Impressive First Day
It was a typical Petrino-run practice (if that can even be typical) on Wednesday, as everyone was going full speed for the entire day one session.
"It was fun," said Coach Bobby Petrino on the first day of practice. "I was really impressed with the way the players came out and were very enthusiastic. They ran around and had a lot of energy. They got tired a little bit, about half way through practice, but that was expected because they hadn't been the heat yet. Hopefully it will be hotter tomorrow, so we can get them a little more tired and see if they are tough enough to finish practice."
Michael Bush Out!
One of the hot topics entering spring practice was sophomore Michael Bush's 'experiment' of spending practice time at both the running back and safety position.
Bush at safety (ITV)
"That's unfortunate," Petrino said of Bush's injury. "They will bring in tomorrow at 12:30 and operate and put a pin in it. It's a four week injury. It's the exact same injury that Antoine Harris and Damien Dorsey had. I really feel bad for Michael, because he has worked so hard...his body looks great, he's real energetic."
Following practice, Michael was in the football training facility wearing a boot and walking with the aid of a crutch.
However, just because the Conference USA All-Freshman team member is sidelined, doesn't mean he won't continue to prepare for the '04 season.
"We'll continue to prepare him mentally," Petrino continued. "We'll continue to work him hard in the weight room so he doesn't loose any thing that he worked hard for."
Defense improved, but still has more room
It's no secret that the only way for the Cardinal defense is up, however, due to youth, inexperience and lack of depth, the growth may be slow at some spots.
Shane Bailey (ITV)
The linebacker spot, like the line, is thin. Returning starters Robert McCune and Brandon Johnson lead a unit that includes Abe Brown, who moved from the safety spot, Deriontae Taylor and Preston Smith.
"I was impressed with our defense," Petrino said. "They came out real focused and willing to work hard. When we get the pads on we will know a lot more, but for the first day it was pretty good."
Petrino continued to say that the biggest question mark for the program is improving its defense.
"We need to get better defensively," he continued. "We are really thin on the defensive front. I feel good about the four guys that line up there and go first, but need to get some depth. We need to get everyone playing on the same page. We need to work harder on the principles of defense instead of schemes...running full speed to the football, tackling really well, getting off a block. Those are the biggest improvements we need to make on defense."
Junior safety Jon Gannon returned to practice for the first time since being injured on November 7, 2002. While he is still not at 100%, just his ability to move around effectively on the football field is a testament to the doctors that oversaw his recovery.
Gannon will see limited during spring practice, but anticipates being 100% by August.
Kickers have rough start
With a number of kickers competing for place-kicking and kickoff duties, the competition should be tight. However, the first day wasn't an easy one Arthur Carmody, Todd Flannery, Rob Zarrilli and Sam Erny, as the gusty winds made their jobs difficult.
Following the first day, it was apparent that it is a position that is wide open and that the coaching staff has quality talent to choose from.
Two No Longer Remain
Two players from last season are no longer on the roster. Linebacker John Cardoza will complete his course work and graduate early, while fullback Brian Hall chose to leave the program following the Mobile Bowl.
Cardinal commitments Brian Brohm of Trinity and Nick Borgelt of Holy Cross both observed practice on Thursday.
Brohm spent the final portion of the practice session listening to the play calls, while reading the play chart, while Borgelt spent the majority of his time watching the offensive line.
Borgelt, who also considered an invitation to walkon from Ketucky and had a scholarship offer from Morehead State, chose to accept preferred walkon status at U of L.
"Montrell's so strong and has great hands," said Petrino. "I'm really looking forward to watching him run after the catch, because he is so physical."