep in our pockets," he said. "That's one of the reasons that we did close the practices for the last three or four days. We wanted to put some things in that we're going to use in that first game, get a look at them, put them on film, and then kind of put them back in our pocket and keep them there until Aug. 31."
Among the former players expected to make an appearance: Kerry Rhodes, Joe Jacoby, Amobi Okoye and Sam Madison.