Defense trumps offense during first practice

The Louisville defense came out with something to prove Friday afternoon for the Cardinals first practice of the 2006 season. Which freshmen stood out? How did Brian Brohm perform? What did Bobby Petrino think of his team's first practice? has all the highlights from practice in this jampacked report.

Bobby Petrino's squad wrapped up their first practice of the 2006 season early Friday evening. The story of the day? The Louisville defense got the better of the Cardinal offense.

Following a hot and steamy practice in which the players wore helmets and shorts but no pads, Petrino said he'd like to see more consistency from his team.

"I think we did a lot of good things but we were very inconsistent," Petrino said following Friday's three and half hour practice. "We have to be a lot more consistent. Offensively, during 7-on-7's, we didn't execute very well. I thought the defense was breaking on the ball and making plays on the ball. We have a lot of potential but we have a long way to go."

The Louisville secondary, led by corners William Gay and Rod Council, looked to be a vastly improved unit since last spring. The defensive backs picked off two passes, including one by sophomore Travis Norton and broke up several passes, two by freshman corner Craig James.

"Our defense made a lot of good plays at the corner spot," senior running back Michael Bush said. "Both teams were going hard, but the defense just got the best of us. It was a little rough. The first day is always supposed to be a little tough for everybody until they get their legs up under them. We've got a lot to work on, but we'll be OK."

On a couple of occasions, the defense got a little too aggressive. That didn't sit well with Petrino, who lashed out at his players to keep things clean.

"We've got to learn how to practice right," Petrino said. "Wearing only helmets we've got to make sure we take care of our teammates. We don't need anyone trying to be tough when there are no pads on. We've got to do a better job learning how to practice."

Even though the defense won the battle on Friday, the Louisville offense had to be excited to have a fully healthy Brian Brohm back under center. Brohm, obviously a little rusty, said it felt great to be back.

"I fun to be out here again doing everything," Brohm said. "It was a good first day. My knee is fine and I didn't have any problems with it. We just have to work on some other things. I definitely had a little rust coming back but I felt pretty good about it for the first day."

Petrino thought fatigue might have played a role in Brohm's up and down performance during Friday's first practice.

"He was off and on," Petrino said. "He wasn't as accurate as he normally is. I think his timing is a little bit off. He doesn't look limited (physically). He was moving around good. I think it's just a matter of timing and getting enough reps. I thought maybe he got a little fatigued. There were times he didn't get to condition as much as everybody else."

Eighteen Louisville freshmen reported to camp at 3:00, before being joined an hour later by the returning lettermen. Petrino said he kept a close eye on his talented freshmen class, including highly touted defensive end Deantwan Whitehead.

"What was nice today is that we brought them out early, which we'll do again (Saturday) and work a lot of the individual and technique drills to teach them how to practice," Petrino said. "We're trying to bring them along."

Local product Aundre Henderson checked in at
296 pounds and impressed Coach Petrino during
Friday afternoon's first practice.
Petrino sounded impressed with the newest additions to his team.

"It's a good looking crew, particularly those defensive linemen," Petrino said. "Peanut looks good in a uniform. The thing I like about him is his concentration and focus. He's picking things up pretty fast and it's real important to him. I thought Aundre Henderson looked really good out here. He's big and can really move. I was impressed with a number of the young guys."

Whitehead, who saw action at defensive end and with the special teams, said he was impressed with how much talent the Cardinals have.

"My first college practice was great," he said. "I enjoyed it. The tempo was good and it was everything I expected. I've never played around this much talent in my life. The talent is incredible. It's a great place to be. That's why I came here."

Unfortunately, one of the highest rated rookies, safety Brandon Heath, is already on the disabled list. Heath arrived at practice wearing a protective boot on his foot. Whether or not he'll play this season or redshirts will likely be determined by how quickly he recovers from the injury.

"It's not good," Petrino said. "He's got a fracture in his foot (suffered) two weeks ago. They think at best he's out four to six weeks, which is real unfortunate because we thought a lot about him. We've got to see how quickly he can come back from that whether or not he's able to play this year or has to redshirt."

In Heath's place, former four-star recruit Latarrius Thomas opened fall camp on the defensive side of the ball at safety. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Thomas gives the Cardinal secondary needed depth and saw plenty of action with the veterans during the first day of camp.

"I appreciate the opportunity," said the Florida native. "The coaches put me in the best spot and I want to do anything that I can to help the team."

Petrino announced that the Louisville players have elected the team captain's. Nate Harris, Amobi Okoye and William Gay were voted defensive captains, while Brian Brohm, Michael Bush and Kurt Quarterman were selected on offense. "It was great to see how many votes Kurt got and the impact he's had on all the younger players," Petrino said.


Freshman wide receiver JuJuan Spillman had an outstanding first day of practice. The 5'11, 165 pound speedster from PRP, caught two long passes, including one for touchdown. He also nearly hauled in a circus-like over the shoulder pass on a deep fade route. Spillman is expected to see action as a return specialist this season, but might force his way into the rotation at receiver if he continues to perform like he did Friday.

"It felt great being out here again," Spillman said. "Right now I'm just trying to earn some playing time. The coaches recruited me because I can make big plays, so I have to hold up my end of the bargain and come every day trying to do that. When the ball is in the air I feel like it is mine."

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