Petrino thinks Bush has potential to help defense

Having played three different positons on offense as a true freshman last season, University of Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino now believes multi-talented sophomore Michael Bush can help improve the Cardinals defense in 2004.

Count on it. 6-3, 245-pound Michael Bush will get lots of touches on the offensive side of the ball for the University of Louisville in 2004.

And why not? As a rookie last season, the former Kentucky Mr. Football saw action at three different positions (quarterback, running back and wide receiver), rushing for 508 yards with more than 200 yards combined passing and catching the ball.

This season, tough, Bush's job description is almost certain to expand once again. And, despite the recent departure of sophomore Wayne Riles, tight end probably isn't in the equation. Instead, U of L head coach Bobby Petrino plans to use Bush's talents on defense, in addition to his regular duties in the Cardinal backfield.

And though his action on defense will likely be limited to specific game-type situations, Bush will likely have an impact on each and every game this fall - on both sides of the ball.

Michael Bush
"Last year, Michael worked primarily at quarterback in practice," Petrino said. "We would put a package together for him each game as a running back and receiver-type guy, too."

"So what we're doing now is primarily working him at running back and catching the ball, and then we have [added] a package for him on defense," Petrino continued. "He doesn't have to learn the entire defense, we just have certain packages for him."

With increased responsibilities to learn and grasp during pre-season practices, especially on the defensive side of the ball, Petrino says Bush's excitement and willingness to move over and play some defense has been an encouraging sign from his perspective.

"I think he's done a good job of handling [his new defensive responsibilities]," Petrino explained. "He's been honest with me when he feels like it's getting to be a little bit too much [for him to handle]. But he jumps over there and can't wait to get [on defense] when it's time to do that. So that's encouraging."

Bush, who missed spring drills with a broken foot and was hampered by some minor leg injuries last week, will probably line up at either safety or linebacker to take advantage of his size and quickness when his number is called on defense.

"He lines up at safety and he moves around and we interchange certain spots," Petrino explained. "[His positon] is a little combination between an outside linebacker/safety-type of guy."

And though he hasn't seen action yet on defense at the college level, Petrino thinks Bush is the type of player who can make plays at ay position on the field.

"I think he has a lot of potential [on both sides of the ball]," Petrino said. "He's as good a play-maker as I've been around in my experience as a coach. I'm just hoping that he's able to do that on defense."

"When somebody hits the quarterback in the back and ball goes on the ground, [hopefully] Michael will be there to pick it up," Petrino continued. "If a ball is tipped, he's got great reaction and instincts, and will be able to get to the ball. He does a lot of things you can't coach. He's just so natural with his instincts."

Based on his high school career at Louisville Male, Petrino is confident Bush will be able to handle whatever the coaching staff decides to throw his way this season.

"It's not new to him [playing multiple positons]and that's the big advantage he has over everybody else," Petrino surmised. "When I watched him play in the state championship [in 2002], he played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, strong safety, and returned all kickoffs and all punts. So this isn't new to him."

A jack-of-all-trades type rather than a star at just one position, Bush says he's growing increasingly comfortable with his ever-expanding role.

"I'm fine with it and I'm getting comfortable and used to it," Bush said. "So it's not a big deal."

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