|by David Hood|
What does that mean for the rest of the ACC? Only time will tell. However, the Cardinals have a talented sophomore quarterback, a solid offensive line and a bevy of receivers that will make for an exciting offense to watch. The defense will be a work in progress, but the Cardinals make their first ever trip to Death Valley for an October matchup with the Tigers that should be one of the more exciting home games of the season.
Petrino coached at Louisville from 2003-2006, but left under a cloud – a recurring theme in his career – to coach the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. His one season in the NFL was a disaster, and he resigned late in the season (under another cloud) to take the job at Arkansas. He coached the Razorbacks from 2008-2011 but left under, you guessed it, a cloud after a scandal. He coached at Western Kentucky in 2013, then took the Louisville job after Charlie Strong left for the greener pastures of Texas.
“It's great to be back in Louisville,” Petrino told the ACC media this spring. “I'm really enjoying my time back here, and my family is really excited. We came out with a lot of effort, their willingness to learn new schemes, and we have some good leadership within our team, so that really helps a lot.”
Petrino said taking over Louisville at this juncture reminds him of his first stint with the Cardinals.
“Yeah, I think it's very similar to when I came in before and took over for John L. Smith,” he said. “It's a program that's pretty well set and has great leadership. But now it's time to go to the next level, and going into the ACC and the challenge that that presents with the schedule and in recruiting, it's exciting for all of us. It's an exciting time for the city of Louisville and all our fans, and it presents a great challenge. It'll be fun. It'll be fun to have to prepare real hard each game and most of the games I feel will go into the fourth quarter, and you're going to have to be in great condition and have good depth and be able to win some tough games in the fourth quarter.”
He then said that he thinks the pieces are already in place for the Cardinals to compete with the big boys of the ACC.
“Well, we feel like we can go in and compete,” Petrino said. “That's certainly our goal and something that we're going to work towards,” he said. “But we're going to have to show it. That's why it's exciting to have a great opener like we do with Miami. I think it's really exciting for our fans to be able to see the home schedule that we're going to have and be able to bring teams in here like Florida State, Miami and North Carolina State, and also the excitement of where our road games are going to be.
“I think it's what our fans have wanted for a long time, and now it's here. We have a long way to go. We're not close to where we need to be to open the season September 1, but with the attitude and work ethic that we have on the team, I'm excited about where we can get to as a football team.”
Petrino said his defense needs for one or two leaders to step up, and he thinks he saw that in the spring.
“Well, on the defensive side of the ball, I think on our defensive front Sheldon Rankins does a good job of leading. He's very experienced,” he said. “He's played all positions up front, so he's a guy that I thought really took charge and did a great job for us. Lorenzo Mauldin is going to be a very good leader for us. He didn't participate in all parts of spring ball, so it'll be exciting to see him get out there and go through all of it.
“On offense, our offensive linemen that returned did a really nice job. When you look at Jake Smith and everything that he's done for the program and the experience that he has, he's very vocal, and everybody on the offense respects him. We're excited about that. And Will Gardner, he's just young. He doesn't have a lot of experience playing in a game, but he certainly believes he's the leader of the team just by the way he goes about his business on a daily basis.”
The offense, of course, will be the strength of the team and Petrino said he was excited to see what Will Gardner can accomplish.
“Offensively we have some really good depth at the wide receiver position, some returners at running back, tight ends on the offensive front, so the big challenge there was to play well at the quarterback position,” he said. “I think Will kind of came in and took over. A lot of times as a head coach, what you do is you send them out there and see how they react to it, and he jumps in the front of the line. He's the first guy to go, and in his mind there was no doubt who the starting quarterback was going to be. So that was good to see without us setting a depth chart or telling him what to do.”
Petrino said that there is no doubt that Gardner is number one on the depth chart, and listed what he likes about his talented sophomore.
“We had three guys that went out and basically competed hard in the spring. Will Gardner came out of spring ball as the No. 1 quarterback, so if we were going to play today he would be the guy that goes out there first,” Petrino said. “He's a guy that's 6'5", I'm going to keep him under 230 pounds because we feel like he'll be more agile and be able to move. But he's very competitive. He certainly has the respect and the trust of all his teammates and can make the different throws and move in the pocket and do the things we want to do. We still have to develop the depth behind him, and then hopefully we get some help from our true freshmen who will come in in the fall or basically this summer and compete for some playing time or compete for the starting job.”
2014 Louisville schedule
9-1-14 MIAMI FL (Mon.)
9-6-14 MURRAY STATE
9-13-14 at Virginia
9-20-14 at Florida International
9-27-14 WAKE FOREST
10-3-14 at Syracuse
10-11-14 at Clemson
10-18-14 NORTH CAROLINA STATE
10-30-14 FLORIDA STATE (Thur.)
11-8-14 at Boston College
11-22-14 at Notre Dame
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org