The University of Louisville football team begins its 2017 spring football practice Tuesday afternoon at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex at 3:50 p.m. It will be the first of 15 practices that culminates with the Wendy’s Wonderful Spring Game on April 15 at 1 p.m. at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Practices on March 24, March 28 and April 4 will be the three practices that will be open to the public. The first open practice on Friday is slated to begin at 3:25 p.m.
UofL head coach Bobby Petrino met with the media on Monday afternoon to preview the start of spring practice, and is looking forward to getting back on the field with his team after a 9-4 season.
“We had a real good offseason,” Petrino said. “I was impressed with what the players did in the weight room, the conditioning aspect, the quickness aspect, and it was done with a great attitude. We had a good plan in place and the players worked hard at it.”
Petrino singled out a pair of redshirt freshmen in defensive lineman Caleb Tillman and safety P.J. Blue, who each tested very well and will help on defense this season. The eighth-year head coach stated that wide receiver Jaylen Smith and linebacker Jonathan Greenard will miss the spring due to offseason surgeries. Petrino said linebacker Trevon Young, who missed all of 2016, will return to practice after totaling 8.5 sacks as a junior in 2015.
“We will get some work from Trevon,” Petrino said. “He’s been working hard. I think he surprised himself how he tested. He’s feeling well. We will take it slow but he should get team and group work the last two weeks. It would be a huge bonus if we get him back to where he was.”
Cornerback Cornelius Sturghill, who missed all of last year, also will return to practice, as well as linebacker London Iakopo (knee) and safety Khane Pass (shoulder) who will be limited to non-contact drills this spring. Petrino also said running back Malik Williams (knee) could return after undergoing knee surgery.
The Cardinals return 14 starters from last season’s 9-4 squad, including nine on the defensive side of the football, which will have a new defensive coordinator in Peter Sirmon.
“I’m looking forward to getting on the field and watching him running the defense,” Petrino said. “He played the game real well and I like the way he interacts with the players. It will be fun for me to get out there and watch him.”
On offense, the Cardinals, who finished third in the nation in scoring, returns just five starters, but one of those returnees is junior quarterback Lamar Jackson.
“Lamar still has a lot that he can do to get better,” Petrino said. ”He to get more comfortable getting under the center and continue to get better at his progression reads. He will work hard on setting in the pocket standing tall, which will make him improve his accuracy.”
One goal for Petrino this spring is to figure out ways to get Reggie Bonnafon involved in the offense. The Trinity High product caught 13 passes for 159 yards and five scores, but Petrino thinks Bonnafon has all the tools to put up bigger numbers.
“I need to do a better job of figuring out how to get Reggie the football,” Petrino said. “I think you will see him play more positions this year. He will be in the backfield more, and hand him the ball more to have him run with it. I felt I didn’t do a good job utlizing his skills.”
The Cardinals will be in shorts and helmets for the first practice on Tuesday afternoon.