Louisville Football opened fall camp today with a full practice in shorts and shoulder pads. Scott Satterfield made the rare decision to open the practice to fans and we all got a good look at the team do drills and some team periods.
Let’s start with the top of the depth chart and work through it.
Malik Cunningham truly looked like the unquestioned starter today. He worked with the same air of confidence that I’ve seen from Teddy Bridgewater and Lamar Jackson. I didn’t get to see everything Malik did today, but seeing him completely focused and locked in was good.
We also got to see Malik and the rest of the Quarterbacks get the ball to the Running Backs in the passing game much more than we saw in games last year. It was obvious that it was a focus from the coaching staff and each QB did well to check the ball down if the throw wasn’t there to a receiver. Malik also threw the ball away a few times when nothing was open. My guess is that the staff has emphasized that as well.
Brock Domann is going to push Evan Conley for the backup Quarterback spot. He was the first player I saw walking to the field and he definitely looks the part. He’s not a tall guy but he is very much put together. He looked impressive throwing the football and the familiarity with the system will go a long way for him.
Conley missed some throws that I saw. The last time I saw him at practice was two years ago and he really impressed me. I was a little caught off guard today when I didn’t see obvious improvement. TJ Lewis has a long way to go with his mechanics. He’s very inconsistent at this point but that’s to be expected.
Jalen Mitchell looks like some sort of a bodybuilder that can still run past people. He is compact but all muscle. It was really good to see him make quick cuts to avoid tackles and find gaps to run through. That’s an element of his game that was a concern.
Not much else stood out with the backs other than the fact that Trevion Cooley has great top-end speed. He opened it up on one run and it was eye-opening how fast he was moving. Greg Desrosiers also looks to be a legit option for the staff if he’s needed.
The obvious question on offense is who will replace Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick and all of their production. I think today proved that we will see much more of a committee on offense as opposed to one or two guys.
Justin Marshall was the guy that stood out to me today. He has always looked the part, physically but he finally looks like the well-rounded guy they need to replace some of what Dez did as an outside receiver.
Shai Werts looked very impressive for a guy that’s still learning the position. With Braden Smith being a known commodity, it will be very helpful to have a guy that can play in the other slot and provide depth.
My favorite play of the entire practice was a simple catch by Amari Huggins-Bruce. On a short “stop” route, AHB set up the arriving Linebacker by leaning outside towards the sideline before moving back inside (and towards the ball) to make the catch while getting up the field. Essentially, he made the defender miss before he even caught the football by setting him up like he was going outside. A very small thing but for a true freshman to have a move like that in his bag and pull it out so comfortably, was really good to see.
Seeing Marshon Ford go from being a completely unknown guy who was a surprise starter the last time they opened practice to being an unquestioned star is a fun aspect to this team. Ford split out in the slot a few times which is a new wrinkle to the offense.
Not much else to report on this group but Dez Melton does look good from a physical standpoint. UofL having a legit pass-catching option at the “Y” spot would help a lot. Ean Pfiefer was obviously key with the touchdowns he caught but he was a bit limited outside of the Red Zone.
We weren’t going to learn much about the Offensive Line when they’re not in pads but the group looked good physically. Renato Brown is the only player that I wouldn’t describe as “long and lean”. Caleb Chandler and Cole Bentley even looked pretty lean even though both are 300+ pounds.
I did get a glimpse of what I believe to be the top nine guys that we have heard about. Bryan Hudson, Luke Kandra, Michael Gonzalez, and Kobe Baynes made up the group of backups in the drill I saw.
It’s hard to learn much about the Defensive Line as well and they were also doing drills on the furthest part of the field from everyone else. Most of my observations were about position and depth chart status.
Derek Dorsey was the third or fourth Nose Tackle in rotation today which was a move for him. I also noticed that Henry Bryant was playing Defensive End with the third group. My understanding is that Bryant was out for much of last year so he could work his way into the rotation at some point.
Lousiville knows what to expect from C.J. Avery and Monty Montgomery so there’s not much to speak on there. Yasir Abdullah and Nick Okeke have established themselves at the Dog position and both looked good today.
