University of Louisville football head coach Bobby Petrino spent about 30 minutes visiting with media on Thursday morning providing an update on his program as the 2014 season nears.
As the team begins preparations for the start of fall camp, two areas continue to concern head coach Bobby Petrino.
“Obviously quarterback is the number one concern,” said Petrino.
Following an impressive spring practice session, sophomore Will Gardner is poised to replace Minnesota Viking rookie Teddy Bridgewater behind center for the Cardinals. While Gardner positioned himself atop the depth chart, the battle for the number two spot continues.
“We're replacing a guy that played the game at a very, very high level,” Petrino continued. “I was excited about the progress we made in spring, but we do have a long way to go. Not only the starter, but who is going to be the backup. That's a huge issue for us.”
The loss of a pair of All-American safeties – Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith - is also a high concern heading into fall camp.
“The safety position is a position where we lost two guys who started 33 straight games together,” he said. “We have a lot of experience to replace there.”
The initial fall depth chart lists junior Gerod Holliman as the number one free safety, with sophomore Jarrod Barnes penciled in at strong safety, but it will be an area to watch during the start of camp.
“Usually what happens in camp while getting ready for that first game, a new issue comes up every day, so you just have to have a positive attitude and attack each day.”
The move to the ACC has created what could be the most challenging schedule in U of L football history. Five-time national champion Miami will visit Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to open the season, while three-time and defending champion Florida State will visit in late October. Road games at Syracuse, Clemson, and Notre Dame also help make up the challenging slate.
“It's a great schedule,” Petrino said. “It's going to be very competitive. One of the things of having the experience of coaching in the SEC West before is that you have to be ready play every week. Everybody that we play are going to have really good players, they are going to be very well coached and most games are going to be decided in the fourth quarter, so we have to be prepared, we have to be in great shape and we have to continue to build depth as the year goes on.”
Former Freshman All-American and BCS National Championship MVP Michael Dyer is finally back at full strength. Still recovering from sports hernia surgery during spring practice, Dyer, who often wouldn't finish certain drills or complete practice because of his rehab, displayed flashes of his ability during that period.
“He's healthy,” Petrino said of the former Auburn Tiger. “He continued to get better as spring went on. I thought maybe the first time we saw him at 100% was in the spring game. He's worked extremely hard in the weight room and has a really good relationship with our strength staff. He's been very dedicated over the summer.”
Frequently found in the Cardinals weight room on Saturday mornings, Dyer has remained focused on returning strong this fall.
“He's done a really good job of making a commitment and being dedicated,” Petrino said.
Dyer will also being wearing a new number. The senior will don No.5 for the Cardinals this season, something that Petrino said he earned during spring drills. It's a number that he has worn in high school, all-star games and while at Auburn.
“Mike probably thinks of that as his number, just how athletes are,” Petrino said of the change. “He wore that when he was a freshman.”
Sophomore wide receiver James Quick continues to rebound in the eyes of the coaching staff. The former U.S. Army All-American found himself in the 'dog house' after being cited for possession of marijuana in early June.
He's currently listed as number two Z receiver behind Michaelee Harris.
“He has worked extremely hard and has done everything that we have asked him to do, with a positive attitude to this point,” Petrino said. “We are still evaluating him on a daily basis, but he has done everything we've asked him to do to this point.”
Bobby Petrino started the pregame tradition during his first tenure at U of L in 2003. The CardMarch gives fans the opportunity to greet the players and coaches as they enter the stadium to prepare for the day's game.
Moved from it's location along Central Avenue on the Denny Crum Overpass to the stadium's bronze parking lot last season, the more than a decade old tradition is on the move again.
“We are going to go back to the way we were doing it when I was here before,” Petrino explained. “It's great for the players. I think it's something that is exciting because you know when you get on the bus and head to the stadium and see all the people tailgating.”
Also unlike last season, the CardMarch will go on even if it rains.
“We're not going to have any rainy days, right?” Petrino joked. “We do every time, every game.”