Following a season of rotating quarterbacks – primarily forced due to multiple injuries – the University of Louisville entered spring practice with a quarterback spot that was up for grabs.
For 15 practice sessions, the trio of Kyle Bolin, Reggie Bonnafon and Tyler Ferguson rotated with the first team, each displaying signs of positive development. The competition did not include Will Gardner, who continues to rehab from an injured knee, or highly-rated freshman Lamar Jackson. The result following the four weeks of work in spring was that there is still no No. 1 quarterback on the Cardinals depth chart.
With a few weeks left until the Cardinals begin fall camp, the spotlight will certainly focus on the competition and questions that surround starting quarterback spot. What impact will the return of Will Gardner have? Is it possible for a true freshman to impress enough in such a short period of time?
Those answers should be uncovered quickly as camp opens, but when it does, as was the case in spring, the group will begin as equals.
“There isn't any 1's in front of them right now, it's just a, b and c,” Petrino said, referring to the depth chart. “We'll figure it out.”
Gardner's progression since being injured against Boston College has been steady and cautious.
“Will looks healthy,” said Petrino. “He's running and changing direction. The only thing they aren't letting him do is roll-out and do things on the run full speed, unless it's straight ahead. He's strong. He says that it's the best it's felt since before he ever injured it, which is good for his mindset. Obviously if he's healthy and ready to go, he'll certainly be in the competition because he's shown that he can go out there and make plays to help you win games.”
Also joining the race is Jackson, who rated among the nation's top quarterbacks in 2014 and signed with Louisville over offers from Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State and others.
“The young guy is very impressive,” said Petrino. “He's a really good athlete. He's big. I know that he has a lot of confidence around the players, so it's good to see that. The other guys say that he throws the ball real well and has a strong arm.”
With a challenging season-opener against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, Petrino anticipates naming his starting quarterback near August 22, two weeks before facing the Tigers.
“What I like to do is have a starter two weeks before the opener.”