Petrino has never shied from playing guys directly out of high school and this year will be no different. Current starters Michael Bush, Brian Brohm, Earl Heyman and Amobi Okoye each played as true freshmen. But in their first collegiate game, not even Heisman hopefuls Bush and Brohm played key roles against rival Kentucky.
"I have always tried not to put a young player in a position where he could make a drastic mistake in the season opener," Petrino said earlier this week. "An example would be our first game at Kentucky I had planned on playing Michael (Bush) more than I did. Sometimes you try to take care of that opening game for the young players. That's why you'll see a lot of veterans on special teams and then you try to get the younger players more involved as the season goes on."
This year likely won't be much different.
"Peanut is doing really well," Petrino said. "It's hard to come in and play as a true freshman on the defensive front. Amobi (Okoye) did it a few years ago. Peanut certainly has the ability to have a great season for us. He's long, he's tall, he's fast. What's new to him is that he's not the biggest or strongest guy on the field. He's in the learning process of how to rush those big tackles and you certainly see flashes of how good he can become some day."
Thomas could see considerable time
in the U of L secondary against UK.
Thomas, a 6'2, 195 pound athlete, could see the most action of the Cardinals true freshmen this Sunday against Kentucky. A former four-star recruit, Thomas has battled returning starter Jon Russell for the starting job at strong safety throughout fall camp. According to the official team depth chart released by U of L this week, the battle hasn't been settled, as the starter is listed as Russell OR Thomas.
Two other true freshmen could also see the field. Petrino specifically mentioned defensive lineman Aundre Henderson and linebacker Rodney Gnat during his weekly press conference as newcomers who might see action this season, though that decision apparently hasn't been made yet.
"We haven't made a decision whether or not we'll redshirt those guys," Petrino said. "We'll make that decision as the year progresses."
One player who was expected to play this year as a true freshman, 6'1 safety Brandon Health, still hasn't practiced with the team after breaking a bone in his foot earlier this summer.
"Brandon Heath has not practiced yet, but he is back running," Petrino said. "He's getting back up on his toe, but he's still a ways away."