Sophomore Will Gardner entered spring practice as the first team quarterback and he's displayed leadership and improvement during the first few days. During Saturday's scrimmage, Gardner had a good understanding of the offense, but some hesitation caused him to have what Petrino described as "a little bit up-and-down."
"I thought he made some good decisions early and then he had a little lull in there," Petrino said following the scrimmage. "He missed a couple executions - made the right decision, but didn't execute the play – but then he came back in the third down portion of it and executed very well."
Petrino is pleased with the progress that Gardner has made since practices began last Tuesday.
"He's had a good week," he said. "He's really taken a stride forward."
When clicking, Gardner displayed the ability to make the big plays. He connected for multiple deep touchdown passes, including a trio to receiver DeVante Parker.
Parker made a number impressive catches in the scrimmage, including one that where he fought off a couple would-be tacklers to gain extra yards.
"He's a special player, a special talent," Petrino said. "A combination of size, strength and speed, but then his athleticism and the way he can open his hips and catches the ball. Probably the one thing that I'm so excited about is how quickly he can get started and run with the ball after catch."
The success of the deep ball in the scrimmage exposed the loss of experience at the safety position. A talented group that has made its share of impressive plays throughout spring, it is one that is being forced to learn against a talented offense that is running more than your usual set of formations.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Petrino said of the safeties. "They are learning. We throw a lot at them. One of the things for our defense, that is probably different than at a lot of places, is that we throw a lot of offense at them – formations, motions, shifts – so they are learning. I think they are tackling well. I think they need to do a little better job of reading run-pass and understanding how quickly they can get to the ball when it is run, but I think they've shown improvements."
Overall, Petrino is pleased with the progress that his team has made during the first week of spring practice.
"Offensively, we've shown that we can be explosive and make some big plays, but we are giving up way to many negative plays with assignment errors, blocking schemes. We got some young guys on the offensive front with the one's, they are getting schooled up a little bit, but they're getting better. Each day they improve a little bit."
"Defensively, I'm happy with our enthusiasm. I like how we run full speed to the ball. I think we tackle pretty well, for the most part, but we gave up some big plays and we can't give up big plays on defense."
Louisville will return to practice on Tuesday, March 25 at 4:00p.m.