"I was impressed with the way the players came out with a lot of enthusiasm," Petrino said. "I think the coaches did a good job of preparing them for practice."
Coming off an 11-1 Liberty Bowl Championship season, Petrino begins spring drills looking to replace six starters from a much improved defense, and five from the nation's most explosive offense, including C-USA Player of the Year Stefan LeFors.
In LeFors place, of course, is 6-4 sophomore Brian Brohm. Brohm, who saw action in 11 of the Cardinals' 12 games last season as a true freshman looked comfortable under new center Jason Spitz (Spitz has been moved from guard to center to replace Will Rabatin) and threw the ball well during his first practice as the Cardinals' starting quarterback.
"Everybody's real excited to be out here to see all that hard work pay off that we put in during the winter," said Brohm.
Brohm also relishes the idea that Louisville's high-powered offense will run through him this season.
"It feels good (to be the starter)," Brohm admitted. "Stefan (LeFors) set a great example, and hopefully I can follow in his footsteps. It was great for me to get that experience last year, and to learn from such a great quarterback. So I feel really prepared this year."
With the quarterback situation secure in Brohm's able hands, Petrino's primary concerns this spring will be finding replacements in the secondary and at linebacker. The Cardinals lost three starters in the secondary - Kerry Rhodes, Antoine Harris, and Brent Johnson, and middle linebacker Robert McCune.
"We really have to do a good job in the secondary because we're replacing three guys that played a bunch," Petrino said. "We're looking at the Mike linebacker spot because Hammer's (Robert McCune) not here anymore. And then, of course, Kolby (Smith) and Michael (Bush), and Brian (Brohm) - we just have to find out what they do real well and adjust the offense around that."
If the first day of practice provided any indication of the changes in store for the offense, it seems highly likely the Cardinals will throw the ball down the field more often next season, as well as throwing more to the backs - Bush and Smith - coming out of the backfield.
The Sharp brothers - senior Antoine and junior Brandon - saw most of the first string snaps at safety, while redshirt freshman Rod Council looks like a sure-fire starter at cornerback opposite William Gay. It appears 6-3, 230-pound Matt Sanders will be given every opportunity to step into McCune's shoes in the middle of the Cardinals' defense.
"We certainly have a long way to go, and we did make a lot of mistakes (today)," said Petrino, "but I'm encouraged with how hard they worked. We've got to get crisper, but that's what spring ball is all about - correcting your mistakes."
"Overall, it was a pretty good first day," added Petrino. "When we get the pads on, we'll find out more (about this team)."
The Cardinals will be back on the practice field Friday beginning at 3:30.
New Target's for Brohm
Keep an eye this spring on wide receivers Mario Urrutia, and Harry Douglas. At 6-6, Urrutia enter spring drills more fluid and physical than he did last fall. He provides a big target down field for Brohm and the pair hooked up several times during drills Thursday afternoon. Douglas, an explosive sophomore, enjoyed a fine spring last year and now looks poised to make on-field contributions this season.
Who's the backup quarterback? That's one of the more important questions that need answering before next season. Three candidates - redshirt freshmen Hunter Cantwell and Bill Ashburn, and true freshman Davis Manning - are all vying for the position. Manning, who arrived from Birmingham, Alabama in January, has a big frame (6-5, 225) and a strong arm.