Bobby Petrino, Louisville head coach Opening Statement:
“Alright, game week finally got here. It’s been a good preseason, though. I like the way our guys work. I like the way our coaches have been working. It’s fun to see the new staff members and their personalities coming out. I think it’s been really good. You know, we started our preparation for this game on Friday. We got about a three-quarter practice in Friday. Worked really hard yesterday, on our grind day. Then we’ll go today with the same, normal Wednesday practice, and then tomorrow we start cutting back as far as the volume goes on their legs, but the more meeting time, walk throughs. The more mental preparation. It is also good that we have the experience because they’ve been through game week. You know, a year ago it was… everything was new to them. What we do on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So these guys have been through that, and that should help us in our teaching and getting prepared for the game. Um what I want to get out of the game is to see us come out and execute, which means do their job. Do what they’re asked to do. Work their technique and their fundamentals, and then play with great effort play-in and play-out. And that’s what you want to see, is guys what we call ‘effort-have-it’, we need a team that has ‘effort-have-it’ and plays hard every play. So with that I’ll just open it up for questions.”
Bobby, is there a moment in camp when you kind of realize “okay, they’re ready for a game” or “okay, they need a game”?
“Yeah, it’s probably more it’s time to play a game. It’s time to quit hitting each other. And you know, I guess if there is one moment that sticks out it would have been when we’re in our last scrimmage, and guys are getting a little testy, a little temperament flying up in a couple guys that usually aren’t that way. And I said, ‘okay, we’re tired of hitting each other. Let’s get ready for a game, and start preparing for it.’ So that’s probably the one thing that always seems to come up. You get tired. It’s hard work, and you’re tired of going against the same guy every day in practice. You know, every once in a while they get a little testy about it, but it’s also a great teaching moment because a couple guys would have been out of the game and out the first half of the next games. So you kind of let it play out and see it as a coach. I learned a long, long time ago don’t jump in the middle of that. No reason to get hit, knocked down. You just kind of watch it and use it as a teaching moment on what would have happened if that was in a game.
Bobby, the depth chart says that Mason King and O’Hara are the starters. Can you kind of talk about that and those competitions?
“You know, if we were going right now… if we were walking out there right now kicking that’s how it would be. Mason’s [King] had a very good camp. His times on getting the ball out are very, very good. His hang time and his distance has been consistent. I’m proud of the way he worked at it, and how much more he’s improved since spring. Austin Johnson is a really good punter. He’s going to be a very, very good punter. He’s a two-step guy, that has the ability to have great hang time and distance, but Mason [King], you know, got the edge in this battle so he’ll get the nod. Then Evan I thought, just his consistency, his ability to get the ball up high, and gives us the range, right now, that we feel like if we get the ball around the 32-31 yard line, we’ve got a chance to get three points on the board. You know, we’ve had years where it’s been the 26 or the 27, but I feel if we get it to the 31 we’ve got a chance to get three points on the board.
Coach, Stacy Thomas is listed as the starter has he fully recovered from whatever issues?
“Yeah, he’s recovered. He’s been out there and going full speed. And again don’t get all caught up in Rocco’s depth chart, not mine. Okay. But we still practice today. We still practice tomorrow. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got guys that we have to see if they’re full speed, ready to go, but Stacy [Thomas] is recovered. He’s been out there. He’s had contact. He’s looked good, sharp. He’s a very, very good football player, and he’s been doing a lot of things for us, besides being the starter the last couple years because he’s been behind James Burgess. But he was able to back up James. He was able to back up Keith [Kelsey]. He knows… Actually, he knows three linebacker spots, and is a guy that we really know is going to contribute and have a good year for us. So we’re just really happy that he’s gotten healthy and ready to go.”
How much did he end up missing, and is he back to where he was before the injury?
