Spring game won't settle QB battle

With spring practice nearly complete, Louisville's quarterback situation remains as unsettled as it was last season when Adam Froman, Justin Burke and Will Stein started multiple games. Charlie Strong doesn't expect Friday's spring game to settle the issue, either.

Louisville's quarterback situation heading into Friday's spring game is about as unsettled as it was last season when Adam Froman, Justin Burke and Will Stein each started multiple games.

All three quarterbacks will see action with the first team offense Friday night and Louisville coach Charlie Strong doesn't expect a clear-cut starter to emerge until fall camp.

"Froman, Burke and Stein have done well this spring," Strong said after Wednesday practice session. "Even after the game Friday a decision probably won't be made until we start fall camp. Each guy is going to have the opportunity to win the [starting] position."

Quarterback coach Mike Groh, the former offensive coordinator at Virginia, has worked closely with all three players this spring. He reiterated Strong's point that the battle for the starting job remains unsettled.

"I wouldn't put anybody ahead of another at this point," Groh said.

Froman, a 6-4, 220-pound senior, played in eight games last season. He had twice as many completions, yards and touchdowns as either Burke or Stein. After transferring from Santa Rosa (CA) C.C., Froman completed 111 of 185 passes (60 percent) for 1,354 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. His efficiency-rating was the highest among the three quarterbacks.

Burke opened the season as the starter and nearly led Louisville to a win over rival Kentucky. He was replaced as the starter by Froman, though, after a tough road loss against Utah, and played in just five games, completing 50 percent of his 97 throws for 654 yards and three touchdowns. His problem: turnovers. Despite playing in only half as many games as Froman, Burke threw the same number of interceptions – five.

Adam Froman had a solid spring for the Cards.
Stein, a 5-foot-9 walk-on, played in four games, leading the Cardinals to a win over Arkansas State. He completed 43 of 78 passes for 450 yards but didn't throw for a score.

"I think they've all really focused on what we've asked them to do," Groh said. "I think they've come out here with the right mind set every day and tried to get better and improve their game. We've had good days and bad days."

Froman believes the offense has made solid progress since the start of spring practice and that the process of learning offensive coordinator Mike Sanford's spread-option has gone well the past few weeks.

"We've had a huge progression," Froman said. "That first week was a little rough because we were installing everything and it was all new but we picked it up pretty quick. We're at the point now where we know everything. It's just [about] execution. Physical mistakes happen [occasionally] but we've got to eliminate them and the mental mistakes."

While the coaches aren't ready to starting talking favorites about the quarterback situation, Froman has probably had the best spring overall of the three. Froman, who led the quarterbacks last season in rushing with 192 yards before losses, showed the coaching staff he's capable of making plays with his feet when he needed to this spring, an important characteristic for any quarterback running Sanford's attack.

"Adam's done a good job managing certain situations that Coach [Sanford] puts us in throughout practice and I think he's made good progress," Groh said. "I think he's probably an underrated athlete. He's done a nice job adapting to the things we've put in and surprised some people with his athleticism. He's been able to do everything that we've asked him to do. He certainly has enough tools to do everything that we ask him to do."

Groh also sounded pleased with Froman's decision-making during spring practice.

"Overall, for just having limited time [this spring] in the schemes and principles we're installing he's done a very good job making decisions," Groh said. "He's very conscientious and makes sure he watches plenty of tape and does the things a quarterback really has to do in order to become a complete player."

Froman has also shown solid leadership ability during spring practice. A rah-rah-type, Froman has been vocal with his teammates throughout the spring, encouraging and rallying the troops.

"There are certain times older guys will vocalize what we're trying to get done and Adam's done that from time to time," Groh said.

Burke, a 6-foot-3 senior from Lexington Catholic, struggled this spring with his decision-making. Too often, the N.C. State transfer forced throws into tight coverage which occasionally resulted in turnovers. During Wednesday's tune-up for the spring game, Burke threw two interceptions, including one in the red zone.

"I'm very pleased with all the guys in the group," Groh said. "[Burke] made a couple mistakes [Wednesday] and we've got to correct that and learn from those mistakes and understand what we're trying to do to take care of the ball."

Groh said the Louisville coaching staff will pay close attention to which quarterback best manages the game Friday night.

"I think we've got to do a good job managing the game," Groh said. "All of those guys are grasping that but you've got to go out and do it. It's one thing to talk about it and do it in practice, but can you do it in the stadium when there's people in the stands. That's what I want to see from those guys."

"As a quarterback that's what we have to do every time we step on the field," Froman said. "Managing the game is everything from breaking the huddle, getting up to the line of scrimmage, getting your pass protection set right, making sure all the receivers are lined up right and the running back has his protection down and then actually executing the play.

"We've had times where as a group all three of us have come out and done that on a certain day and we've had times where all three of us have come out and not done that certain days," Froman said. "So we've got to show up Friday. Really it's just mental. We've got the physical tools. If we keep our head in the game we'll manage it well."

Groh also wants to see which quarterback executes the best under pressure and spreads the football around to Louisville's assortment of playmakers Friday night.

"Execution – when the play is there they have to make it," said Groh. "That includes using our backs and getting everybody in our offense the ball and being a distributor of the football."

Notebook: Spring Game Details

The University of Louisville football team will conduct its first Wendy's Wonderful Kids Spring Game under first-year head coach Charlie Strong on Friday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Strong will pit the first team offense (Red Team) against the second team defense (White) and the second team offense (White) versus the frist team defense (Red). The game will be four 15:00 quarters with a running clock. The former seniors will be honored with their jerseys at halftime.

Gates will open at 6:00 p.m. and fans are encouraged to enter Gates 3-5 and sit on the West side of the stadium. The East side is currently under construction so everyone is urged to avoid that side of the field.

Admission is free to the event and schedule posters will be available for a $1.00 donation to the Dave Thomas Foundation.

The Cardinals will sign autographs for 30 minutes about 10-15 minutes following the game on the field.

A free kids clinic will be conducted in the Trager Indoor Practice Facility at 5:30 p.m. For more information on the clinic contact Josh Heird at 502-852-8869.

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