Wearing full pads, the Cardinals were back in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for the 10th day of spring practice on Wednesday afternoon. In addition to rapidly decreasing temperature and blustery winds, the two-hour long session was as fast-paced as they have been all spring.
The team used the final 30 minutes conducting no-tackle simulated settings, with athletes on both sides of the ball making plays. First team quarterback Will Gardner continues to improve, as do both Kyle Bolin and Brett Nelson. Each made some impressive throws on Wednesday, as timing and confidence continues to rise.
Defensively, there were contributions from every area. An improving pass rush and improving coverage from both the defensive backs and linebackers were noticeable on Wednesday.
As the players continue to grasp the new schemes and become more accustomed to the uptempo practices, the coaches respond by pushing for more. The request for more leadership and improved technique echoed throughout the stadium.
Senior wide receiver DeVante Parker constantly proves why he is one of the best in the nation. The Louisville Ballard product could have left a year early for the NFL Draft, but instead chose to return and improve his game and he's doing just that.
Always a deep threat, Parker is becoming a even more dangerous target in the short yardage passing game. As he has displayed throughout his career, he has no fear in going after the ball. Now he's becoming even harder to bring down for a lone defensive back.
Due to being slowed by injury last fall, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins saw limited action last fall. The junior, who started against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl, finished the season with four tackles for a loss, including three sacks.
Fully healthy, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Rankins has played very well this spring and appears poised for a breakout season. He was a frequent visitor in the offensive backfield on Wednesday, once making an interception just as it left the quarterback's hand.
NAME TO WATCH
Redshirt freshman Stacy Thomas arrived at the University of Louisville last fall as a three-star linebacker out of Miami (Fla.) Gulliver Prep. He entered at No. 2 on the depth chart at WILL linebacker spot behind junior college transfer Trevon Young.
While behind a well-performing Young on the depth chart, Thomas has been improving against the run and in pass coverage. While quaterbacks are off limits, Thomas would have easily sacked Will Gardner after making a great move off the edge against the first team offensive line.
**A pair of 3-star teammates from West Chester (Oh.) Lakota West made the easy trip south from the Cincinnati area. Linebacker C.J. Stalker and offensive lineman George Asafo-Adjei took in the Cardinals practice, along with a few of the school's coaches. Former Cardinal, and Lakota West alum, Josh Chichester also joined the group at U of L's practice.
**A few of Louisville Trinity coaches attended the Cardinals practice for a second straight day. They haven't been the only prep coaches observing the Bobby Petrino directed practices. The presence of high school coaches at U of L's practices has been notable.
**Cornerbacks Charles Gaines and Terell Floyd, along with defensive end Sheldon Rankins all had interceptions on the afternoon. The biggest highlight of the bunch was Floyd's pick, which came off a throw intended for James Quick. As Quick raced down the sideline, Floyd kept pace and made the better play for the ball on a well thrown pass from Kyle Bolin.