Charlie Strong's Cards donned pads Saturday morning for the first time this spring. Louisville's physical practice began with the physical 'Oklahoma' drill, where three defensive players try to bring down one ball carrier inside a narrow five-yard window.
"Today was our first day in pads and we had two good days in shorts," Charlie Strong told InsideTheVille.com. "We came out today and we were able to hit some and were just playing physical. That's what this football team needs to get to. We have to be a mentally and physically tough football team."
During the physical opening drill, Corvin Lamb, a redshirt freshman running back, showed toughness and an ability to breaking tackles. The 5'9, 220 pound Lamb showed tremendous leg churn bouncing off tacklers and spinning away from tacklers. On one carry, Lamb bounced off several defenders in traffic, which earned a leaping chest bump from assistant Kenny Carter. Defensive tackle Brandon Dunn beat starting offensive guard Jake Smith to make a tackle for loss, while safety Kamal Hogan and freshman linebacker Keith Brown made impressive plays.
"We didn't scrimmage so it was more of a practice so I liked just the tempo and effort of the players," Strong said. "We talk about making no excuses in the program and guys have to continue to work and get better. That's what it's all about. We don't need any excuses or reasons why we can't win football games."
Louisville returns 18 starters from a team that won a share of the Big East title last season and ended the season in the Belk Bowl. The Cardinals have looked like a legitimate contender to win the league outright early this spring despite having several key contributors out with injury.
"It's all about fundamentals and techniques - that's what you're looking for," Strong said. "The guys understand the tempo and what we're trying to accomplish."
Perhaps the biggest question marks for Strong's team this spring are on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Senior center Mario Benavides is out with injury, and redshirt Mike Romano has taken his place. Sophomore guards John Miller and Jake Smith return, while senior Alex Kupper and sophomore Jamon Brown at tackle.
On the defensive line, Dunn and Jamaine Brooks were the only two scholarship players available at tackle with Roy Philon out with injury. Strong moved offensive lineman Hunter Stoudt to tackle to boost numbers. Saturday's starting front seven consisted of Dunn, Brooks, Marcus Smith, B.J. Dubose, Preston Brown, Daniel Brown and Deiontrez Mount.
"That's where it all starts, everything starts with your offensive and defensive lines," Strong said. "They have to be physical and play physical. We expect that from them. We're still in the process where guys are still learning how to play through every down."
Practice NotebookWide receiver Stephon Robinson, a converted defensive back, caught a touchdown pass from Will Stein during Red Zone passing drills. Redshirt freshman safety Jermaine Reve broke up Stein's pass in the end zone.
Corner Titus Teague intercepted Teddy Bridgewater's pass intended for Robinson during one on one passing drills, while Charles Gaines dropped a sure interception of a Stein pass intended for DeVante Parker.
Damian Copeland made several catches during one on one and skelly drills, including a nice touchdown catch over cornerback Jordan Paschall.
Junior college tight end Ryan Hubbell was impressive in his third practice after transferring from Iowa Western. Hubbell beat his man up the seam and made a leaping catch for a touchdown during one on one drills, then made an outstanding reception in traffic along the sideline during skelly drills.
Devante Parker was impressive during skelly drills, catching an out-route and inside slant pass against top cornerback Adrian Bushell. Parker also caught a tough slant pass against physical cornerback Terrell Floyd. Parker, who led the team as a true freshman in touchdowns, is running better routes early in spring practice.
Safety Calvin Pryor intercepted backup quarterback Luke Brohm during skeleton drills.