After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, three Cardinals are getting their first real look as part of the team this spring.
Gerald Christian (6'3, 260) and Zeke Pike (6'6, 230), who transferred from Florida and Auburn respectively, provide needed depth and a new skill set for the offense. Robert Clark (5'9, 182), also a Florida transfer, adds even more depth and talent to an already skilled receiver's group.
"We get a good look at Gerald Christian and Robert Clark," said Charlie Strong on Wednesday. "You get a look at those guys, like Zeke Pike, that you weren't able to get a good look at during the fall because they weren't ready to go play. Now we have a chance to put them in there and learn the plays and see what they have to do."
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been impressed by what the additions provide the offense.
"He's a machine," he said of Christian. "He'll go across the middle and catch the ball with three guys on his back. He can block, he can pancake guys. He's like an offensive lineman, a running back and a wide receiver all in one body. Robert Clark brings speed to the offense, with his quickness and elusiveness."
FINDING A BACKUP
The departure of quarterback Will Stein to graduation has left the U of L offense without a proven backup to Teddy Bridgewater.
This spring, the Cardinals will work redshirt freshman Will Gardner and junior Brett Nelson behind center in their search for number two.
"It's a priority because we don't have a back up," Strong said. "Today was the first day for some of those guys even taking snaps. We have to find us a backup, but we are looking at some quarterbacks that today was their first chance to even throw a ball in practice."
The absence of Stein has pushed Bridgewater into the mentor role this spring.
"Will was the guy that pushed me and he knew the offense," explained the Heisman candidate. "I'm the guy that has to teach the other quarterbacks now. My first two springs, Will was always there to teach me."
Bridgewater has been impressed by the efforts of the two competing for the backup position.
"Will Gardner is a star in the making and Brett Nelson is also," he said. "Both guys love to compete and they are ready to get out there and see what they can do."
"At center we have Kamran Joyer who was a backup last year, so he'll have the chance to fill in there," said Strong following the first day of spring ball.
The senior, who will fill the void left by Mario Benavides, has been working with Bridgewater during the off-season to further strengthen their relationship.
"It's different, but we worked together during the off season, so we've built a chemistry," said Bridgewater.
STRONG HEADED TO LEXINGTON
Head coach Charlie Strong will make the short drive east to Lexington on Thursday to watch U of L's opening NCAA game against North Carolina A&T.
"I'm going to Lexington to watch us play. We have a really good basketball team and it's fun to watch. You talk about defense, they play defense."
Bridgewater, who will watch from home, believes the Cardinals have what it takes to win the school's third NCAA title.
"To me they are going to win it all," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in those guys. Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Peyton Siva, those are great guys off the court as well. They show that true athletic ability on the court and that's something that I love to see."
Transfer junior wide receiver Matt Milton suffered a knee injury and will be sidelined for the remainder of spring.
U of L quarterback commit Reggie Bonnafon, a Scout.com 4-star prospect was on hand to watch the Cardinals first day of practice.
"The squad is looking good," he tweeted shortly after leaving.
Former Cardinal commit DeAndre Herron was also in attendance. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive lineman pledged to U of L in 2012, but due to academic shortcoming was forced to attend Iowa Western Community College. He currently holds an offer from Louisville.