April 12, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - After 13 spring practices, head coach Charlie Strong is pleased with the direction of his young football team heading into Saturday's Red-White Game at 1 p.m. at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
The Cardinals, with 18 starters back, will practice for the final time on Friday before taking the field for Saturday's open scrimmage.
Expectations are high after last season's 7-6 season and a BIG EAST championship, but Strong embraces the praise and is getting his team ready for the 2012 season, which begins on Sunday, Sept. 2 against Kentucky.
"There is a lot that is going to be written about our program," said Strong. "I said it earlier; a lot of things are going to be said about our program. When you look at it, two years ago we were picked to finish last. Last season, we were picked to finish last. For some reason this season, they picked us very high within our league. We still have a long ways to go. We're nowhere near where we should be. We have a lot of work to do. If you look at this football team right now, we have nine seniors. So, leadership is going to be an issue. Where the leadership is going to come from? You look at (Will) Stein, you look at (Alex) Kupper, you look at Daniel Brown, you look at (Adrian) Bushell, you look at those guys. There are guys within our program, but there are nine seniors in this program."
The Cardinals will play seven home games this season, but also face a number of pitfalls due to short weeks of preparation. Louisville will have six days to prepare for Missouri State and Cincinnati and just four days to get ready for the season finale versus Rutgers.
"We have a schedule that is going to be very demanding for us," Strong said Thursday's press conference. With us moving the Kentucky game to Sunday, we have three weeks where they are going to be short weeks for us. We go play on a Sunday and then we come back and play Missouri State on that Saturday. Then, we come off and play South Florida and then we have a short week and have to come back and play Cincinnati on a Friday. Then, we go play UConn and we get four or five days and we have to go play Rutgers. What's so important and why you need those days is all about preparation and our coaches getting prepared to go play."
Despite being a defensive-minded coach, Strong likes the direction of the offense behind a unit that returns eight starters, including four on the offensive line.
"Offensively, we are balanced," said Strong. "We are run and pass. We are very balanced on offense. We want to go run the play action with the boots and we want to stretch the field in our passing game. We want to attack the open zones and get the ball in the hands of our playmakers."
The defense has been a group that has played well for the last two years under strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. The Cardinals allowed just 100.7 yards on the ground and return 10 starters on that side of the football, including four starters in the secondary.
"On defense, we are very aggressive and very multiple," said Strong. "We will attack. We're going to play man coverage and we're going to blitz. That is just a part of us and that's what's going to happen. Now we have to find the guys that are going to go cover them, but we're going to blitz."