Competition has been perhaps the point of emphasis for head coach Bobby Petrino during the last few weeks of spring practice, and that will be apparent when the University of Louisville football team takes the field Friday night in the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Spring Game.
With many positions open, the Cardinals hit the field for the first time in front of the fans, which will give everyone an indication how far the football team has come after 14 practices.
“I think it’s different with the fans are out there,” Petrino said. “I feel like the best thing for the experience of our quarterbacks is for the fans to come and get the experience of the game.”
Heading into the final official workout of the spring, Petrino has been pleased with the team’s progress.
“I liked the way spring ball has went. We’ve had two big scrimmages,” Petrino said. “They’ve been competitive between the offense and defense.”
“I think it’s been good for the quarterbacks to get the experience of being out there by themselves,” Petrino stated. “There is a lot to do out there on the field, so it’s been invaluable for them this spring.”
While Friday night’s game will be an exhibition, it will the first time quarterback Jawon Pass takes the field as a starter. The native of Columbus, Ga., played in six games off the bench last season, so Petrino is looking forward to seeing how his new starter has progressed this spring.
“It’s a real scrimmage, a real game-type play,” Petrino said of the benefits of having a spring game. “We will have the clocks running, the 40-second clocks going, it creates a game atmosphere, which Jawon needs, and so does Malik (Cunningham).
With Lamar Jackson at quarterback the last three seasons, he accounted for over 4,000 rushing yards. With the talented signal caller headed for the National Football League Draft, the Cardinals are likely to have a running back lead the team in that category for the first time since 2014.
“I’m not sure who will be the top rusher will be on the team next year, but I’m sure it will be a running back,” Petrino joked. “We have a lot of talent at the running back position, with Dae Williams, Colin Wilson, and Trey Smith has had a good spring.”
While most of the focus will be on the offense, the progress of the defense will garner much attention of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Hired in January, VanGorder has used these critical practices to install a new scheme and mindset among his defense.
“We still have a long way to go,” VanGorder said. “I’m encouraged by the players’ willingness to learn. They’re an enthusiastic group who wants to be good. The senior leadership has been good, but I’ve just been pleased with their overall attitude.”
With so many positions up-for-grabs this spring, it will be interesting to see just how much the intense competition has paid off.