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Louisville Football Open Practice Report

A handful of notes on the open practice this afternoon.

NCAA Football: Louisville Spring Game Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Petrino opened one practice to the public this fall and allowed fans to take a look at newcomers as well as a new defense. The practice was lively and there were a lot of new things to take in for fans. I tried to get eyes on as much as possible and here are some notes:

  • Bobby was absolutely livid after only a handful of plays today. On each of those occasions the offensive line drew his ire. I wasn’t able to catch the content of each outburst but I know that he just had a general complaint about “not blocking anyone” a couple of times.
  • No one stood out much on the line because they were in shorts and jerseys today. However, it is really obvious why Mekhi Becton has gotten so much praise. Becton looks the part with long arms and a slender frame for such a massive human. He did really well moving his feet against speed rushers like Jonathan Greenard and James Hearns. He struggled a bit getting out of a three-point stance but he looked very good when he could widen out in a two-point stance. Seems like a focus area that he can get extra practice with.
  • Ronald Rudd really stood out because he looks out of shape compared to the other linemen. Rudd seemed like an obvious choice to come in and join the starting group but over the summer Cole Bentley became started to get more love from the coaches and Rudd kind of became an afterthought. That might be because Rudd is out of shape and has to show the coaches some things this fall. We will have to see if he pushes for time with the first group later in camp.
  • The running back group looked about as expected with Reggie Bonnafon getting the most carries with the first group. Reggie has the size and speed that you like to see at the running back spot but my concern is if he can be an inside runner that knows when and how to make cuts in the hole. I don’t worry about him running outside or running read option plays that give him a big hole to run through. The question is on those power runs where the hole is super small.
  • Jeremy Smith looks fully healthy and back to his normal self. Malik Williams also looked 100% and showed off the really good burst that he has. Williams definitely has a chance to get more carries this year even as a change of pace type of guy. Colin Wilson got some carries with the third group but it was obvious that he isn’t in shape yet.
  • The other skill spots looked solid but not overly outstanding today. Jaylen Smith is back to being healthy and he is the obvious go to guy at wide receiver. Dez Fitzpatrick and Seth Dawkins will definitely be guys that will lessen the impact of the losses of Jamari Staples and James Quick. The question is if these guys will improve the position. We will find out on the field but nothing happened today that really wowed me, I guess. Corey Reed and Justin Marshall did look good for freshmen today. Both made nice catches and showed good ability even though they both made mistakes that are expected.
  • The slot position will be fine for a good while. Traveon Samuel looked really improved when it came to creating separation. His footwork is better (even though it’s too much at times) and it helped him become an easy target for the quarterbacks. Samuel has good speed but he hasn’t always given the quarterbacks space to throw the ball in his first two years. Josh Johnson will see the field in my opinion. He looked well ahead of the other freshmen on the field and made multiple tough catches today. He might have even passed Emonee Spence in the slot. He gets separation without all of the tricks and moves. It just comes naturally to him.
  • One thing that I will be keeping an eye on this year is separation for the outside receivers. They’re not burners and they’re not all guys that know how to use their bodies to run guys off to create space. Seth Dawkins does a pretty good job of using his frame to make plays, but against good corners he might struggle to complete the catch.
  • The reason that I worry so much about separation from the receivers is because the quarterbacks were all pretty inaccurate today. Passes were high, low, behind guys, overthrown, and just bad at times. Lamar Jackson still looks inconsistent in practice as a pocket passer. In fairness, he has looked better in games than he has in practice since he got here. But, it didn’t look like he had made a great leap as a passer today or in the spring. Also, all of the quarterbacks throw flat deep balls. The lack of air demands more space between the receiver and the defender. The trajectory of the ball leads to a lot of overthrows and when the ball is on target it leads to a lot of contested catches for the receivers. I would love to see this change at some point.
  • The defensive alignment today was much easier to understand compared to the spring when everything was new. Peter Sirmon’s defense is a 3-3-5 that can adjust to a 4-2-5. The defense shifts with James Hearns lining up as a fourth linemen or an outside linebacker. For the most part he is lined up the same, but what he actually does on the called play changes the alignment. The defense also showed some blitzes and different pre-snap movements that were good to see. There is a lot more zone in this defense but it was nice to see that there are some creative pressure calls also.
  • After practice it was announced that Chris Williams has been dismissed from the team. Williams was likely to rotate in with Drew Bailey and Travon Young at the end spots. With Young and others being on the lighter side, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Williams become the early down end opposite Bailey. One of the big reasons that the loss of Williams hurts is that UofL will be facing three straight no-huddle, fast paced offenses to start the season. Losing anyone hurts on the front.
  • Travon Young looked 100% healthy to me. He went full go in all of the drills and played in all of the full team segments of practice. James Hearns looked really good coming off the edge today, also. Jonathan Greenard and Tabarious Peterson will be very good as backups and should do well as pass rushers. Replacing DeAngelo Brown is a tall task for De’Asian Richardson and the bulked up Henry Famurewa and it will probably be something to keep an eye on early in the season.
  • I would say that Stacy Thomas and London Iapoko are entrenched as your starters in the middle. The depth chart lists one middle linebacker and two outside linebackers but they really run with two middle linebackers. I did like seeing Iapoko moving around before the snap and blitzing from the outside as well as manning up with tight ends and slot guys. That’s a nice change sign that the defense can really be “multiple”.
  • The secondary returns just about everyone and it showed. Guys were relaxed and they all made plays when the ball came their way. Chucky Williams looked much more calm and focused than he has in the past while Jaire Alexander was the only player throwing verbal jabs at receivers. I’d say this is the strength of the defense with some strong backups at safety. Cornelius Sturghill also provides a very good backup at corner and potential nickel in passing situations.
  • When it comes to the newcomers on defense, no one really stood out above the rest outside of CJ Avery, who was here in the spring. Avery will likely see the field some as a rotation option or just as a replacement if Khane Pass struggles. Russ Yeast played well against some of the younger receivers and TreSean Smith looked very comfortable at safety. Dorian Ethridge ran with the second team behind Stacy Thomas and looked solid. It seems that Peter Sirmon puts more of an emphasis on speed over size. Anthony Johnson had a pick six against Clay Bolin but none of the other defensive backs really stood out too much.