I made the short trip over to Floyd Street this evening to check out Louisville's first practice of the spring. Some quick observations:
Let's start, as most discussions do, with the quarterbacks. Most of the fans who came out to watch the practice wanted to see freshman phenom Teddy Bridgewater. And he sure looks the part. He's rangy and long and throws a great spiral, and when he rolled out and made throws on the run, his sheer athleticism is unlike any recent Louisville quarterback. But he also overthrew a lot of guys and wasn't very accurate most of the day. It's his first day of college practice. He's got a long way to go.
Will Stein is clearly the leader among the group at quarterback and is very steady. I'll have a story on him on Thursday. Dominique Brown is the third quarterback, and though he's also quite athletic, I still believe his future lies at another position.
The best player on the field that I saw was receiver Josh Bellamy. The senior, who came over from junior college last year, seems to have elevated his game, and he was simply punishing defensive backs at practice.
Speaking of those defensive backs, I mentioned cornerback as the weakest position for Louisville in my spring superlatives series, and I think I nailed that one. It was a rough day for a lot of the DBs, and clearly the Cardinals need a lot of work there. Youngster Jordon Paschal is a guy who could eventually contribute, but he had a difficult day. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford made several guys run laps because he was unhappy with their efforts.
Another freshman early enrollee, wide receiver Charles Gaines, looks like he can help this year. He made one really nice over the shoulder grab, though he got chewed out by Charlie Strong for not jogging back to the huddle. "You're not in high school," Strong yelled. Gaines has got a lot to learn but has the physical tools.
There's not much to say about either the offensive or defensive lines, as the team was just in shorts and helmets Wednesday. You don't learn much about those guys until the pads come on and the hitting starts. Louisville is also very thin this spring, having lost 25 seniors from last year and having 14 guys out with surgeries. Some guys who haven't a whole lot of run before, like Marcus Smith, Titus Teague and George Durant, got some major reps with the defense.
Lots of unknowns with this team, because of the injuries and the youth and the talent that's coming in this summer. But one thing is obvious: it is light years ahead of where it was last year at this time.