“Yeah, I mean we haven’t play yet, so we’ll see how that goes. But as far as his speed, his agility, his flexibility, he looks like he’s back, ready to go. But I’m just proud at how hard he’s worked at it, and I think we’re lucky that our training staff stays in the same facility as our players so we got him to a great doctor in a hurry, and everything got taken care of correctly.” No matter if it’s your depth chart or Rocco’s, does it matter that much since you have so much depth. You could start a tight end at the H-back or Josh could start over Dom, so it really doesn’t matter right? “Yeah, I mean what you have is different personnel groups. So, like, even the other day when Rocco was wanting to get a depth chart, so you’d have something to write about. That’s what he said. I said, “Why do I need to put out depth chart?” He said, “Well, they need something to write about.” I’m kidding, actually. I think I said that. But basically, I say we have 13 starters on offense because it just depends on what personnel group we’re in. If we’re going to start two tight ends in the game, or we’re going to start a tight end and a fullback, or three wide receivers. You know, there’s basically 13 guys who are starters on offense. And even though it doesn’t mean that much to me, it means that to their mom, and their dad, and the players that they’re listed as a starter. So that’s why we put offense that way. And defensively, basically, what you do is you just list a base package because you want to make them work too. They need to find out who’s substituting in on this defensive package, who’s substituting this defensive package. You know, I always love it when I open up the depth chart and it lists who their nickel is. ‘Okay, good I don’t have to study film for 10-15 minutes to figure out what number came in the game.’ That’s what you need to know offensively. We have a guy up in the box that watches their sideline to see which numbers are coming into the ballgame, so we know what package we’re going against.”
How different, if at all is it? The last couple of years you’ve had a high profile game to start the season with Miami and Auburn to start the season, and you’ve said you like that. The players have all offseason to look forward to it. Is there anything that you do differently when it’s not as high profile?
“We’ve changed a little bit on our conditioning, on running a little bit more, and on working harder on making sure we’re in good shape. We had to balance that with making sure we didn’t do too much with the heat and humidity because, actually, in the last three years this has been, certainly, the hottest and most humid that we’ve had. So we didn’t get to run as much as I wanted to, but we did practice at a very high tempo and did a lot more game speed activities. Even our scrimmages were run the clock, 40 second clock, play it like a game special teams. So I feel good about where we’re at conditioning wise.”
What do you know about Charlotte?
“We know they’re a fast tempo offense. They’ve got a good running back. We know a little bit about their quarterback. You know, I can remember watching his video in high school, and talking to him on the phone recruiting. He’s a kid that I have a lot of respect for because I watched him so much in high school, and his ability. I didn’t watch him much when he was at Miami because we never had any matchups with them then, but he’s a good football player. Defensively they’re going to give us a ton of looks. They have a very multiple defense. They sometimes lineup in a 3-4 look, sometimes in a four man front, they even run some, what we call, 3-3 stack. They’ve shown games where they really want to pressure, and some games where they don’t want to pressure. So going into the first game it’s okay… What you tell your team is ‘we’re going to have to make adjustments as the game goes on. We need to get over on the sideline. We need to be able to draw up a picture in your mind of what the coach is telling you, and get smarter and get better as the game goes on.’ Like everyday when I walk down the hallway and I ask ‘Were you in class today? Or ‘Hey, how’d class go today?’ I always say to them ‘Did you get smarter?’ because that’s why you’re here going to college, to get smarter. Well that’s what we’re going to have to do as the game goes on is get smarter as it goes on.”
Is there any question in your mind that you don’t have the answer to that you would like to have the answer to at this time?
“Not one that I know of right off the top of my head. I think there is a lot of questions, you know. How well we’re going to run the ball? How well we’re going to protect? Are we going to be able to execute with the type of timing that we want offensively? Defensively are we going to be able to get some production and pass rush from our inside guys to make up for first-team, first round draft pick? How we’re going to rotate them in there to do that? So yeah, there’s a lot of questions, but not just one in particular?”
Do you feel like there is less uncertainty now than there was a year ago?
“Oh definitely. No doubt about it. We know our players. They know the schemes that we’re running, and now it’s time to cut it loose and use your technique in the schemes and execute at a fast tempo. That’s really what we want to see.”
How’s the offensive line jelled and have you found that starting five?
