Michael McCammon

Here are five storylines to watch during the University of Louisville's spring football practices that begin today

Here are five storylines to watch during the University of Louisville's spring football practices that begin today.

Spring football begins today for the University of Louisville football program.

The Cardinals finished last season 9-4 but lost three in a row to end the season, including a loss to LSU in the Citrus Bowl.

Now, head coach Bobby Petrino returns Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and plenty of other weapons as the Cardinals get 14 practices and a spring game on April 15 to prepare for next season.

Here are five storylines heading into spring ball:

1. Offensive line battles: The Cardinals struggled last season on the offense line and have a new coach and some new faces expected to battle for positions as spring ball starts. Former U of L coach Mike Summers is back on the staff and will serve as the line coach and co-offensive coordinator. He's familiar with Petrino and the offense and should be a huge lift. The returning starters are Lukayus McNeil and Geron Christian, while Kenny Thomas has played a lot of snaps. Redshirt freshman Robbie Bell could be the frontrunner at center, while true freshman Cole Bentley will be one to watch at a guard position. There will be plenty of competition this spring on the line.

2. Lamar's next step?: Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy last season and is ready for an encore. So what does he need to do in order to try and win back-to-back Heisman awards. Well, the first thing from what Petrino said is work a little more under center in order to give defenses a different look some times. Petrino said Jackson sometimes forgot to get past his first option on passes late in the season, so there's plenty for him to work on. It will be interesting during the spring to see how he commands respect with the offense.

3. What will the defense look like: U of L has a new defensive coordinator - Peter Sirmon - and he said when he was hired during the winter months that his scheme would be based on what strengths the defense showed him. We still don't know what scheme the Cardinals will play and it could be they mix it up more than in the past under Todd Grantham. It will be interesting at the first open practice on Friday and into the April 15 spring game to see what Sirmon has in store for the defense.

4. All the newcomers: There's a lot of talent back in the program but there's a ton of newcomers. Not only are there three true freshmen - C.J. Avery, Cole Bentley and Kam Jones - but the staff only used three true freshmen all of last season and those guys who redshirted are going to be fun to watch to see how many can play key roles this season, including the skill players.

5. New staff members: The staff has three new faces - Sirmon, Summers and Lorenzo Ward - and for the first time in a long time there are more defensive coaches on a Petrino staff than offensive guys. And while that won't be a huge deal - he calls all the plays - it will be interesting to see where Petrino spends most of his time and if he picks a position on offense. The Cardinals don't have a special teams coach, so it appears the staff will split up all of those duties.


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