Job No. 1 for Kragthorpe and his staff this spring: Fill several holes on defense.
The Cardinals were one of the top defenses in the Big East Conference last season, leading the league in sacks and finishing second behind Rutgers in scoring defense. This spring, Kragthorpe will be looking to replace seven departed starters, including projected first round NFL Draft pick Amobi Okoye.
"We have some holes," Kragthorpe said Thursday morning. "We lose seven starters on the defensive side of the ball. I think where it really hit home for me was when I walked out for Pro Day and saw Amobi (Okoye), Zach (Anderson) and Nate (Harris) and some of the other guys – Brandon (Sharp) and Will (Gay) – working out. We've got to have some guys step up and I'm confident we have the guys that will step up."
Several young players, particularly on defense, will now have an opportunity to make their mark this spring. Juniors Bobby Buchanan and Travis Norton will get a look to replace Gay, a first team All-Big East selection last season, as will redshirt freshman Johnny Patrick. Adrian Grady, L.T. Walker and redshirt freshman Aundre Henderson will audition in Okoye's place and a trio of returnees, led by senior Brandon Cox, will get first crack to replace Anderson at defensive end. Junior Lamar Myles figures to step in for Harris at middle linebacker this spring.
"We're excited about the opportunity to get out on the practice field for the first time Friday afternoon," Kragthorpe said. "There are obviously a lot of questions in my mind about where we're at, but I'm excited to get a chance to work with this group of guys."
Besides his recruiting duties, Kragthorpe spent the off-season meeting and greeting Louisville fans around town and studying film from last season in preparation for spring drills.
"It's been a fast and furious off-season, and yet at some points time has drug a little bit," Kragthorpe said. "It's been very productive in terms of conditioning – our strength numbers were tremendous. As a staff, we're ready to get on the field and make some changes."
While Kragthorpe expects a competitive spring practice, with numerous position battles, one job is safe and secure. That job belongs to senior quarterback Brian Brohm, one of the frontrunners for the 2007 Heisman Trophy.
"There will be some position battles," Kragthorpe said. "Positions are open. The only one that is solidified is quarterback right now."
Tomorrow's practice will also mark the first time Kragthorpe and his new staff take the practice field together. The new U of L coach said building cohesion within the coaching staff will be a top priority this spring.
"The biggest thing you try to accomplish during the spring is to get everybody on the same page," Kragthorpe said. "Systematically, we are going to do some things differently. We want to get an idea how everybody is going to blend together and work on the chemistry of our football team and our staff.
this spring by off-season surgery.
"We've never worked together as a staff in a practice. So tomorrow will be the first time that this staff has worked together in a practice. I think the biggest thing is to just smooth out the wrinkles and work toward becoming the kind of team we want to be in the 2007 season."
Spring Practice Notebook
Brian Brohm, according to Steve Kragthorpe, will not be limited during the spring by off-season surgery to his non-throwing shoulder. "I think he's in good shape and ready to go," Kragthorpe said. "It was not an invasive surgery."
Krathorpe said the team was "for the most part pretty healthy."
Kragthorpe said redshirt freshman Johnny Patrick will move from wide receiver to cornerback this spring. "We have quite a bit of depth at wide receiver right now," Kragthorpe said. "I think he has a lot of ability and talent."
Kragthorpe said his practices will be fast and up-tempo and will simulate game day atmosphere. He also said he welcomed fans attendance during spring practice.
Kragthorpe said that 6-foot-8 freshman wide receiver Josh Chichester has fit in nicely with his new team since joining the program in January. "I call him a giraffe, but in Kentucky terms he's really a colt. He has a pretty steep learning curve, but I like his attitude."
Spring practice begins Friday at 4:50 p.m. at PJCS.