While several starters return on each side of the football, Steve Kragthorpe maintains that all positions are open for competition heading into the start of spring practice this week. "Every position is open," Kragthorpe said. "Obviously we have some incumbent starters coming back from last year but all the jobs will be open."
as the favorite to replace Brian Brohm.
Kragthorpe's top spring priorities? Building cohesion with his new staff appears atop the list. "Certainly with a new defensive staff this year there is a lot of things we need to get ironed out from a communication standpoint and certainly that's something that will take place during (spring practice)," Kragthorpe said. "And then offensively with Jeff (Brohm) taking over as coordinator and me as receiver coach. There are a lot of things we'll have to get synchronized there."
With no returning starters at the linebacker positions, Kragthorpe and staff will be working overtime to fill those three voids created by the departures of Malik Jackson, Lamar Myles and Preston Smith. "We have some guys we think can step in and make some plays for us. James Bryant will be plugged into the middle of the defense. Guys like Chris Campa and Stephen Garr will have an opportunity to step up. We moved Brandon Heath down from safety to linebacker."
The biggest difference between Kragthorpe's first spring practice last year and his second at Louisville? "I have a better feel for the players now and what we want to do schematically to try to put those guys in a position to be successful," Kragthorpe said.
Louisville will count on several redshirt freshmen to step up this spring and provide depth and compete for starting positions. "Josh Chicester has had a great winter for us in the weight room. On defense, C.J. Peake. Guys like Mark Wetterer and Greg Tomcyzk will have a chance to come in and compete for quality repetitions. Kragthorpe also mentioned Chaz Thompson, Brandon Heath, Vic Anderson and Dale Martin. "He's grown into his body," Kragthorpe said of Heath. "He's about 225 pounds right now and he's going to continue to get bigger."
While Hunter Cantwell is the front-runner to step in for Brian Brohm at quarterback, Kragthorpe maintains that he'll have to win the position this spring. He'll compete with sophomore Tyler Wolfe and redshirt freshman Matt Simms. "Hunter is the incumbent coming in because he has been here in our program for four years and has played significantly and has started ball games and performed well in those games when Brian was not available," Kragthorpe said. "But he'll have to show he can be that guy on a consistent basis not just on a one or two game basis like he's shown before. I'm confident he can do that."
Sophomore running back Bilal Powell showed flashes of brilliance last season. Kragthorpe is hoping to see a more consistent Powell during the spring. "Bilal had a good year," Kragthorpe said. "He's had some flashes of brilliance for us but he's got to be more consistent and show he can do it every time he walks out on the field. We don't want him to be a flash in the pan. We want him to be a guy we can consistently count on."
Kragthorpe said Sergio Spencer is going to move from running back to safety during spring practice.
On offense, there appear several concerns. Replacing Breno Giacomini at tackle and Mike Donoghue and Danny Barlow at guard are chief concerns. Finding a couple of capable tight ends to replace Gary Barnidge and Scott Kuhn also are at the top of Kragthorpe's to-do list. "We've got some guys that we think can step up there," said Kragthorpe. "We got to have some guys like Pete Nochta, Johnnie Burns and Mike Fennerty step up. Replacing Gary Barnidge and Scott Kuhn is probably the biggest concern I have on offense."