The first fall camp of Bobby Petrino's second tour of duty as Louisville's head coach begins in the morning. While excitement at the thought of the style of football we saw from 2003-2006 is justified, there are plenty of questions about the team he's inheriting and how it fits his style of play. With that in mind, here are some things to be thinking about as camp opens and we move ever closer to the Labor Day evening opener against Miami and Louisville's entrance into the ACC.
Big Questions in the Secondary Two things were constant in the Charlie Strong era, Teddy Bridgewater playing quarterback and the duo of Hakeem Smith and Calvin Pryor holding down the two safety spots. We know the former will be one of the more difficult things to replace, but, don't underestimate the challenge in replacing the latter. It appears that Gerod Holliman will finally take one of the safety spots and Terell Floyd will give safety and nickel corner a shot as well. Louisville got a boost in JUCO and former four-star signee James Sample arrived to help at safety. We know Charles Gaines has one corner spot locked down, but moving players from safety to corner impacts both positions equally. Who steps up to replace Floyd at corner? Will it finally be Andrew Johnson? Will one of the true freshmen come right in and help?
Offensive Line Shuffling In addressing the media yesterdat, Jake Smith still isn't sure what position he plays. If he's a center, as he was last year, then Louisville will need to settle on both right guard and right tackle spots. If he's at right guard, where he played the previous two seasons, then Louisville could be looking at playing a walk-on at center and then only needing to settle the right tackle spot. My hunch is that Smith stays at center, Ryan Mack nails down the right tackle slot, and the staff spends camp settling on a new right guard. Perhaps JUCO Kelby Johnson?
Backup Quarterback(s) Petrino spoke Monday and at ACC Football Kickoff about how much the staff likes Reggie Bonnafon and his athleticism. They like it so much that they might even work in a handful of plays per game to get him game reps from day one. Even if Petrino won't say it, Will Gardner is the quarterback. It's also clear from the offseason where Petrino added JUCO signee Pat Thomas, and two transfers, that he doesn't have much faith in Kyle Bolin or Brett Nelson. Gardner has suffered the same major injury to one knee twice. So, some insecurity about the backup quarterback position is justified.
Running Back Rotation Petrino named Dominique Brown the starting running back, but, it was hard to leave that spring game without thinking Michael Dyer and freshman LJ Scott would get a whole lot of carries. Petrino has said, and shown in his previous stops, that you need a number of running backs to get through a demanding schedule. It appears he has three that he feels very good about and I wouldn't be shocked if they finished the season having all carried the ball an equal number of times. Oh, and he has a healthy Corvin Lamb to try and work in too.
New Faces, and Old Ones New Places New coaches bring new schemes and new ideas. That means players we're used to seeing in one role sometimes find new homes. Lorenzo Mauldin and Deiontrez Mount will be full-time outside linebackers in Todd Grantham's 3-4 base defense. They'l be joined by JUCO Trevon Young to be mostly standing up pass rushers. Johnny Richardson has grown (and grown, and grown) into an enormous nose tackle and will backup DeAngelo Brown at that spot, a vital one in a 3-4 defense. Speaking of growing, James Hearns has also grown into a defensive end instead of a big linebacker in the Preston Brown mold. As we mentioned above, Terell Floyd will try his hand at safety and nickel corner.
It's been a long nine months waiting for the new era of Louisville football to get here. Today's practices are open to the public, so fans should make sure to get out and see and support the team. To the extent that Petrino and staff are able to satisfactorily answer the questions above, the team will have a very successful opening year in the ACC.