Cards now go behind closed doors

If you missed Louisville's first four practices, you're out of luck. After Monday mornings practice, the Cardinals will operated behind closed doors. That means no fans or media are allowed to watch the remainder of the 2006 season. So what will happen when the doors close? Petrino will get his troops prepared for their annual battle with Kentucky Sept. 3.

If you didn't get out to practice the past four days to see the Louisville football team, you missed your chance – at least until Sept. 3. Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals will operate behind closed doors for the remainder of the preseason. After today, no fans or media will be allowed to watch practice the remainder of the 2006 season.

The Cardinals got an early start Monday morning in an effort to beat the heat. While several players struggled Sunday afternoon with the heat, Monday's earlier start time – moved up an hour to 9 a.m. - made it easier to handle the August humidity.

Petrino put his troops through a nearly three hour workout Monday morning. Considerable practice was devoted to 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. And though the players were in shoulder pads, there was no tackling.

After being overcome by the heat a day earlier, junior quarterback Brian Brohm was back under center and appeared fairly sharp with his passing. Transfer Pat Carter also took significant reps at quarterback behind Brohm and sophomore Hunter Cantwell.

Perhaps the most heated battle being waged in camp now is between Deon Palmer and Jon Russell at safety. Russell seemed to have the upper hand Monday, picking off one pass and breaking up another, while Palmer was beaten deep for a touchdown.

Deon Palmer is locked in a heated
battle with Jon Russell for the
starting job at strong safety.

The biggest surprise through the fist four days of practice might be true freshman cornerback Craig James. At 5'10, 160 pound, James has blazing speed and has shown an ability to make plays in the secondary. Monday, he picked off a Michael Bush pass intended for Harry Douglas and made a nice deflection on post pattern to JuJuan Spillman.

"He started camp as the No. 9 cornerback on the depth chart and he's already worked his way to about No. 4 or No. 5," assistant Joe Whitt said. "I'm very pleased with the way he competes. He's a lot like Rod Council – nothing shakes him. I'm going to give him a chance. As long as you compete and make plays we're going to put you on the field."

Led by Council and senior William Gay, the secondary has appeared a much improved unit this summer. Whitt, who coaches the cornerbacks, believes experience is the reason for the improvement.

"We're going to play at a high level this year because the kids understand the package," Whitt said. "We lost five seniors the year before last and we had some guys last year. This year will be a lot like the progress we made from 2003 to 2004."

It appears that a few freshmen are also making strong cases for early playing time. Safety Latarrius Thomas and defensive end Deantwan Whitehead both worked with the second team defense Monday, while running back Anthony Allen received some meaningful work with the offense.

"I like him, that kid competes," Whitt said of the 6'2, 200 pound Thomas. "He's learning the defense, but he's a very tough kid. He's very coachable and does everything we ask him to do. He's probably going to be one of the better safeties we've ever had here. We're getting him ready to play."

The 6'1, 225 pound Allen appears to have an edge on fellow rookies Eugene Sowell and Tyler Wimsatt at running back. A smooth runner in a powerful package, Allen has been impressive early in camp.

Stay tuned to throughout the remainder of preseason practice for daily updates and interviews.

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