The University of Louisville football team wasted no time keeping things rolling on spring practice this weekend, hitting the field at 10 a.m. Saturday morning for their eighth workout. Forced to hold the open practice inside the Trager Center due to weather, the Cardinals went to work for two hours in front of a handful of Cardinal fans looking to shake off last night's men's basketball Sweet 16 loss.
The team used the entirety of their session to scrimmage - alternating with phases of first team offense versus first team defense, second team against second team, and third team against third team.
As has become the expectation with Bobby Petrino and staff back at the helm, Saturday's practice was another rapidly paced, highly intense display of purposeful repetitions. Petrino prompted the offense, which he stayed with throughout the period, to fire off play after play, interjecting with coaching points only briefly in the huddle after each snap.
Perhaps the most encouraging take away from the morning was the enthusiasm of the Cardinal players. An intense practice on a Saturday morning likely doesn't rank highly on a list of things 19 to 23-year old college students want to do with their weekend, but no torpor was seen during the scrimmage. Big hits by linebacker Nick Dawson and cornerback Charles Gaines garnered excitement and inspired some trash-talk from the defensive units, while a long run by running back Brandon Radcliff and a few deep throws by quarterback Will Gardner made the offense players noisy.
A few players from the Cardinals' receiving corps made impressions on Saturday, but none more so than redshirt senior Matt Milton.
Milton, a wiry 6-foot-5, 205-pound wideout who saw little time last season, caught three touchdown passes during the session while getting reps with both the first and second team offenses.
Two of Milton's scoring receptions came on fly routes down the sideline, while he hauled the other in on a snap inside the ten-yard line. Milton showed both speed and good hands on the morning. If he can continue to develop, Milton would provide another big redzone target to compliment top receiver DeVante Parker.
Stepping up on the defensive side of the ball was senior defensive lineman B.J. Dubose. Though Dubose has previously seen time as a defensive tackle, he has been working at defensive end this spring. The coaches have liked what they've seen from him so far.
"I've been really pleased with our front guys and what they've done," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham told the media, before pointing out Dubose as a top performer.
"Debose is a guy who has bought into the system as an end. He plays physical."
On Saturday, Dubose made several plays to help congest the backfield and stifle running plays at their inception. He also had a few would-be sacks (quarterbacks, as per the usual, can't be tackled in practice). Dubose's best play though, was his swat of a Will Gardner pass early in the session. Batting one of Gardner's throws is not easy, considering he's 6-foot-5.
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Most Cardinal fans know the name, but Robert Clark looks as though he could be a weapon in Bobby Petrino's offense.
Clark scored on two receptions of Saturday. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior made plays by catching short passes and turning up-field for explosive displays of yards-after-catch.
Clark came on strong for the Cardinals last season, catching four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown against Ohio in the season opener, but he was utilized less and less throughout the season and his production dropped off. He has shown the ability to be a playmaker this spring, and could have a big senior campaign ahead of him.
***Early-enrollee L.J. Scott continues to make waves at running back. The freshman from Marion, Ohio, had several big runs on Saturday and continues to show the coaching staff his ability as a physical but shifty back.
***Though the Cardinals are still in installation mode when it comes to Bobby Petrino's offense, it's hard not to get excited about the plays he's shown so far. A lot of fly routes, screen plays, and deep outs so far. If nothing else, the Cards will be explosive.
***To the chagrin of many Louisville fans, wide receiver James Quick was not utilized much in last season's freshman campaign. Through spring practices, it appears his sophomore season will be a much different story. Quick was targeted more than a few times on Saturday, and made grabs on a handful of underneath routes, which should allow him to make plays with the ball in his hands.