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Practice report: day three

In front of the largest crowd of the week, the Cards threw on the shoulder pads for the first time and ratcheted the intensity level up several notches for the last of three open August practices.

  Even though this wasn't intended to be a full contact day, the vast majority of plays on Thursday culminated with the offensive player being taken to the ground, a trend that resulted in several heated exchanges.

The intensity during the 11-on-11 session had been consistently rising before Chris Vaughn took exception to a number of unnecessary licks and smacked Johnny Patrick in the head, which led to several seconds of pushing and shoving. After the very next play ended with a few more shoves, Kragthorpe called the entire team together in an apparent effort to calm things down.

There was also a brief scuffle between the offensive and defensive linemen during a full contact blocking drill, but I wasn't in a position to clearly see what went down.

  The guy having the hardest time holding back was will linebacker Chris Campa (although Bobby Buchanan ran a close second). On consecutive plays during 11-on-11, Campa hit Andrew Robinson so hard that his helmet flew off (Robinson popped right up and finished the play), and body slammed a tight end (Pete Nochta?) when he jumped to try and reel in a high throw. The second action drew the ire of several offensive lineman, including Eric Wood, who took his helmet off and began marching towards the middle of the field before Kragthorpe blew the whistle and gave the players a two minute break. To his credit, Campa didn't appear particularly intimidated.

While the intensity has been extremely fun to watch this week, I'll save any serious defensive accolades for when these guys are laying out ball carriers in real games, and not vulnerable receivers during drills that aren't supposed to be full contact.

  Every time a defender knocked an offensive player to the ground, Kragthorpe would yell for the player who did the hitting to "help him up." It rarely happened, but that's partially because the offensive player would invariably pop up and finish running out the play.

  If you're a Louisville defensive player and you don't "finish at the ball," Ron English will rip your ass. Latarrius Thomas and Keith Baker were the biggest offenders on day three, and both were ordered off the field immediately following their transgression.

  A solid, if not spectacular day from the quarterbacks. Hunter Cantwell threw a pair of gorgeous deep balls to Chris Vaughn and Scott Long during 7-on-7, but worked short for the majority of 11-on-11, partly because the offense spent a large chunk of practice time working on flares and middle screens. Matt Simms still looks like your 2008 second-stringer, something I'm becoming more and more comfortable with.

  Johnny Patrick was again the standout in the secondary. This week has reinvigorated my excitement over just how good this kid can be. He had never played the position before last season, so every positive thing he did was almost entirely the result of natural talent. If he stays motivated and devoted to learning how to properly play the position, I really think he could be one of the league's top four or five cover corners by his senior year.

  Jeff Adams is big. Like, bigger than Lee Steiden in Paris (they f***ing love him) big.

  Chaz Thompson, Jacques Caldwell and Andrew Robinson appear to be your three early contenders for punt return duty. Of those three, Thompson was the only one who didn't struggle to field the ball cleanly on Thursday.

  Corey Goettsche and Jon Payne alternated during the punting drills, with the incumbent Goettsche appearing to have a leg up (see what I did there?) on the starting job.

  During the punting drills, Doug Beaumont, Victor Anderson, Bilal Powell and Johnny Patrick all worked as gunners.

  Josh Chichester continued to impress during the O vs. D drills. His leaping snag of an overthrown Cantwell pass might have been the play of the day.

  Trent Guy has really been a positive presence at practice all week. He spent a solid portion of the day shouting words of encouragement and giving pointers to the young receivers, in particular Jacques Caldwell.

  Your starting wideouts at the moment appear to be the unsurprising trio of Scott Long, Doug Beaumont and Chris Vaughn.

  The starting 11 on defense remained the same, although Richard Raglin was in for Latarrius Thomas at the beginning of 11-on-11 because of the latter's aforementioned "finish at the ball" faux pas. 

James Bryant jogged off the field and back towards the locker room just before the end of practice. Not sure if it was a minor injury or an equipment deal or what. Johnnie Burns also left practice early.

I want Nate Nord on the field this year. If I don't get it, I will do absolutely nothing about it.

  Sergio Spencer flipped the script and went with the sleeve and long sock on the right arm and leg Thursday. He had a big hit along the left sideline, but it was still hard to get a grasp on where his pass coverage ability currently rests.

  We saw very little of C.J. Peake and Josh Wiley this week, two highly touted safeties who were supposed to make an immediate impact.

And so that's it. Barring another open scrimmage, that's all the Louisville football we're privy to until Aug. 31. My appetite is sated for the moment, but something tells me I won't be able to say the same thing seven days from now.

I head into the weekend feeling far more optimistic and excited about this season than I have all summer. Part of that is because there was a lot to like on the practice fields adjacent to PJCS this week, but I think an equal part was that seeing the new coaching staff and this new team out on the field together really drove home the feeling that last season is over. You can tell yourself something over and over, but often times it takes a visual for it to become real.

The fact that the 2008 season is upon us is very real. Twenty-three days, people, 23 days.