Wednesday afternoon, Louisville opened spring ball on the practice fields just north of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. One fact was clearly evident on day one: Cardinal football is not in Tulsa anymore.
There is a new coach. A new approach. And a new attitude.
"We had a good first day," Strong said. "Today was a lot of fun. It's just getting out here with the guys and working and watching them develop. We still have a ways to go but the good thing is the guys came out here and they really worked and most of it was mental preparation. I just liked the way they moved around."
"We want them to improve each day fundamentally," Strong said. "It's a whole new system for them. We know this is just the first practice of spring practice but we're looking to improve each day."
Louisville, according to quarterback Adam Froman, often went through the motions during Steve Kragthorpe's last season as the Cardinals coach. He says that's not the case anymore and that Strong and his staff have changed the culture around the UofL football complex.
"That's how you've got to play football – it's got to be fast paced and high intensity," Froman said. "We were really missing that last year. There was urgency, no sense that we had to get this done now. That's how this whole practice was. As soon as you [walk on the practice field] you're running...there's no walking on the field."
Strong also said his staff is focusing on accountability this spring. For example, when a wide receiver dropped a pass, he'd head to the sidelines to complete his punishment: a healthy dose of up-downs. It was the same for a defensive back if he was beaten deep.
"As a receiver you should catch the football and as a defensive back you shouldn't give up big plays," Strong said. "If that happens we're going to be held accountable for our actions."
Strong also sent his first unit defense back off the field because he didn't like the way they ran from the sidelines to the line of scrimmage.
"They just didn't take the field the right way," Strong said. "That's what we want to do on defense. We want to establish the tempo of the game and take the field the right way."
Strong put his team through a lengthy workout that lasted more than two and half hours. The Cardinals drilled offensively and defensively, worked on special teams and ran through skeleton and 11 on 11 periods.
"I think Dexter Heyman did a good job and the quarterbacks looked pretty good throwing the football," Strong said.
It was also clear that Louisville fans are enthusiastic about football again. A large crowd of 600-700 fans watched from the sideline on a nice, sunny spring afternoon.
"It was a good [crowd]," Strong said. "We gave them something to see and it's their football team also so we wanted to give them a chance to come out."
Froman says team has new attitudeAdam Froman opened spring practice as the number one quarterback on the depth chart and appears to be one of the team's leaders this spring. Froman, a senior who transferred from junior college last year, said there's a much different attitude on the team this spring.
How has the team responded to the difference in approach with the new coaching staff this winter?
"The team has responded great," Froman said. "At first it was a big change, kind of culture shock. But we figured it out the first couple weeks and the guys have really responded. We're not quite there yet and we're still figuring it out but the team has really responded for the most part. We're excited about it, guys are flying around and there's renewed intensity."
This spring, Louisville is learning a new offense under coordinator Mike Sanford. Sanford plans to install a spread offense similar to the one that Florida's Urban Meyer uses.
"First day, I think we had eight or nine plays in," Froman said. "We've got a full playbook back in the office so as days go on we'll get more and more."
What should fans expect out of UofL's the new offense?
"A lot of points," Froman said. "It's really opportunistic. If they're going to pack the box and not let us run it we'll pass. We'll take underneath or over the top. You kind of pick your poison. If you want to get out there on the receivers we'll run it right up the middle and beat you on that too. We'll take whatever they're going to give us."
Practice Report: Intensity Returns for CardinalsThough they weren't in pads, meaning there was no hitting on the first day of practice, Louisville ran a few periods toward the end of practice in skeleton and 11 on 11 situations.
Highlights from the 11-11 period included middle linebacker Antwan Canady's near interception of Froman, when he soared high into the air to knock down a pass over the middle. Troy Pascley had an inconsistent practice but did make a nice diving catch from Froman on a crossing route. Outside linebacker Brandon Heath made a big interception of Justin Burke when he jumped a route and picked a pass intended for Andrell Smith.
Charlie Strong spent most of the practice working with the defense, but he didn't neglect his attention on the offense. Though he took a more hands on approach with the defense, Strong spent time overseeing the offense late in practice as they worked on running drills and blocking schemes.
Spring Practice NotebookZach Kiernan has bad luck with injuries. The junior defensive lineman once again watched practice from the sidelines and wore a heavy brace on his left knee and hobbled around on crutches.
Senior offensive tackle Byron Stingily was inactive for practice and watched from the sidelines.
Several local high school prospects were in attendance for the first practice, most notably four-star Seneca QB DaMarcus Smith. Smith, who has committed to Louisville, was called over by Charlie Strong to talk after practice.
Safety Terrence Simeon, who missed most of last season with a back injury, returned to practice though he wore a non-contact jersey. Simeon looked good running around and even intercepted a pass late in the day.
Eric Wood was in attendance and walking around after suffering a season-ending leg injury with the Buffalo Bills. Wood told an onlooker that he's not running around yet but that he's ahead of schedule pertaining to his rehabilitation.
Tim High, a massive senior defensive tackle, enters spring practice in much better shape than he was in last season. It's clear High, who is listed at 6-2, 312, has lost a lot of weight during the off-season.
Punter is going to be interesting position to watch. Right now, Jon Payne and Josh Bleser are taking snaps at the position. Neither punted particularly well during practice, but were punting into a pretty stiff headwind.
Luke Woodley, a true freshman quarterback from Texas who enrolled in January, has left the football program. Woodley left campus a couple days before spring break and decided not to return to school this week. The Cardinals signed two other highly-rated quarterbacks and have a commitment from four-star 2011 quarterback DaMarcus Smith.
On what Strong is looking for on special teams: "We're looking for guys that are athletic, guys who can hit a moving target and guys who can drop and go get a block."