Louisville begins practice today!

When the University of Louisville begins practice for the 2006 season Friday afternoon, Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino's top priority will be finding replacements for several departed starters, including four NFL draft picks. Can 6'6, 245 pound Deantwan 'Peanut' Whitehead work his way into one of those positons? InsideTheVille.com has more...

The University of Louisville football team begins practice for the 2006 season Friday afternoon on the practice fields just north of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Nineteen freshmen, including 6'6, 245 pound Deantwan Whitehead, will take the field at 3:00 p.m., while the veterans will report to practice an hour later.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, who recently signed a lucrative contract extension, will welcome back his fourth squad at U of L, who will be taking the field for the first time since last spring. It figures to be hot, too, with temperatures expected to be in the upper 80's.

The Cardinals return 17 starters, including Heisman Trophy Candidates Brian Brohm and Michael Bush, from a team that finished 9-3 last season and lost 35-24 to Virginia Tech in the Toyota Gator Bowl.

"I do like our team coming back," Petrino said. "They've done a nice job training during the off-season and they've all been in summer school working hard. We feel like we have a good football team. We feel like we've got some very good football players coming back, but we also know we have some holes to fill."

With less than a month before the season-opener with Kentucky Sept. 3, Petrino's top priority will be to find replacements for several departed starters, including NFL Draft picks Jason Spitz (OG), Elvis Dumervil (DE), Montavious Stanley (DT) and Brandon Johnson (LB).

Michael Bush led the nation in scoring last
season and appears poised for a big senior

George Bussy, a 6'4, 298 pound sophomore appears to have the inside track to replace Spitz, who recently signed with the Green Bay Packers, at guard. Bussy, a former walk-on, will be pushed by junior Danny Barlow in practice. Brandon Cox, a 6'4, 250 pound junior, is the front-runner to replace Dumervil, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner, though Whitehead, one of the nation's top incoming freshman, is expected to challenge for immediate playing time. Sophomore Adrien Grady will step in for Stanley, while Malik Jackson and Terrance Butler hope to replace Johnson, the Cardinals leading tackler last season.

"We have a lot of people to replace who graduated and are now playing in the NFL," Petrino said. "What's exciting about it is the young men that are trying to replace them are very energetic and committed. I really feel our football team is hungry and ready to get going."

Petrino has every reason to be optimistic that his offense will score tons of points this season. Besides Bush and Brohm, Petrino has several other talented options, including wide receivers Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas, tight end Gary Barnidge, and running backs Kolby Smith and George Stripling. Still, Petrino knows the key for his offense starts with the big guys up front.

"I think we've got great skill players but our success on offense will be dictated by how well our offensive front does - how well we run block up front and protect the quarterback," Petrino said. "Any time you lose the experience that we had in Travis Leffew and Jason Spitz you get a little nervous. We're going to have to make up for the lost experience and knowledge with great effort and passion."

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  • While the Cardinals have plenty of questions to answer before the season-opener, perhaps none loom larger than the health of junior quarterback Brian Brohm. Brohm sat out the competitive portions of spring practice after undergoing off-season knee surgery to repair a torn ACL. Will he be ready to go when practice starts?

    "Brian's knee has healed," Petrino said. "He has been running for the last month without a brace, changing directions and throwing the ball on the run. He experienced some complications that go with recovering from a knee injury with his other leg, but the trainers have done an excellent job with him. He's full speed and ready to go."

    After a few days getting acclimated and back in the swing of things, Petrino will turn his team's attention to getting ready for Kentucky, a team the fourth-year Louisville coach has a 3-0 record against.

    "We have tremendous respect for Kentucky," Petrino said. "We know they have a good quality football team coming back. They've got a running back that's as good as there is out there. They have great experience on the offensive front and on their defense. We know they're going to be a very good football team and our players will be ready to go."

    Louisville's first four practices, August 4-7, will be open to the public then shut down for the entire season.

    The 2006 Fan Day is scheduled for Saturday, August 5. A pancake breakfast for the first 2,000 fans begins at 8:00 a.m. Head coach Bobby Petrino will address the crowd at 9:00 and the team will sign autographs on the concourse at 9:00.

    Saturday's practice will begin at 2:30 p.m. and is open to the public. The team will practice on Sunday and Monday at 10:00 a.m.

    Stay tuned to InsideTheVille.com for the most comprehensive coverage of the University of Louisville's preseason football camp.

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