Louisville Football Head Coach Bobby Petrino spoke today at the 1st ACC Coaches Teleconference of the season on Wednesday. Petrino’s segment begins at 41:20 of the audio file.
BOBBY PETRINO: We’re excited about the game getting here on Saturday. I thought we had a good camp. It was long and more practices than we normally have, it seemed like, but I guess you count in the days off also.
I like where we’re at as a team. I think we’ve practiced well, improved throughout the camp. Defensively we’re doing things that I like and running full speed to the ball and tackling well. Offense, I’m anxious to see how our weapons are and what type of big plays we can make. We’re looking forward to Saturday night.
Q. Most Heisman winners coming back the next year, if you’re a coach, your job is to control the hype that surrounds them and the whole off-season circuit that they have to do and all the people that have to talk to us. It almost feels like it’s been the opposite with Lamar, where he sort of floated under the radar, even as a Heisman winner. Do you think that’s been good for his development this year, that he’s got a chip on his shoulder? And why do you think it is that so many of the pundits have been overlooking him?
BOBBY PETRINO: I think the greatest thing is Lamar doesn’t worry about it. He likes to come to practice. He likes meetings. He works extremely hard every day to get better. He’s a great teammate. He’s just been really fun for me to coach. He doesn’t worry about it. I don’t worry about it. The number one thing we’re focused on is being a better team and winning games.
Q. When you watch the offensive line play this weekend, where are you going to be looking for them to have made the biggest improvements?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I think the one thing we need to do offensively is to be able to control the line of scrimmage in the run game and in the pass protection. I want to see them work together and really understand what’s going on out there and show how hard they’ve worked on being students of the game and really understanding what we’re seeing from the other side of the ball and what we need to do to be effective.
So I think if they play together and they communicate well, that we’ve got enough talent there that we should do a good job.
Q. Do you feel like the chemistry came along throughout fall camp with that group?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, yeah. I think they’ve done a good job. It helps a lot to have three guys back that have been in this offense for three years. Two of them have started every game. The other guy has been in there as a starter and as a back-up. So it’s just something that I think they’ve done a nice job of leading and communicating. Everybody is anxious to get out there and play.
Q. With all the things you’ve been working on with Lamar in the off-season, is there something specific you’ll be looking at in that first game like: Okay, everything clicked. He got what I was talking about. I could tell that’s a different guy from this game here?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, he doesn’t have to be much of a different guy. He’s pretty damn good. He can run, he can throw it. He can make a lot of plays. There is a reason he won the Heisman Trophy, and it was because of how he performed on the field. So basically, what we’re looking for is to execute the game plan, you know, understand what the defense is doing, and going out and playing the type of football that he knows he can play.
Q. You spent enough time in the SEC as well as at Louisville. When you see what the ACC, the step up that the ACC made last year and you look at the resources and the programs, do you think it is sustainable for the ACC to continue to be in the conversation as maybe one of the top conferences in the country year after year? Or do you think this is always going to be a cyclical thing?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I don’t think there is any question about it that the ACC is going to be there. You look around and the coaches that have been hired and the players that have been recruited, and the competition and the close games, you know, you have to take your hat off to Clemson winning the national championship last year because they won a lot of games in our conference in the fourth quarter right at the end of the game.
So it’s a very competitive conference, and we’ve got a lot of great coaches and certainly a lot of tremendous talent.
Q. As a follow-up to that, how much do you think were such high-profile games in the next couple weeks with the ACC and the SEC that if the ACC has success, that that perception, the perception for the longest time was it’s a basketball league, how much do you see that not only having changed in the last couple years but continuing to evolve?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I mean, that’s really not for me to say. It’s a pretty darn good basketball league too. We have the national champions in basketball, national champions in football, so it’s just a great conference.
Q. I wanted you to speak on Reggie Bonnafon and what you can say about his evolution. I know he’s played all over offense, and Lamar Jackson had a lot of positive things to say about him coming into this upcoming season. Just what you can say about who he has been for you in the backfield and your expectations this year?
BOBBY PETRINO: I’m looking forward to Reggie having a great year. He started games for us at quarterback and won big games for us at quarterback. Started at wide receiver and running back. He settled in now. I think he’s doing a really nice job of understanding the position. He keeps getting better every day in practice. He can protect the quarterback. He can run with the ball and catch it out of the backfield.
So we’ve got to utilize him and get him the ball. That’s my job. I felt like after we broke down everything from last season that I didn’t get him enough touches, because he’s certainly a great weapon.
Besides that, he’s one of the best young men I’ve had the honor to coach. He’s got a smile on his face. He enjoys life. He’s a tremendous leader for not only our football team but our school and our community. Everyone on our team respects Reggie.
Q. As far as the team as a whole, what the other guys have done to push him and in the backfield in general, just what you can say about maybe some of those key players that you’ve moved forward with? I know you like to use a bunch of guys back there, but what can you say about how it looks going into the first game?
BOBBY PETRINO: It’s a long season, and the running backs are the ones that take all the hits. So you’ve got to have a number of them ready. When one is not up 100%, the other guy has to be. Jeremy Smith has made a lot of plays around here. I think he’s really comfortable with knowing everything. He’s back healthy and had a great fall.
Malik Williams is another young man that’s very, very talented. He’s big, fast, can catch the ball. I’m looking forward to seeing him contribute and make plays for us. Last year he was doing a good job coming along late in the year.
I think right now it’s really those three guys you’ll see carry the load.
Q. Coach, Jeff Brohm coached at Western Kentucky for three years, now he’s at Purdue. How familiar are you with him and what can you expect from Purdue this weekend?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I’m pretty familiar with Jeff. We worked together a long time. Certainly I have the utmost respect for him and the other coaches on his staff.
I think you’re always starting over when you go to a new program. But we saw their spring game. They’re very talented. They’ve got good players on both sides of the ball.
What we really need to do is focus on ourselves and go in and execute and play the type of football that we know we can play.