After finishing his first season at Louisville 6-6, the first time since 1997 that the Cardinals haven't posted a winning record, Kragthorpe didn't waste time shaking up his staff, announcing the changes less than 72 hours after his team's 41-38 win over the Scarlet Knights last Thursday.
The biggest changes, of course, were the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Cassity and the announced resignation of offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs. Cassity, a hold-over from Bobby Petrino's staff, oversaw a defense that allowed 35 or more points in 7 of 12 games this season and ranked last in the Big East in several key statistical categories.
"We'll continue to look at different options in terms of hiring a defensive coordinator in the next two or three weeks depending on what happens with some guys that I'm talking to," Kragthorpe said. "I just didn't feel like we were as productive as we should have been on the defensive side of the ball."
team's 6-6 season.
Kragthorpe said he wants to find an experienced hand to take over the defense and emphasized several things he'll consider before making this all-important hire. One consideration: Finding a coordinator who operates out of a four-man front but has the flexibility to play three-man front designed to stop dual-treat quarterbacks like West Virginia star Pat White and South Florida's Matt Grothe.
"We'll base it out of a four-man front with the ability to play a three-man front also," said Kragthorpe. "We're going to be aggressive and attack but the biggest thing is we've got to be sound schematically and be able to line up and not get the ball thrown over our heads."
Kragthorpe didn't provide any names of candidates that he has under consideration for the defensive coordinator position.
"We're looking for the best guy, for the best fit to do the best job here," Kragthorpe said. "I'm looking for a guy that has some experience. I'm looking for a guy that understands defensive concepts and offensive concepts and how we're trying to be attacked as a defense."
Replacing Stubbs with Brohm will score Kragthorpe major points with Louisville fans. Brohm, who played for Howard Schellenberger before joining the UofL staff five years ago, has strong ties to Louisville and has been shaped by offensive gurus like Schnellenberger, Bobby Petrino and Steve Mariucci.
Though Louisville ranked in the Top 10 this season in total offense, the Cardinals struggled to generate a consistent running attack and didn't score touchdowns at the rate they had in previous seasons. While the Cards ranked first in the Big East in passing and total offense, Stubbs unit ranked next to last in rushing offense and finished in the middle of the pack in scoring offense. Those are likely the major reasons Kragthorpe made the switch to Brohm.
"I feel great about Jeff and the communication that he and I have," Kragthorpe said. "I think Jeff and I are on the same wave length and I want to keep some continuity with our offense. I think we did some very good things with our offense this year and I want to maintain the same type of system for the offensive guys that will return."
According to Kragthorpe, Brohm will continue to the quarterbacks, a job he's held at UofL the past five season, in addition to his added duties as offensive coordinator.
"The biggest change is that he will call plays on game day," Kragthorpe said. "I think Jeff is a very bright guy and has a good handle understanding what defenses are trying to do to attack an offense and he does a good job communicating."
While the changes on offense figure to be subtle, the same likely won't be the case on defense.
"We're not going to change the terminology on the offensive side of the ball but we will change the terminology on defense," Kragthorpe said.
Other staff changes could also be in the offing, especially after a new defensive coordinator is named later this month. Kragthorpe said he'll hire someone during the off-season to coach the wide receivers. He didn't indicate who might be candidates for that position, though he did rule out Greg Brohm, UofL's director of football operations and a former Louisville wide receiver.
"These were the two (changes) that came to the forefront over the weekend and I don't anticipate any others right now," Kragthorpe said. "We're going to look to bring in a receiver coach. I'll look to bring in a receiver coach that can help us at that position."
Kragthorpe's latest action should buy him some good will with fans heading into the off-season. That's important for Kragthorpe, who has taken considerable heat this season from the UofL faithful. Brohm's elevation to offensive coordinator is a popular move. And it's likely something UofL AD Tom Jurich had a hand in making happen.
"Certainly Tom is a guy that I bounce these things off of but these were my decisions and decisions that I made," Kragthorpe said. "But certainly you consult Tom and guys that you have respect for in this business."
Another key off-season development to watch will be whether or not current players on the roster will look to transfer to other programs. "I don't know what will happen in the next couple of weeks but I don't anticipate any," Kragthorpe said. "But you never know what will happen."
Several players could also have surgery in the coming weeks, including starting defensive end Maurice Mitchell. Kragthorpe said Mitchell will have shoulder surgery this week. "A number of guys are going to have surgeries this week," Kragthorpe said. "We're going to see with a couple guys this week how they feel coming out of the last game and get them MRI's to determine whether or not we're going to operate."
Kragthorpe also announced that sophomore JaJuan Spillman will re-join the team. Spillman, a top kick returner and wide receiver, was dismissed from the team earlier this season for violating team rules. "He'll be back in the spring," Kragthorpe said. "He and I have had great conversations. I think he's anxious to come back and I'm excited to give him another opportunity."
During the season, Kragthorpe made reference to "off-field" issues that had an impact on his team's on-field performance. Though he didn't add much insight into those problems during his post-season press conference, he did add this:
"I do things a little bit different than Bobby Petrino," Kragthorpe said. "The way I operate is a little bit different. I'm going to give the guys a set of rules, I expect those rules to be followed and if those rules aren't followed I'm going to take away playing time and punish (players). I'm not going to sacrifice the character of this program to play a player if he's not doing what he's supposed to be doing."
Now, Kragthorpe will turn his complete attention to next season. Hiring a defensive coordinator tops Kragthorpe's to-do list. Bringing in some immediate impact recruits is also a priority. And while those are important items for Kragthorpe to accomplish, perhaps no job is more important for Kragthorpe than repairing his relationship with UofL fans.
"I'm not sure where I stand with the fan-base," he said. "The fact that we went 6-6 is my fault. I know there are a lot of people frustrated. I'm disappointed for what happened this season and I take the blame for what happened. I didn't do as good a job as I needed to put this team in a position to win more football games. All I can do is work as hard as I can to win football games next season."