PRACTICE REPORT: Cards shake rust off

Countdown to Louisville's 2008 season-opener is officially on. Tuesday afternoon, Steve Kragthorpe and the Cardinals opened fall camp with a two and half hour practice session at the Papa John's Stadium football complex. InsideTheVille.com has the inside scoop from the practice fields.

The new season is a welcomed fresh start for the second-year head coach.

"We're glad to get going again," Kragthorpe said following practice. "The hard part about being a college football coach is it's the least coached level of football there is. We get no time with our guys in the summer and it's good to get back out here. It's been a long four months and we just want to get back on the practice field and start getting better every day."

Without pads – the Cardinals were in helmets and shorts on the opening day of camp – Kragthorpe explained how he judged his team's effort on the first day of practice.


Trent Guy looks on during Tuesday's first
practice of fall camp.

"The biggest thing you're looking for is tempo - getting in and out of the huddle and communicating because you can't really line up and be as physical as you want to be," Kragthorpe said. "It's more alignment and assignment and then as we put the pads on in stages then we can start to evaluate the way we're playing. But the biggest thing today is getting out here, get lined up and get the tempo back and get back in the rhythm of playing football."

If you were one of a couple hundred fans in attendance on Tuesday, you likely needed the assistance of the 2008 University of Louisville football roster to figure out all of the new faces on both sides of the ball.

"Obviously, we've got some guys that are new," Kragthorpe said. "There's a lot of information being thrown at them right now in terms of installations. As we get closer to the middle of practice that's when those guys really got to hit their stride."

With less than one month until the season-open against Kentucky August 31 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Kragthorpe understands his team doesn't have a moment to waste.

"I was pleased with the ways the guys came out, their intensity and attention to detail," Kragthorpe concluded. "Obviously there's a lot of things we've got to get fixed before August 31 and we've got to take advantage of our time right now."

"Playing physically is a huge emphasis for us on both sides of the ball," Kragthorpe said.

Wood: Cards shaking off the rust

Ask Eric Wood about the first day of fall practice and he'll tell you straight up. His team has some kinks to work out during preseason camp.

"It was the first day and we've got some rust here and there," Wood admitted. "We've got to get the rust out these next couple of days with no pads. We've got to smooth out some of the rough spots before we get into pads."

Wood, an All-American candidate at center and one of the team leaders, said playing without pads isn't exactly an offensive lineman's dream scenario.

"As an offensive lineman we hate this," said Wood. "We have no pads on and it's tough to know how hard you need to go to compete. We still run the ball so it's hard to gauge how the offensive and defensive lines are doing. It's not one of my favorite days."

With the disappointment of last season now in the past, Wood said he and his teammates have but one focus during fall camp.

"We've got to put all of that behind us," Wood said, referring to last year. "We have to focus on beating UK. That's all we want to do at this point. We've got a young football team at a lot of positions and we've got to focus solely on UK right now.

"Last year it was (Brian) Brohm's team, Harry's (Douglas) team and Breno's (Giacomini) team as far as the offense," Wood said. "Now it's me and Hunter and the other senior's team. We've got to take control and act like it's our team when we're on the field."

INJURIES:

Louisville begins fall practice relatively healthy. Obviously, the biggest injury at the start of camp is to junior wide receiver Trent Guy. Corey Thompson, another wide receiver, was also in street clothes and watched practice from the sidelines. A third wide receiver, Andrew Robinson, wore a yellow non-contact jersey but did practice. Redshirt freshman DL Zach Kiernan also wore a yellow jersey and knee brace on his left knee but also practiced. Latarrius Thomas (knee) and Maurice Mitchell (shoulder) both returned to action after injuries forced them to miss spring practice.

QUICK-HITTERS:

***Dexter Heyman got plenty of reps with the No. 1 defense at outside linebacker. "Certainly all jobs are open," Kragthorpe said. "We want guys that can step up and make plays. Dexter is a guy that we feel like has a lot of physical and mental intangibles to put him in there a little bit more."


Dexter Heyman

"Dexter is very motivated," added senior linebacker Mozell Axson. "He's a very humble guy but when he gets on the field he's an animal. He does not like to lose – he is a very competitive young man."

***Sophomore Eugene Sowell (6-0, 205) has been moved from linebacker to running back this fall.

***Ryan Barnes, a freshman OL, will not be a member of the team this season. He had back surgery and went back home to recover. According to university officials, Barnes could return next season.

***Latarrius Thomas and Maurice Mitchell are back and both worked with the No. 1 defense.

***Four of Louisville's top 6 LB's during the first practice were JUCO transfers or true freshmen. James Bryant and Brandon Heath were both on the third team to open camp.

***Freshman Stephon Ball is listed on the roster as a tight end but worked the entire first day of practice with the wide receivers. He showed solid hands in passing drills – perhaps the best of three rookie wide receivers.

***Junior CB Chaz Thompson and junior WR Andrew Robinson appear to have the inside track in the race to return punts.

***How desperate is the situation at linebacker? Consider this: Three junior college transfers and one true freshman opened fall camp in Louisville's two-deep at the position. Dexter Heyman (SLB), Mozell Axson (MLB) and Chris Campa (WLB) comprised the first unit. Stephen Garr (WLB), Antwon Canady (MLB) and Jon Dempsey (SLB) made up the second unit. James Bryant (SLB), Brandon Heath (WLB) and Keith Baker (MLB) rounded out the third unit.

***Trent Guy was on the field for the entire practice and looked in good spirits, encouraging and coaching his teammates. "Trent is a great leader on this football team and he does a great job coaching those young guys," Kragthorpe said.

***Josh Chichester made two really nice catches on deep balls, one a post route matched up against freshman corner Kardell Dunning, the other a go-route down the right sideline.

***The first unit defensive line consisted of William Savoy (DE), Maurice Mitchell (DE), Adrian Grady (DT) and Earl Heyman (DT).

Quotes of the Day:

"This is a [expletive] sprint not a [expletive] jog. Finish the drill (right)." - Defensive Coordinator Ron English to one of his newcomers in the defensive backfield.

"That's B.S. to give up a big play in three-deep zone." – English to a veteran corner who was beaten deep for a touchdown in three-deep coverage.


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