“Yeah I think so. They’ve jelled well. They’re working hard together. Tobijah’s [Hughley] done a good job with the calls and communicating. Kiola [Mahoni] and Khalil [Hunter] are two very talented guys. They’re tough, physical. They can really run. Then our tackles are really talented. Kenny Thomas has had a really good camp. He’s going to challenge for reps. He’ll rotate in and make sure he plays a lot in this first game because I’ve really like what I’ve seen from him. We talk all the time about [Nate] Scheler and Robbie [Bell] about playing center some, but Nathan is also playing some guard for us. So we’ve rotated him in at guard and center, and I think that is something that has helped us a little bit. Linwood Foy is very, very talented he’s just learning the offense.. He reminds me a lot of Kiola and Khalil last year, where it’s all new to me. Do we really have to practice this hard? Do I really have to know all that much? But he keeps getting better each day in practice, so that’s been good to see.
What have seen from Lamar in camp and how much has he progressed in the spring?
“He’s had a good camp. You know he’s doing a nice job. He’s harder on himself now. He expects more from himself as far as his drops, his sets, and his accuracy. That’s really fun to see you know. It was a really fun moment yesterday when we were in practice. Jawon’s up taking a rep and Lamar’s back there and I walk by and I hear him talking and he’s telling them well if this linebacker does this, this is what we’re going to do if he does that. A year ago he would have been on his knee drinking water trying to catch his breath. So he’s focused and learning when he’s not in there taking the rep and they’re communicating together standing behind. That was really good to see.”
Because Charlotte is so multiple will that be a good test of what he’s learned?
“Yeah it’s great. You know usually they will probably try to come after us you know try to give him some different looks and bring pressure. So it will all be good to see what happens.”
You’ve been pretty positive about you’re running game. You still feeling that way? Any new faces?
“Possibly. Brandon’s done a really nice job. We really like LJ as far as his ability to run the ball, catch the ball, pass protect, knowledge, he’s probably the most knowledgeable guy out there on the field, besides our quarterback as far knowing everything about the package. Jeremy has had a really good fall camp. I got on to him one day because he didn’t have a long run in one of our live sessions, and it was the first time he hasn’t had a long run in any scrimmage we’ve ever had here, so he always shows the ability to break a long run even in the games last year he did that. Malik Williams has gotten into some of the rotation. He’s very talented. He’s fast. He’s what you call a home run hitter. You might not have to call as many plays when you hand him the ball or he catches the ball out of the backfield. But he’s still just learning. So it’s a how much can he do or you know what type of package we can use him in.”
Bobby do you have any idea who you would like to redshirt or does that stay fluid as the year goes on?
“Yeah it stays going. You know what you do is you try to prepare them to play and make sure they get ready to play and then see what happens and see who stays healthy and who doesn’t stay healthy. You know where you’re at. It is a long season. You know a long time ago when they moved the games up. It was supposed to be a deal. There was supposed to be a deal. Okay, we’ll go to a 11 game schedule and we’ll give you 5 years of eligibility. Somehow that disappeared and went away and you know what it should come back with all the games we play the ability for guys that just have 5 years to play. You could play more guys on special teams, have less injuries, guys would stay healthy. I don’t know why it went away. You know when you talk about student athlete welfare. We got to bring it back because that would be the best thing ever.”
You said you did some fun antidotes this morning. You seem really happy and comfortable going into the season do you think your players sense all that?
“I hope not. We’ve had a good, hard camp. It’s been fun you know. I think that they can see that it’s different when you have experience. Not just me but their position coach, the coordinators building that August 30, 2016 connection and trust you know it becomes different because you value their opinion and what you’re seeing out there what adjustments we need to make. You always do tell them that you need to make sure they’re saying the right things, which is what we call taking the arrow in the forehead. I had one of the greatest kids ever to coach when I first got here. He played guard for us. One of the most fun loving kids ever but whenever he told you something it was the complete opposite on video. Like, “I got the MIKE linebacker,” he didn’t get the MIKE linebacker. “The nose went to me,” the nose went the other way. You know you got to be able to build that trust where you tell me, it shows up on video, it was that way. The coach tells you something, it shows up on video, it was that way and then you start building a bond and you’re able to make adjustments. Getting better on the sideline. I think our players are seeing that and feeling that with the understanding of the schemes builds more trust and more input from the players.”