VIDEO: Rodney Gnat Post-Scrimmage:
Louisville conducted their first major scrimmage of fall camp Saturday morning.
After more than a week enduring UofL coach Charlie Strong's grueling and intense practices, the Louisville players were excited to see some game-like situations.
"Our whole mindset [this morning] was that this was our first game," junior defensive lineman William Savoy said.
"It was definitely fun to get that live feeling," added senior defensive lineman Rodney Gnat.
Though the scrimmage was closed to the public - and the media - the offense apparently started the scrimmage slow before picking up the pace - and execution - toward the end of practice.
"The offense didn‘t move the ball well at the beginning of the scrimmage, then the longer we went they got better," Strong said. "We still have a ways to go and get better. The thing that we have to improve on is tackling. We need some guys to step up and become leaders of this defense and the offense. We‘ve got to have guys step up and lead this football team when things go [wrong]."
Doug Beaumont, Louisville's veteran wide receiver, said the offense produced some big plays after shaking off their slow start.
"We started out a little sluggish today but over time we started to make big plays, explosion plays is what we call it," said Beaumont, who scored a touchdown in the scrimmage.
What did Strong learn about his team Saturday morning?
"It's not so much [what] you learn, we just got in a lot of plays and guys fought through it," Strong said. "We're three weeks away [from Kentucky] but we still have a long way to go."
The scrimmage, according to Strong, was a "situational" one, meaning the team practiced a wide variety of down and distance situations from various positions on the field.
"It was situational. We did it all," Strong said. "We've moved the ball [around], we put the ball in the redzone, and put the ball short yardage. We got a lot done today. There were a lot of guys that played well."
Offensively, Gnat said that Troy Pascley made a couple of big plays, quarterback Will Stein was tough to chase down, and running back Bilal Powell ran hard. "The offensive line started out a little slow, but when we got into short yardage toward the end of practice they picked it up," said Gnat. "I'm not going to lie, I got driven off the ball a couple times myself."
"The offense did a good job, and the defense…," said Strong. "Both sides made plays. We can improve in the redzone because you want to get touchdowns when you're down there."
The biggest question of the day: Did Adam Froman, Justin Burke or Stein separate from the pack in the battle for the starting quarterback job? If so, neither Strong nor the UofL players were ready to tip their hand on the matter.
"There's no clarity yet," Strong said.
"Each of them has a little different mentality," Beaumont said. "They all played pretty well. They each made a couple mistakes but they're coming along pretty good. I don't know who it's going to be."
"I have no clue [who the quarterback will be]," Gnat added. "One practice it's Stein running option, then the next it's Froman throwing deep."
Defensively, Strong's staff has made stopping the run a top priority during fall camp and the coach said following the scrimmage that he's seen progress from his front seven.
"They've gotten better since spring ball," Strong said. "They got better each day in the spring and then there was a good continuation coming into camp. Right now you look at Greg Scruggs, who's playing well. You look at [Malcolm] Tatum. You have to play good front seven ball to be a good defense."
Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford have expressed concerns about Louisville's front four being undersized this season. Savoy said he thinks his unit can compensate for their lack of size with good technique.
"Roy Philon is stepping up, Malcolm is leading the way and I'm trying to make some plays myself," said junior lineman William Savoy. "Greg Scruggs is doing his thing, too, so the whole defensive line is getting better. We are undersized but it's all about technique. If you have good feet and technique you can beat any team out there."
As the season-opener nears, Strong is still looking for greater consistency from his team.
"The way we're practicing, one side of the ball looks good one day and the other side looks good the next," Strong said. "The consistency hasn't been where you'd like to see it. We started the scrimmage today and the defense played well. Then later on in the scrimmage the offense plays well. We've got to develop some consistency."
Gnat said Strong emphasized the need for increased consistency following the scrimmage.
"What he told us at the end of practice is we can't just make a couple of good plays we have to keep going and be consistent," Gnat said. "We're focused on being consistent and we're looking for guys who can be consistent. It's going to be instrumental for us to find guys who can be consistent in the fourth quarter when we get tired."
Louisville now will take a close look at the film from their first scrimmage action, before heading back to the practice field Monday to make needed corrections and adjustments.
"We're coming along," Beaumont said. "We have a lot of work to do but three weeks from now we're going to be strong and on September 4th we will be ready to play."
"We're right where we [should] be but like Coach Strong said we have a long way to go," Gnat said. "Two freshman have really impressed me - [cornerback] Jordan Pascal and [defensive lineman] Brandon Dunn. He's [Dunn] a little wet behind the ears but he's picking up schemes really well. I won't be surprised if he's out there September 4 really early."