Getting to Work

Picked to finish last in the Big East earlier this week by the media in Newport, R.I., Charlie Strong and the Louisville Cardinals begin fall camp early Thursday morning on a mission to prove the doubters wrong.

Charlie Strong and the Louisville Cardinals begin fall camp Thursday morning on a mission to prove the doubters wrong.

Those doubters, which include the assembled media in Newport, R.I. who picked the Cardinals to finish last in the eight-team Big East Tuesday, obviously don't believe Strong can work miracles with a team that finished 4-8 last season and has won just two league games the past two seasons.

Still, Strong, who helped lead Florida to a pair of national titles the last four years, doesn't accept losing or being picked last. Though Louisville's first-year coach didn't inherit a deep or talented team from Steve Kragthorpe, he believes his team will find motivation in their preseason rankings, or, in this case, lack thereof.

"We've been picked last and that's never happened to me before," Strong said. "I've been picked first before but never last. It's motivation for our players and that will five them reason to work hard.

"We're picked to finish last but we're not worried about that," senior offensive lineman Mark Wetterer said. "We don't pay attention to the rankings. It's not where you're picked to start it's where you....finish. We're going to..prove some people wrong."

Strong's players officially reported to campus Wednesday. As part of their formal welcome back to campus before practice begins Thursday morning at 6 AM, Strong's players weighed in, limbered up with a three-mile run and were briefed by the coaching staff during team and position meetings.

For Strong, Thursday's start to fall camp has been a long-time coming. After serving two decades as an assistant coach at Notre Dame, South Carolina and Florida, Strong now is less than a month from coaching his first game against rival Kentucky in recently expanded PJCS.

Strong, who took over for Kragthorpe in December, hasn't stopped often to smell the roses. That's because there was too much work to be done to prepare for this day. There was recruiting, his first task after taking over in December. Then he had to hire a coaching staff, and landed what may be the finest collection of assistants in the Big East. Throw in winter conditioning, spring practice, and countless fan and alumni functions, and it's been a busy first eight months on the job for Louisville's new coach.

"It's been a whirlwind, but a great ride for me," Strong said. "I've enjoyed it and I'm at an outstanding university. The people have been very receptive and it's been great having the chance to take over [my] own program and putting my signature on it."

Now, it's serious business for Strong and his team. A critical game against Kentucky, who has beaten the Cardinals the past three years, looms on September 4. Strong's message to his team as practice begins today is very simple: Work hard, every second of every day. And there's no exception to that very simple mandate.

"The message I try to send to our players is that [former UF players] Brandon Spikes and Tim Tebow got up every day wanting to be the best football player and that's the way it has to happen for [our] guys," Strong said.

Louisville's returning players will take the field at 6:00 a.m. for the first practice of the 2010 season. The freshmen will practice by themselves in the evening at 6:00 p.m.

Louisville will return to the practice fields on Friday with a 5:30 p.m. evening practice. All three practices are open to the public before the practices shut down for the rest of the season.

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