Wednesday afternoon marked the final spring practice session prior to the University of Louisville conducting its annual Spring Game on Friday night.
Working in shoulder pads and shorts, the Cardinals enjoyed one of the best days of spring for their final workout. With warm temperatures and a bright sun shining inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the team worked as a much more confident group than when they first took the field on March 18.
The tempo was its usual high pace, as the team worked through individual unit instruction, special teams, red zone, and a simulated scrimmage, which included time spent focused on late game situations.
The Cardinals deepest spot on the field is among the receiving corp. A very talented group has made plays every day throughout spring. Each practice brings a reminder of just how deep and talented the bunch is, with a different receivers taking turns hauling in a big catch.
On Wednesday it was senior Kai De La Cruz that made a couple impressive catches. He drew cheers from his teammates when he hauled in a deep ball from Will Gardner in stride that went for at least 40 yards.
Slowed by injuries last season, De La Cruz played in 8 games last season and finished with 15 catches for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns. He caught Gardner's first career touchdown (video) in the Cardinals season-opening win over Ohio last season.
The Cardinals three-man defensive front continues to impress.
Playing without senior Lorenzo Mauldin, who is currently recovering from an injury, the first team trio of Sheldon Rankins, DeAngelo Brown and B.J. Dubose have done an excellent job adjusting to the 3-4 defense and have improved throughout spring practice.
On Wednesday the defensive front made multiple visits in the offensive backfield. While plays were allowed to continue on so that other positions could get the work in, there were multiple sacks that would have been recorded. The group also notched a few pass deflections during the simulated scrimmage.
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Primarily a special teams performer during his career, senior safety Kamal Hogan is getting plenty of work in the Cardinals secondary this spring.
The former three-star product from Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph's Regional, Hogan is among the rotation working to replace the the team's All-American safety duo from last season.
**Special teams have received plenty of attention this spring and on Wednesday the team spent extra time working on punting and punt block.
**Practices have become a good place to be if you want to see some of Petrino's former Cardinals. Wednesday's visitors included a pair with Super Bowl rings in offensive lineman Breno Giacomini (Seattle 2014) and Jason Spitz (Green Bay 2011). Former Lou Groza Award winner Art Carmody was also on the sidelines.
**The program also welcomed a handful of large financial boosters to practice on Wednesday.
**Gerod Holliman recorded an interception on an overthrown ball.
**The Cardinals will close their spring schedule on Friday evening. The Spring Game is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and will include an autograph session. Posters will be available for a $1 donation.