For the first time in years, Louisville football will see a frequent two-back set in the Bobby Petrino offense. Thomas has a group of talented backs in sophomore Eric Shelton, junior Lionel Gates and senior T.J. Patterson. True freshmen Reggie Bradshaw, who is on campus and participating in spring practice, and Kolby Smith will add quality depth.
I spent a few minutes with Coach Thomas recently and discussed the progress and competition occuring during the spring session.
ITV: What do think of the new emphasis on the running game?
Coach Thomas: I'm excited. It's a new style of ball. Two backs will be getting in every couple of situations. We're learning and I think the feeling out period is pretty much over. Now it's getting quality reps and everybody doing the right thing at the right time.
ITV: A lot of people are expecting Eric Shelton to step in and take the starting spot, but Eric and Lionel really seem to be equals out there right now.
Coach Thomas: Well, all these backs here, all they've heard since Eric's got here is that Eric's going to be the guy. These guys all know it's a job that's earned and it's not a job that's handed over to anyone. Lionel is bring a lot to the table. He's got some leadership now, it's his third year here now. Eric has to learn a whole new style of football again. Right now it is a one-two deal and that can switch by the end up the week. They are pushing each other much now. It's my job to get them coached up and ready to play and let the best back rise to the top.
ITV: What was your impression following this past Saturday's scrimmage?
Coach Thomas: As a group they did okay. The offensive line did a pretty good job, but I thought we left a lot of yards out there as a group. One cut here could make the difference from an 8-yard run and a 48-yard run. That's something that will change by the next scrimmage on Saturday.
ITV: What do you think of your new staff mates?
Coach Thomas: We have a great time. It's about football and about having camaraderie and working together and we are having a good time doing it.
ITV: You all seem to a very interactive staff.
Coach Thomas: I had the opportunity to play when Paul Petrino was a coach at Idaho and I enjoy that type of attitude and that enthusiasm. I tell my guys that if I see something bad happen I'll let you know and if I see something good happen I'm going to let you know. We're positive coaches. We're always trying to reinforce the positive and getting the negative. We always want to turn negatives into positives.