The University of Louisville football camp became real on Tuesday, as the Cardinals put on full pads for the first time in fall camp, and the intensity hit new levels.
After four days in shorts, helmets and, shoulder pads, the Cardinals were able to begin hitting in preparation for the Sept. 1 opener versus Alabama, and anyone in attendance could hear the pads popping.
“It was a good first day in pads,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “It wasn’t a whole lot different than the other practices, except we did have one live tackling drill,which I’m looking forward too when I watch the film. Overall, I think our technique on the defensive line has been good, which has helped the offensive line get better. But, after the first week, I like were we are headed.”
With nearly one week in the books, Petrino has been pleased with the competition on both sides of the football. With so many new and young players in the mix for playing time, the ninth-year head coach likes the battles he’s seen on offense and defense.
“I think we are ahead with our timing in the passing game, which has been good to see,” Petrino said. “I still think there is a ton of competition in the secondary, and great battles on the defensive line, which is making every one better. The offensive line also has some great competition as well.”
On Monday, Petrino announced the four captains for the 2018 season, and one of them surprisingly was sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass, who has only played five career games during his brief time at Louisville.
“A lot of times, the leadership goes with the position of quarterback, but you still have to earn it,” Petrino said. “I think Jawon has earned that respect from his teammates by how hard he’s worked, how competitive, and tough he is.”
The other three captains were offensive lineman Lukayus McNeil, defensive end Jonathan Greenard, and safety Dee Smith.
“It’s good to see Lukayus get voted in, and there weren’t a lot of close votes,” Petrino said. “Jonathan Greenard has done a really good job and he’s really trying to do what the coaches are asking him to do as far as leadership goes.”
“Obviously, his production is there and he’s been a really good player. I kind of felt Dee Smith would be the other captain, but wasn’t really sure, but he received a lot of votes from his teammates.”
McNeil, who’s been one of the most consistent starters on the offensive line, is ready to embrace his role as one of the leaders of the football team.
“Being a leader is someone who can step up when times are hard,” McNeil said. “When everyone is down and tired, a leader can bring the intensity up and pick each other up to make us better.”
While the Cardinals return four starters on the offensive line, Petrino has liked the development of Cole Bentley at center, who isn’t one of the main returning starters. Playing three games at tackle and guard last season, Bentley got some experience, which has helped him as he enters his second camp.
“Cole has improved,” Petrino said. “Cole’s a really talented guy and still doesn’t understand how talented he is. He has that great combination of great strength, flexibility and can really move. He’s still learning on how good he can really be this year.”
The Cardinals will get a much deserved break with the first off day of fall camp on Wednesday before hitting the field again on Thursday morning.