The Card spot was manned by Jack Fagot for most of the practice. I don’t remember seeing Marvin Dallas on the field but I know he was dressed out. Fagot seemed to be very comfortable in his new spot and Cort Dennison gave him some positive reinforcement a couple of times.
From a depth standpoint, there are a lot of young guys and they all got to see the field today. T.J. Quinn was the second guy up behind Avery which I did not see coming. Jackson Hamilton and Jaylin Alderman also got reps at ILB.
Louisville looks to be about as good at Cornerback as they’ve been in a handful of years. Kei’Trel Clark is an all-conference level player and plays like a guy that’s on the Thrope Award watch list. Chandler Jones is the veteran of the group and he looks completely healthy after being banged up last year.
The big factor will be Greedy Vance. You’d never know that he was a second-year player that didn’t play a lot last season by watching him. You also wouldn’t get that from the confidence they’re showing in him. I looked up at one point and noticed that Chandler Jones was yelling at Greedy to stay on the field. Then I noticed that Jones was playing Strong Safety.
I’ve been hoping to see Bryan Brown get a little creative from a personnel standpoint so you can imagine how happy I was to see him shift Jones to Safety to get better coverage guys on the field. I’m also now very interested to see what they do with their Nickel package. We’ve been seeing three Safeties on the field for the last two years. Could we see Jones at Safety with three other Corners on the field?
My take of the day is that Louisville is definitely better at Safety this year than they were last year. That’s with them losing everyone and their tip three guys being newcomers. Kendrick Duncan is a massive Free Safety but he is very lean and athletic. The pair of Ben Perry and Qwynnterrio Cole will be plenty enough to replace Russ Yeast as well.
Duncan looks like an NFL player with his size and aggression in coverage. On one play, he got his hands into a receivers’ chest and directed him to the sideline while also turning to run with the player and force a throw into a tiny window on the sideline.
Ben Perry ran with the first group today and he will make Qwynnterrio Cole work for the starting spot over the next month. Perry has packed on a bunch of weight and his first rep in one-on-ones was a PBU where he broke on an inside route and caught up to the receiver to get his hand in front of him to break up the pass. A few reps later, Braden Smith made him look very much like a freshman, however.
- The difference in freshmen who arrived in the winter compared to the guys that came in the summer was stark. Ben Perry and Bralyn Oliver looked the part while Victoine Brown and some others still need some work on their bodies.
- Qwynnterrio Cole looks like an action figure. An underrated aspect of getting transfers in is the fact that they are typically in physical shape on top of having the experience on the field to make an early impact.
- Brock Domann also stood out as a guy who is much bigger than I expected.
- Monty Montgomery led the Linebackers down the line of fans who stuck around until the end of practice to thank them for coming. A little thing that I thought was cool to see.
- Newcomer Jawhar Jordan had a very rough practice with De’Rail Sims having to correct him multiple times through multiple drills. While that’s a bit to be expected in his first practice, Sims had to get on him about hustling which was very surprising for a guy who has played at the ACC level.
- Demetrius Cannon, R.J. Sorenson, and Kam Wilson were the only other guys that I saw catch the ire of a coach today. With so many young guys, I expected more yelling but most of the interactions I saw from coaches were about course-correcting and making sure guys knew what to do as opposed to coaching effort.
- The defense lined up as the depth chart showed a few weeks back with the exception of the Card position. On offense, Tyler Harrell was with the first group with Jordan Watkins running with the twos.
- Harrell is now wearing number 8 and Braden Smith is wearing number 4.
- Caleb Banks is one of the largest football players I’ve ever seen. At one point he was literally a full head taller than the large group he was walking with.
- Ja’Darien Boykin is much shorter in person than I expected. That might explain the lack of playing time for him as a pass rusher.
- Josh Minkins went through a good amount of drills today with an orange jersey on. Dayna Kinnaird worked out on the side and Satterfield said that he could be out for a while. I didn’t notice any other players miss practice today.
- Braden Smith and Shai Werts were the first two guys up for punt returns. I didn’t get much more of a look at Special Teams as they were mostly off on a side field working alone.