Louisville welcomes early down time as camp opens on Monday
By GARY B. GRAVES
Jul. 27, 2017
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Lamar Jackson remains a huge threat at quarterback, but whether he joins Archie Griffin as a repeat Heisman Trophy winner depends on the targets and protection Louisville and coach Bobby Petrino give him.
Petrino certainly plans to use each day of fall camp to fill those and many other openings.
The Cardinals have some days off before conducting their first practice Monday, which comes a little earlier than usual following the elimination of twice-daily workouts. While that means a longer grind before the season opens, Petrino sees an opportunity to take thorough looks at his personnel.
"We'll go about the first seven days and install everything, and then we'll come back and repeat it," Petrino said Wednesday as construction of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium north end zone hummed behind him.
"That's where we want to see some guys make strides in understanding and competing for the starting job or the backup job. I always tell the players that it's up to them to show teammates who the starter is."
Louisville (9-4, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) returns 19 starters but just five on offense. The upside is one of those veterans is the multiple-threat Jackson, who looks to follow up a remarkable sophomore season featuring numerous national awards and highlighted by becoming the youngest Heisman winner.
While the 6-foot-3, 211-pound Jackson adjusts to working more under center this season, Petrino must replace several key receivers and develop backfield depth around him. Most important is rebuilding an offensive line that returns only Geron Christian and Lukayus McNeil from a unit that allowed 46 sacks last season.
Petrino sounded hopeful that the list of O-line candidates he ran off can protect Jackson and the ball carriers. Blocking is no small matter as Jackson's record-setting season (3,543 yards passing and 30 touchdowns, 1,571 rushing with 21 TDs) ended with three straight losses, sacks and turnovers.
Petrino stressed that his team can be motivated by its success and failures, and co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Lonnie Galloway believes Jackson will put that ending behind him. The issue of whether the QB could match Griffin's back-to-back Heisman wins in 1974-75 didn't come up; then again, it wasn't discussed last summer either, and look what happened.
"I'm expecting Lamar to have a great season," Galloway said. "He's stronger, he's heavier, he'll have a better idea of what we want to do offensively and the things that coach (Petrino) wants him to do in the passing game. I'm expecting big things from him again."
Louisville's defense could be strong again with nine starters back. The Cardinals are loaded at linebacker and return four starters in the secondary, including team interceptions leader Jaire Alexander (five).
Trying to make all that experience and depth from front to back work is new coordinator in Peter Sirmon, who replaces Todd Grantham. If this spring's quick grasp of his system mean anything, he's already made a big impression.
"I want it to be player friendly," Sirmon said of his philosophy. "I'm not sure if simple is better or complex is better, and I'm not here to say if it's better or worse. What I know is my job is to develop that locker room and develop the best combination of players to get on the field."
Louisville opens the season against Purdue and first-year coach Jeff Brohm, an assistant under Petrino during his first Cardinals stint, on Sept. 2 in Indianapolis.
This version corrects name of former Louisville defensive coordinator to Todd Grantham.