As the Cardinals newcomers watched, Charlie Strong put his returning players through an early morning workout. By 8:00 a.m., Strong's players exited the practice fields having already completed their first practice of the 2011 season. Strong's freshmen will practice for the first time Thursday afternoon.
"We split practice to allow the older guys to come out in the morning and the freshmen will come out in the afternoon," Strong said. "The reason why is so the freshmen can be taught the drills. We didn't want to get them out here with the vets and not know what to do. So this afternoon we can take our time and teach them drills."
Senior defensive lineman Greg Scruggs, one of the team leaders, was excited to finally start practicing after running and conditioning in the heat all summer long.
"We're tired of running in this heat, for what seemed like endlessly," Scruggs said. "It was a great practice and not too much yelling. You could see the juice and everybody was ready to practice."
Strong's message to his players before the practice: Pay attention to detail.
"That was the biggest thing," Greg Scruggs said. "Last year was learning and getting used to (Coach Strong's system). Now, we don't want to make as many mistakes and work on our technique and be fundamentally sound to work on the little things to make ourselves better. Last year we were learning and wanted to get to a bowl game. Now we're trying to be a great team. To be a great team we have to work on the little things and not have any mental mistakes."
"We were definitely very excited," Stein said. "There were some emotions out there. Everybody was running fast and practicing at full speed. Overall it was a pretty good day and I feel like we got better."
Scruggs, who missed spring practice with an injury, said he was relieved to finally return to practice.
"It was fun to be back out here and get going," Scruggs said. "Everybody looked good. We're looking forward to having a great year and continue to work hard. It was great for me because I haven't had a full practice in about a year. It felt great."
Stein, a junior, enters camp as the presumed frontrunner to start at quarterback, though freshman phenom Teddy Bridgewater is expected to make a strong push for the job during fall camp.
"It's a competition against him, (Dominique Brown), and myself," Stein said. "I still have to get a lot better, but I'm not thinking about it as a competition. I'm just focused on my job and that is to be the point guard and distribute the football."
With summer conditioning behind them, Strong's team is physically prepared to grind their way through fall camp in preparation for the season opener against Murray State.
"Coach (Pat) Moorer did a great job of working the players this summer," Strong said. "The guys understood how hard they had to work."
"This summer was great," Stein said. "We ran out butts off and worked as hard as we could. I know we're prepared for today. Everybody is in great shape and it showed. Everybody flew around feeling good. We got guys back healthy, Mario (Benavides), Michaelee (Harris) and Andrell (Smith) are back out there. A lot of guys who were hurt in the spring are back, so we've got a lot of depth and more reps in."
With his system fully implemented, Strong's players are prepared to build on last year's 7-6 Beef O'Brady Bowl championship season.
"What's different is last year they didn't understand the drills or the tempo," Strong said. "So now they come out and know the speed of practice and what they have to do."
"We still have a long way to go, but the tempo of practice was a lot different than last year," added Stein. "We know what to expect and the coaches expect us to be playing at full speed all the time. The guys looked good today."
Scruggs said it's important for Louisville's veterans to set the tone early in practice for a talented group of freshmen who are expected to contribute this season.
"We have a big responsibility making sure these (new) guys buy into the program," Scruggs said. "As long as we come out here, practice hard and set the example every day once we get together they'll see how we work and operate around here. With the talent they have, if they buy in to the work ethic …we can have a really good team."
Picked to finish seventh in the Big East earlier this week by the media, the Cardinals enter fall camp ready to prove detractors wrong.
"We're not too worried about what the media says," Stein said. "It's their opinion. We feel like we had a great season last year, but we're focused on moving this program in the right direction and just doing our job."
"It's the same old story," Scruggs added. "Since I've been here we've been picked seventh or eighth (in the league). We don't really listen to that anymore. That stuff is motivation for people that need that. We know what we have on this team and our coaching staff."
Though most of fall practice will be closed to the public, Louisville fans will have an opportunity to observe practice Friday and Saturday. Practice begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and 11:30 Saturday.
"It's their football team and they deserve to come out and watch practice," Strong said.
"The most excitement I have is about what I think we can do this year," Scruggs added. "The fans coming out is great and they can see what we're doing. We're so juiced about what we can accomplish this season and excited to show our coaches that we can do it. We worked our butts off this summer and that doesn't guarantee we'll be a great team, but it gives us a chance."