March 22, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky.- University of Louisville head football coach Bobby Petrino took an opportunity to see where his football team was after three practices by conducting about a 70-play scrimmage on Saturday morning in the Trager Indoor Practice Facility.
Petrino put the Cardinals through about an hour of practice before going head-to-head for the first time with a scrimmage. It was the end of the first week of spring practice under Petrino, and the Cardinals' head coach has been pleased with what he has seen in the first four practices.
"We got a lot done," Petrino said. "Players are starting to learning and understand parts of our schemes that we are putting in. They are working hard on their technique."
The Cardinals showed an ability to make a number of big plays early in the scrimmage, as senior wide receiver DeVante Parker had a huge day with a pair of long touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Will Gardner. Senior wideout Matt Milton also broke loose on a pair of long scores.
"Offensively, we have shown the ability to be explosive and make some big plays," Petrino said. "We are giving up way too many negative plays with assignment errors and blocking schemes. We have some young guys on the offensive front that are getting schooled, but they are getting better."
According to Petrino, Gardner was a little up-and-down, but came back later in the scrimmage and executed very well.
"Will has had a good week," Petrino said. "He has taken a stride forward. I think Garrick (McGee) has done a great job with his technique. He is starting to get his feet in the right position. He has gotten more accurate as the week has gone along."
With Petrino heaping praise on his young quarterback, Gardner knows he has a lot of work to do to be a better quarterback and earn the starting nod.
"We are competing right now," Gardner said. "I have to come out every day and compete. I can't take a day off. I have to work hard to earn that No. 1 spot."
The good news from today's scrimmage was the offense made a number of big plays, but that meant the defense was giving up a number of long scoring plays, which Petrino wants to see improve.
"I'm happy with the enthusiasm on defense and how we run to the football," Petrino said. "We tackled pretty well, but we gave up big plays. You can't give up big plays on defense, but overall it was a good first week."
One player on defense who has stood out has been junior defensive end Sheldon Rankins. Seeing limited playing time his first two years, Rankins has taken a huge step forward by being hard to block and continues to cause fits for the offense.
Rankins is trying to learn a new defense, which can be tough, but the native of Covington, Ga., likes the direction of the defense.
"It's definitely different," Rankins said. "It's just takes some getting used to, but I like it. It keeps everyone on their toes; you never know what to expect. Coach Petrino is a great coach and has brought in a great staff."
While the Cardinals continue to pick up new schemes on both sides of the football, the team has shown an ability to make big plays on offense and defense. They will get another opportunity to see how much they have learned with another 4 p.m. practice on Tuesday.