I decided to try something a little new and asked for some questions on Twitter about the Louisville football program. It took me a bit to get around to this so there are some spring game questions but I tried to answer the best I could. So let us get to it and maybe I’ll do this again sometime if folks like it.
From @LJthaFiasc0: Should we be overly concerned with the defense next season?? 9 new starters and a new Def. Coordinator seems to have ppl thinking we are doomed.
I can completely understand the apprehension when it comes to Louisville’s defense but I don’t think that Brian VanGorder is nearly the question mark that Peter Sirmon was. Sirmon’s defense was demonstrably bad before he was hired and he didn’t have anything to hang his hat on like BVG does. VanGorder had a very rough finish at Notre Dame, but it can easily be argued that he could have had a good run there with another year. His defense was pretty young and injuries were an issue at times.
One big concern that I think has been ignored a bit is the lack of an upgrade in talent over the last few years. Louisville was still relying on players that were recruited under the former staff last season. There have been a few guys that have come in and taken over a spot but not as many as you’d like with the conference upgrade. Those guys are gone now and we will see exactly what a Bobby Petrino defense looks like from a talent standpoint. “Doomed” isn’t a word I would use but I do genuinely worry if these younger players will be able to help the defense get back to where it was two years ago.
From @VillefanJB: Interested in the base D scheme and if you feel there is enough depth on the D. Also, your opinion of the RBs.
The base defense that BVG likes to run is a 4-3 and he uses a good amount of cover 2. Cover 2 puts the safeties at the hashes and the corners in a short zone at 5-10 yards. The middle linebacker is going to be tasked with getting depth down the middle and tracking any receiver that ends up there. In the spring game we saw Dez Fitzpatrick make a ridiculous catch with Robert Hicks draped all over him. That was cover 2.
There will be plenty of man defense, however. How he’s adapted to things will be the question. I also wonder how much blitzing we will see from VanGorder’s defense. He rushes four a lot and if you have good pass rushers you can really do some good things on defense. With a completely revamped front, he might just have what he needs to field a defense fans will really like.
As for the running backs, I’m a little bullish on what they can or will do this year. Louisville has been very solid at running back for the last two years and the offense has ignored them for the most part during that time. Petrino has stated that Colin Wilson is the most talented back and with Dae Williams playing well when he got the chance last year, it’s hard not to feel good about the spot. There’s just a lot left to see with the offense in general and we won’t really know until Bama.
From @Tony_It_Me : Has there been a strong connection between Pass and any specific receiver? Really hoping to see some sparks there in the spring game.
And from: @LHSto03 How much option to you expect to see with Pass? What do you think is a fair expectation for him?
The Jawon Pass questions all kind of center around expectations which is understandable. I’ll start by saying that Louisville fans should expect a strong season from Pass. Petrino is an offensive coach with a strong history of getting the best from his quarterbacks. Pass is a high level recruit that’s had the opportunity to sit and learn the offense for two years. It’s a pretty perfect situation.
With the practices being closed his spring we only have Pass’ spring game performance to go off of. I was never impressed with what I saw during practice before last season but he looked really good when he got out there in games. My hope is that he either took the next step in his development or that he’s just the type of player that is just better when the bright lights are on. Either is fine by me.
Another big plus for Pass is that he has Dez Fitzpatrick to rely on all season. Dez is really good and the highlights show that. What really stands out when you watch him play is his ability to create separation. He’s always open. I pointed this out a couple of years ago with James Quick. It’s an extremely underrated aspect of what receivers do. You have to get open and Dez is really good at it. An easy target will help Pass a lot and I fully believe that Dez will lead the team in targets by a decent amount.
From @jearpear: by how much will we beat alabama
So here’s the thing. I’m bullish on this game as of right now. The spread is 31 points but I don’t see any reason that Louisville’s unknowns can’t end up putting them in a spot to keep this game much closer than it seems on paper. Louisville will have less talent on the field and Saban is Saban. But, there are spots on the defense that could be more talented than they were last year and the coaching on that side of the ball should be improved.
What I really think is the key point for Louisville’s entire season is whether or not the offense has a true identity. Chris Brown (@smartfootball on twitter) made the point a few times last year that the offense was a hodgepoge of different things that seemed to change each game. The thing he harped on most was the amount of times Lamar was dropping straight back and the offense looked like an air-raid type of attack. Brown probably knows Petrino’s offense as well as any writer I can think of and it was always interesting following along with his thoughts as he watched games.
I think (or hope) that Petrino will utilize his running backs more this year to establish a running game and to push the ball down the field with play action. I’m also hoping that his new offensive philosophy continues to evolve and adds in some RPO (run-pass option) plays. Petrino’s offense is a work in progress and I think we will see more of the final product of what he’s truly wanting to do against Bama.