FOCUS TURNS TO A&M
Since returning to practice after the end of the regular season, the Cardinals practices have resemebled a fall training camp or spring practice than it has game preparation. While coaches and players have been studying game film for a few days, the practices have been focused on improving techniques and giving the younger and less experienced players more time to work and improve.
That all changed on Tuesday.
"Until yesterday, actually until today, all of our work has been just going against each other. Going goods on goods, working techniques and fundamentals, inserting the offense and defense all over again, so that was a good time. And then working the young guys extra out there. Today we started our preparation for the game as if it was normal Tuesday.
LAMAR UNDER CENTER
Freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson has proven to be lethal on the ground. He's already established new school records for quarterback rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and 100-yard rushing games with four. His nine rushing touchdowns is 12th hightest total in the nation by quarterbacks.
He enters the Music City Bowl as the team's leader in rushing yards (734), passing yards (1,613) and total offense (2,347). While his understanding and confidence in the passing game has improved throughout his rookie season, he's spending extra time during bowl practice working on an area of weakness.
Having played his entire high school career in the shotgun formation, Jackson has struggled working under center.
"I think Lamar has worked extremely hard at being able to operate our offense from under the center," said Petrino. "He's working hard on his technique and fundamentals."
The result of the extra work will have Jackson working under center more frequently in the bowl game than he had throughout the regular season.
"I think so," said Petrino. "We're going back through our installation and there's a lot of improvement there, so I'm happy about that."
The Cardinals suffered a few bumps and bruises in their season-ending win at Kentucky, most notably to running back Brandon Radcliff and linebacker Keith Kelsey.
On Tuesday, Petrino reported that his team is in good health with just over a week until game day.
"We're in good shape," he said, adding that both Radcliff and Kelsey are back to practicing full speed.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
After finishing the regular season with a 7-5 record, the opportunity to play in a bowl game presents the chance to not only finish the year with a win, but also set the team up for potential success the following season.
"I always consider a bowl game as, number one, finishing your season, finishing it for the seniors and ending that way, and number two is the start of next season," said Petrino. "When the early rankings come out, it is really about who do you have coming back and how did you finish the year. I think if we can finish strong, it's great for our seniors and it's good us coming back and next year's season."
FOUR TEST NFL WATERS
Petrino informed reporters during the press conference that four underclassmen have submitted required paperwork to receive an NFL Draft evaluation.
Linebacker Keith Kelsy, defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and defensive end Devonte Fields are seeking their current draft projection to help them evaluate the decision to return for a senior season or turn professional.