Week One Impressions

After observing a week of practice and with practices now closed, here are some of the things that left us impressed.

Now that the head coach Bobby Petrino and University of Louisville football team have started holding practices behind closed gates, we thought we'd take a moment to take a look back at the first week and point out a few things that left us impressed.

Fan Attendance
An obvious sign of the continued growth of interest in Cardinal football was the impressive showing of fans for each practice session throughout the week. It all culminated on Monday afternoon when over 100 fans found time to sneak out of the office to catch the Cardinals last open practice session. Talk among the fans ranged from the play of both the veterans and rookies to the upcoming season, as well as the bright future as Big East Conference members.

Matt Sanders Return
It's probably felt like forever to redshirt freshman Matt Sanders, but his return, following two successful knee operations, has been nothing short of impressive. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound middle linebacker was highly sought after prospect as a senior at Male High School prior to his knee injury. While other programs, such as Tennessee and Ohio State backed off, Louisville stayed with him and that decision will likely begin to play dividends this fall. Sanders played quite a bit with the first team throughout the first week and should be one of the many signs of the future this fall as frequent presence on the field during the 2004 season.

When the returning players took to the field for the first time over a week ago it was clear that the hiring of Jason Veltkamp as the Cardinals Strength & Conditioning Coach was one of the best moves by Bobby Petrino during his tenure as head coach. The improved conditioning has resulted in increased strength, better speed and endurance throughout the team.

Michael Bush

Michael Bush
Despite missing spring practice due to a broken bone in his left foot, Michael Bush started fall camp strong and improved daily. Instead of spending time working at multiple offensive positions like last year, Bush has focused at running back for the majority of each practice. Bush did spend a few minutes, 15-20 per day, working on the defensive side of the ball as well, playing a position similar to former Cardinal rover Michael Brown. His ability to make a difference on both sides of the ball was evident during last Sunday's scrimmage, as he made a couple of open field tackles, while also running strong each time he had the ball.

Stefan LeFors
While some expected some sort of quarterback controversy between LeFors and freshman Brian Brohm, LeFors displayed exceptional leadership and played very well, while also ignoring the constant questioning from the media and fans about the possible quarterback battle. His off season work is paying off as the returning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year seems to be seeing the field better and improved throwing the ball down the field, as well as across the middle.

Defensive Intensity
What a difference a year makes. The Cardinal defense now has valuable experience and increased depth, as well as a new coordinator in Mike Cassity. All three have made a difference thus far. The intensity among the defensive players, as well as coaches, is clear to the many fans that attended practices. This years defense will be much more agressive and do a better job of getting to the ball and team tackling. The secondary appears to be developing into a unit that could eventually rival some of the better defensive backfields in the school's history. Both the defensive line and linebacker units have played better than anticipated by some outside observers, including myself. In addition to Sanders play previously mentioned, linebacker Abe Brown has played very well. Defensive end Marcus Jones' increased strength and weight is making a difference as well as his pass rush has continued to get better. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye has shed some unneeded weight and because of it may find himself alongside Bobby Leffew as a starter. As a entire unit and without question, the confidence and swagger on the defensive side of the ball is greatly improved.

Impact Freshmen
A handful of players from the 2004 recruiting class have quickly made an impression and have all but secured playing time this fall.

Adrian Grady
  • Adrian Grady - With the need for depth along the defensive line, Grady (6'2, 295) will likely find a place in the defensive tackle rotation, providing depth for Bobby Leffew, Amobi Okoye and Montavious Stanley.
  • Devin Shivers - Shivers (6'5, 300) has the size to play and provide depth along either the offensive line and defensive line. If he enters the season as a member of the offensive squad, he'll likely travel with the team but only be used if needed due to an injury. If he lines up as a defensive tackle he'll probably join Grady in the rotation.
  • Lamar Myles - Myles play improved daily and by the end of the first week of practice he seemed to have adjusted to the speed of the game and was getting a good understanding of the Cardinal defense. The linebacker could provide some depth this fall.
  • Rod Council - A late addition to the 2004 recruiting class, Council is proving to be worthy of the lofty ratings he received as a high school senior in Charlotte. He has very quick feet and as a true freshmen provides very good man coverage.
  • Brian Brohm - While the high school All-American has at times looked like a true freshman making the transition to a college quarterback, he has for the most part played very well. It's clear that he has spent countless hours studying the offensive playbook and has frequently made outstanding throws, both short and up the field.
  • Scott Kuhn - Obviously there is a need at tight end and Kuhn has likely secured a spot among the rotation. While he already has great size (6'5, 245) and great hands, he improved his routes quite a bit by the end of the first week of practice.
  • Brandon Cox - Cox is an athletic defensive end that if used this fall would use his speed and quick first step to gain an advantage over opponents. Cox could be asked to provide depth at the end position and looked capable of doing so during the first week.

    Others such as Terrance Butler, Drew Steinmetz, Maurice Mitchell and Gary Barnidge have played well and could push for playing time if needed.

    Adam McCauley
    The senior tight end really played well over the course of the first week. Despite seeing very limited action during his previous years at U of L, with most coming on special teams, McCauley has looked very comfortable at the tight end spot and could remain the Cardinals first team tight end all season.

    It's rare that a walk-on grabs anyone's attention during their first week of practice on the college level, but a couple stood out during the first seven days.

  • Justin Deely - The defensive back from St.X will most likely redshirt, but he has shown very good coverage skills and looks like a solid future member of the Cardinals special teams, as well as a future reserve.
  • Deon Palmer - The transfer from Georgia Southern is a former quarterback playing cornerback at Louisville. Like Deely, he has looked strong and could have a future as a solid special teams member and reserve cornerback ahead of him.

    Ben Brooks from Ballard and Chase Floyd from Boone County also played well.

    Eric Shelton
    Showing no effects from the injury that sidelined him late in the season last year, Shelton entered fall camp in great physical condition and is now proving to have the ability to elude defenders, as well as overpowering them.

    Tiger Jones
    The senior receiver from Mobile, Alabama continued where he left on in the spring, making one impressive reception after another. With one of the most talented and deepest receiving corps in the country at U of L, Jones could be playing his way into the first rotation.

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