Coming off the best season in school history, Bobby Petrino's squad will begin preparations for the 2005 season Saturday afternoon when the team reports for its first practice at 2 P.M.
"It's finally here and we get to get started," Petrino said during his preseason press conference before Saturday's media day photo shoot at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. "At this point we're tired of talking and ready to get out on the field and really start working."
Petrino, entering his third season as head coach, welcomes back 45 lettermen, including 15 starters from last season's 11-1 Liberty Bowl Championship team, and 22 newcomers. He says the team's main focus to open fall camp is two-fold.
"Our main objections coming into camp these first two weeks are to get better individually and to improve our schemes offensively, defensively and special teams," explained Petrino. "We really want our players concentrating on their technique, fundamentals and competing for a spot."
After the first couple weeks of practice, though, Petrino said the focus will shift almost entirely to preparing for the season opener at Kentucky September 4.
"After two weeks, we'll really start game planning for Kentucky," Petrino said. "These first two weeks will be mostly spent getting better ourselves."
Defensive coordinator Mike Cassity will be looking to replace six starters from a unit that ranked among the top 15 defenses nationally last season. Besides finding replacements for the departed starters, Cassity wants to see improvement in one key area.
"One area I want to continue to improve on is our tackling," Cassity said. "One of the things we learned from spring practice was that we need to improve our tackling as a team, and getting off blocks. But our philosophy won't change. We want to be known as a multiple, pressure style defense."
Petrino wants to focus on
individual and scheme
improvement during the first
two weeks of practice.
"We do have two young men that will not be participating early – Harry Douglas and Brian Roche," said Petrino. "Harry sprained his ankle a couple weeks ago. It's not bad and he'll probably be back sometime mid-next week. And Brian broke his leg in the winter time and is not quite back to full speed yet. He's been here the last month working hard to get back to full speed. It'll probably be a couple weeks on him before he's really there. He'll probably have to redshirt because of the [injury]."
"Harry's been working real hard to get going," Petrino added. "I'm really looking for Harry to compete for a lot of playing time and get a lot of balls. He's probably one of our best guys that runs with the ball after the catch. We've got to get him back and going as quick as we can."
Everyone else, including junior offensive lineman Renardo Foster, appear in good shape as practice gets underway. Foster missed most of spring practice after injuring his knee last season against East Carolina.
"Everybody else is healthy," Petrino said. "Renardo has done real well. He's excited to get out there and see where he is. We have to be real cautious with him, particularly when we have two practices a day."
Petrino will also welcome several new walk-ons, including Gabe Mullane, an All-State punter from Massillon, Ohio, Louisville Manual wide receiver Andrew Robinson, Indiana All-State wide receiver Josh McDonald, and former Louisville St. Xavier standout Alex Reid.
Three 2005 signees, Louisville PRP WR/DB JuJuan Spillman, Vestavia Hills, AL WR Steven Black, and Pennsylvania OL Josh Byrom did not report to camp. Spillman and Byrom are expected to enroll at U of L next January, while Black will attend prep school this year.
Work crews were hard at work installing the Big East logos into the field at PJCS. Crews began the process Friday night at 10 P.M. and worked throughout the night into Saturday morning. They were still hard at work prior to the U of L media photo shoot Saturday morning and resumed worked following the Cardinals media day activities.