In his first two seasons at U of L, Petrino has played 14 true freshmen – six last season, and eight in 2003. Obviously, the strategy has worked for Petrino, who sports a gaudy 20-5 record as the Cardinals head coach. Of the 14 true freshmen who have seen action under Petrino, all but two figure to play key roles this season (punter Brent Moody transferred to Florida State after last season, and tight end Wayne Riles transferred to Georgia Tech last summer).
And Petrino hasn't just been burning redshirts; most of the rookies have been major contributors. Two years ago, Michael Bush and Kolby Smith were both key components for the Cardinals offense, while Amobi Okoye and William Gay provided depth on defense. Last season, of course, quarterback Brian Brohm played a vital role behind Stefan LeFors on the nation's top-ranked offense.
But with improved depth on both sides of the ball, fewer players from what many consider Petrino's best recruiting haul at U of L figure to see action this season.
Petrino alluded to just a smattering of players when asked Monday which newcomers might see action this season. At the top of the list was 6-3, 260-pound defensive tackle Earl Heyman, a former high school All-American from Ballard High.
"I think we'll see Earl Heyman playing," Petrino said during his pre-game press conference. "Earl's done a real nice job for us. He's extremely quick and plays with as much effort as anybody we have on defense."
Apparently, Heyman's effort and hard work during practice have paid off.
"He just goes as hard as he can on every play," Petrino explained. "He's working hard on his strength and size – he may be a little bit undersized right now, but he makes up for it with his quickness and his ability to rush the passer."
Travis Norton has been impressive
during preseason camp.
"Travis Norton will play at corner and on special teams this season," Petrino said. "He's a young guy that's just going to get better and better as the year goes on. How much he'll get in there the first game out there on the edge I'm not sure. But he's certainly going to play as the season goes on."
"We'll prepare Scott to play each game kind of like we did with Mario [Urrutia] last year," Petrino explained. "We'll certainly work him in the rotation during practice. It's always nice to be able to travel [freshmen] and hang onto their redshirt."
The uncertain status of Renardo Foster and a strong push late during fall camp have the 6-3, 295-pound Donoghue in the mix up front.
"Mike Donoghue has really made big strides in the last week," said Petrino. "I'd like to do the same thing with him that we did with Eric Wood last year – prepare him to play but be able to hold onto his redshirt."