"I think we had a good winter," Petrino said. "We have gotten bigger and stronger, and a lot of our guys have gotten faster."
While the big focus for the Cardinals this spring will be re-tooling the offensive line, Petrino also mentioned four other big goals he wants his squad to accomplish during the next few weeks of spring practice: Competing for starting positions, grasping the new schemes on offense, defense and special teams, continue moving forward, and working to stop the quarterback run.
Here's Petrino's take on a number of key issues heading into spring practice:
Replacing Elvis Dumervil
Elvis Dumervil led the nation in both sacks and forced fumbles last season. Louisville has plenty of candidates to replace the 6-0, 258-pound Dumervil at defensive end, but Petrino said the Cardinals will have to get more significant pressure on opposing quarterbacks from other sources.
"We need to get more pass rushing from our linebackers," Petrino said.
Secondary spots up for grab?
"I'm excited defensively," Petrino said. "We return four starters in the secondary, but there will be competition back there. Deon Palmer has put himself in position to compete for one of the starting spots at safety."
Sophomore corner Bobby Buchanan won't participate in contact drills this spring after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.
Linebacker Terrance Butler was the Cardinals leading special team's tackler last season. Now, Petrino wants the 6-3, 222-pound junior to make an impact on defense.
"This is the time for Terrance Butler to make a run at one of the starting outside linebacker positions," Petrino said.
Butler has made 30 tackles the past two seasons.
Zach Anderson and Brandon Cox will open spring practice atop the depth chart at defensive end. Those two will be pushed by redshirt freshman Jonathan Holston, and junior Maurice Mitchell, who moved back to end after playing last season inside. "I think you really need to watch Maurice Mitchell," Petrino said. "I think you'll see something from him this spring."
Petrino said Amobi Okoye has had a "great winter." Sophomore Adrian Grady hopes to cement his place in the starting lineup at tackle this spring. "He has to take the next step, and do the right thing all the time," Petrino said. "But he's extremely quick."
One player to watch on the defensive line will be junior college transfer Willie Williams. Williams enrolled at U of L in January and spent the winter working out with the Cardinals, and is expected to push both Okoye and Grady for playing time. "I like Willie Williams," Petrino said. "He's big and can really move. He's very actice."
A redshirt freshman, Careg Bonner is expected to push returning tight ends Gary Barnidge and Scott Kuhn for playing time. "He's a really good receiving tight end," Petrino said. "He's very quick and I think he can block. He'll enter spring drills at 243 pounds."
Mario Urrutia enters spring practice 100 percent after being slowed with a knee strain last season. Petrino called Notre Dame transfer Chris Vaughn, "big, fast, and powerful," and said that Georgia Tech transfer Pat Carter will see action at both wide receiver and quarterback this spring. "He's a great athlete," Petrino said. "He could be a tremendous receiver, and could end up on defense depending on our needs." Petrino also was surprised that JuJuan Spillman is one of the team's fastest players. "He ran a 4.34 forty one day," Petrino said. He played running back in high school, and we're going to see where he can help us. He could play either offense or defense."
Michael Bush will be ready to go at 100 percent on day one of spring practice. Petrino said his staff will experiment with different ways to better use Bush's talents this spring.
"He feels good," Petrino said. "We're going to give him the ball enough for him to stay sharp this spring, and figure out how to get him the ball besides handing it off to him. We have to look at how we can keep him fresh during the third and fourth quarter. That's one of the things we're really trying to evaluate this spring."
The recovering Brohm will take part in non-contact passing drills, and 7-on-7 ‘skeleton' drills during spring practice. "He's come along real well," said Petrino. "He's been dropping back and throwing twice a week for the past few weeks. He's way ahead of where I thought he'd be at this point."
Learn to Finish
In the Cards three highest profile games the past two seasons against Miami, West Virginia and Virginia Tech, Louisville jumped out to early leads before allowing big second half comebacks to lose each game. That's why a major focus this spring will be on finishing. "We have to learn how to finish ball games," Petrino said.
How does Petrino plan to teach his team to finish games?
"We'll get them real tired, and then make them do things the right way," he explained. "We'll emphasize something at the end of practice when they're tired and make them execute."