Sure, one could argue that fall means pumpkins, changing leaves, and the addition of hoodies to the clothing rotation...but the NCAA says that the football practices which started this week across the country for numerous teams shall be called “Fall Camp”, so get me a pumpkin spice candle and hang some foliage on my front door because to me.....it’s fall y’all, and football has arrived.
Over the course of a couple hours today I got to see Jeff Brohm officially calling plays, and guys preparing for one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory for the University of Louisville. My attention today was mostly on the offense as I was curious to see just how well the transfers and vets were picking things up on that side of the ball but I caught some defensive nuggets along the way and of course heard Coach Ellis screaming as soon as I crossed the Central Ave Bridge.
In news which surprises no one Plummer was the guy today, taking all the first team reps and throwing some really good balls at all levels. What I liked beyond the play was him talking to wideouts and backs between reps and being one of the more vocal guys when the whole team got together about halfway through practice, welcoming his offensive line to the party as they came over from Field 3. It appeared like Domann was taking most of the second team reps and had a nice rollout late for about a 25-30yd strike to the right boundary. For those wondering, yes, he still has arms and legs that look like he moonlights as a fullback. While I’d hesitate to call them “third team” reps Pierce Clarkson and newcomer Brady Allen got the majority of the reaming snaps with Conley sprinkled in as well. Clarkson showed of his “escapability” on a few instances and made a couple strong throws across the middle. Allen on the other hand looks like the QB Brohm would draw a picture of if you asked him to describe what he likes at the position. His size and arm strength is noticeable, but as one would expect he needs some more time to be in a position to compete for QB1 reps. Final note was that Sam Young had the curls on and popping today.
While Thrash and Calloway got most of the chatter during the summer, my Chris Bell fanclub card got double stamps today, and I think I’m only a few away from proclaiming him “that guy” for 2023. My only concern with Bell is that he is big for a typical Brohm wideout, especially when you think Rondale, Charlie Jones, etc. but he did have success with David Bell who was only about an inch and ten pounds smaller than Chris. The new Bell was “dinging and donging” all over the field and looked like a top wideout today. I think the staff and/or the QBs also really like what they have in Kevin Coleman from Jackson State. He’s fast and was targeted often in the 11-on-11 reps. One of the few times they took the top off Jadon Thompson (Cincy) was on the receiving end of a deep ball that must have gone 60 yards in the air from Plummer, and got quite a few cheers from the fans in attendance. Thrash looked good from what I saw, but the catch or catches of the day actually went to Jaedon King in my opinion. The freshman, still listed as a DB on the roster, made a couple grabs which had me double checking the jersey number. One to keep an eye on for sure. While I’ve joked about this on the ‘Two Minute Plays’ series my scientific guess as to how many plays during the live reps included some type of pre-snap motion is about 80%...Brohm loves early movement more than your grandpa on a fiber-rich diet, and he’s not afraid to show it.
Jaws (Jawhar Jordan) is RB1 and was looking light and fast today, floating, stinging, and all that other butterfly and bee stuff. Showing good leadership with the rest of the group all day. Isaac Guerendo (Wisconsin) is bigger than I expected, like noticeably bigger than the rest of the backs. His five TDs last year in Madison may be in play in 2023, especially around the goal line. Some early walkthrough had the offense working on RB screens towards both the weakside and strongside. I think Brohm likes what he has in this group and it may as a whole be the most talent he’s had at the position in quite some time. I would not be surprised to see them weaved into the offense a bit more than usual.
While I think it would be a bit presumptuous of me to call any group “first team” or “second team” on Day 1, there was some consistency with the rotations along the line. From my viewpoint it appeared as if Gonzalez, John Paul Flores, Hudson, Joshua Black, and Renato were out there the most with Plummer. The next group included Willie Tyler, Emmanuel Sowders, Austin Collins, Eric Miller, and Vincent Lumia. I also saw Burgess, Sanker, Crocker and others getting reps as well. The takeaway should be depth. The staff went out and added guys in the spring and summer and now they have likely 7-8 guys they feel comfortable with, hoping to get up to 10-12 early in the season. I will say, a guy like Burgess (6-8,300) would have stuck out like a sore thumb in the past but “almost” blended in with some of the other size they’ve brought in. I didn’t go check tonight but my gut says they are bigger on average up front than they’ve been in a long time.
One of the bigger questions marks for many is how the position Brohm loves to use to exploit matchups will pan out based upon the minimal experience the group has. Today, as expected, Josh Lifson was still the first guy off the line, but for those who read the Cardinal Countdown you may not be surprised to hear Nate Kurisky was also getting some early reps. I know most of the fans are side-eyeing freshman Jamari Johnson to see when the talented freshman may be ready for the spotlight, but at least today he was running with some of the lower groups on the depth chart. Can he be impactful in 2023? Absolutely. The question will be how quickly he can get up to speed.
This likely isn’t the reason you clicked on this post but for me....this is an area of concern. Transfer portal hit the third phase hard and we need some dudes to step up. I didn’t walk over to Field 2 but it looked like Travelstead was doing some kicking over there with the other guys early. As soon as I walked in today I saw Carter Schwartz absolutely murder a football off his foot that had to have traveled 60 yards, taking some snaps at punter (he then shanked one a few snaps later). I think Brady Hodges was getting the “main focus” for Coach Mas at punter and Shai Kockav was the go-to at long snapper, but I think almost all those competitions are open except for maybe Travelstead at kickoff. I saw Barclay, McGee, and Ivey also helping with special teams as well.
While the offense was my focus today, it was impossible to ignore that the defense was impressive when going live. For every “wow” or “woah” from the offense, the defense made an equally impressive stop. When going 1-v-1 during one series after an incompletion the back was caught behind the line for a TFL, and the next play they forced Plummer to scramble and run out of bounds. That's a three and out in my book, and a good sign as to the defense picking up where they left off in 2022. I saw Brownlee make a few plays but noticed on most snaps they had Quincy Riley lined up on Thrash and he held his own during those series. On one play Riley cut off Thrash on a route and I thought he had a nice over the shoulder interception but it fell to the ground late. Coach Ellis told him he understood the challenge and the difficulty of the play and encouraged him to continue to do his best on the next play.....or he screamed “hold onto the damn ball”. You decide.
While they could have done just about anything today and still would have walked away grinning ear to ear because football is back, I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw for Day 1. Can’t wait to see the development and what this team can do in Season One of “The Brohm Years”. Less than a month to go!