What they saw is a team that lost 25 seniors, including 14 starters, from last year's Beef O'Brady Bowl champions, but that more closely resembles a BCS program than the team Charlie Strong inherited.
This year's group is clearly bigger, stronger and faster than last year's version. That's a testament to Charlie Strong's recruiting and Pat Moorer's conditioning program.
Freshmen defensive linemen, B.J. Dubose, Jamon Brown and Lorenzo Mauldin all look part. So do rookie offensive linemen Ryan Mack and John Miller. The returning players also appear in great shape to start fall camp.
Louisville practiced for more than two and half hours in helmets and shorts. Fans watched Strong and his staff put the players through an assortment of drills before the team conducted 7-on-7 skeleton drills, and full team action, which concluded practice shortly before 8 p.m.
"This is the first day that we've had a chance to get them all out here and they worked well," Strong said. "Guys have still got to learn how to practice. It's all about fundamentals and technique, that's what you look for right now – making sure they know all of their assignments."
"The big thing for both of them is knowing the offense inside-out and developing confidence that they know exactly what is going on and where everybody is," offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said. "We're giving them a lot of things and we've got to do better than we did today. That's for sure."
Perhaps the biggest question mark early in fall camp is an offensive line that lost four starters. Ryan Kessling (tackle), Alex Kupper (tackle), Kamran Joyer (guard), Jake Smith and Mario Benavides (center) comprised the first team offensive line during practice and their development could be key this season.
"I like them, but they've got a lot of work to do," Sanford said. "I like their attitude, their chemistry and the way they come to work. They have a good attitude and they're really hungry. I think we've got some leadership with Mario Benavides and the other guys have ability. It's just them knowing what to do and doing it on a consistent basis."
If the line can provide Stein and Bridgewater time to look downfield, the Cardinals appear to have several capable pass catchers, including wide receivers Josh Bellamy and Andrell Smith and tight ends Josh Chichester and Stephon Ball. Louisville also appears in good shape at running back with Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright, who had off-season hernia surgery.
"He's close to one hundred percent," Sanford said. "He's not completely a hundred percent but he's close."
Louisville will conduct their final open practice of fall camp Saturday morning at 11:30.
Practice Notebook** Corvin Lamb, a 2010 signee who didn't qualify to play last season, is now on the field and practicing with the team. A short, but well-built running back, Lamb's speed is clearly evident.
** Clemson transfer linebacker Tarik Rollins is making his practice debut at Louisville after sitting out spring practice with a knee injury. Rollins wore a brace on his left knee during practice, but looks the part.
** Who will emerge as the starters at cornerback? Senior Anthony Conner and freshman Jordan Paschal were the first team corners throughout Friday's second practice. Keep an eye on freshmen Charles Gaines and Andrew Johnson as both saw meaningful practice repetitions.
** Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jamaine Brooks has dropped more than 40 pounds since arriving on campus. Brooks, a monster in the middle of the defesne, was active during practice, tipping a pass at the line of scrimmage and recovering a fumble.
** Freshman wide receiver Michaelee Harris wore a brace on his right knee, but practiced on Friday. A former four-star prospect, Harris missed last season and sat out spring practice after sustaining injuries to both knees.