NCF Nation: Jeff Adams
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Steve Kragthorpe very nearly broke out the old Herm Edwards quote this week when talking about the struggles of his Louisville football team.
"You play this game to win," Kragthorpe said.
Except that hasn't been the case for the Cardinals (1-3, 0-1 Big East), who last beat an FBS opponent on Oct. 25, 2008. That's a string of eight straight defeats, five of them by double digits.
|Andy Lyons/Getty Images|
|Victor Anderson is expected to get more touches Saturday against Southern Mississippi.|
While Kragthorpe and his players continue to say that they're just a few plays away or that they've beaten themselves with mistakes, a losing streak like that comes down to more than just a couple of bad breaks. So expect to see some changes this Saturday when Louisville plays host to Southern Mississippi.
For starters, Kragthorpe is promising to get Victor Anderson more touches. Makes perfect sense, since Anderson -- the Big East's newcomer of the year last season after rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a redshirt freshman -- is the team's best player. Yet after carrying 19 times for 110 yards at Kentucky, Anderson got only 10 carries for 22 yards at Utah and ran it just 12 times for 51 yards last week against Pitt.
Anderson was dealing with a groin injury and some other bumps and bruises last week, Kragthorpe said. But he should be healthier now, and he needs to be a major part of the game plan.
Of course, Anderson can only do so much when the offensive line is not opening holes.
When asked to name which players were performing well up front, Kragthorpe could only point to center Mario Benavides and right guard Mark Wetterer. Junior Jeff Adams, who started at right tackle last year, could supplant left tackle Byron Stingily this week. Adams was slated to start there in the preseason, but he had a bout with the flu that caused him to lose almost 20 pounds in fall camp. Massive junior college transfer Joe Evinger (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) arrived late in fall camp but is now sufficiently up to speed to where he could start seeing some significant time as well, Kragthorpe said.
Another problem area for the Cardinals has been the secondary, which was burned by long touchdown passes against Pitt. Safety Terrence Simien's kidney injury forced some shuffling around, and Chaz Thompson moved over from safety to start at cornerback for the first time in his career last week. Kragthorpe said he would look at some other options back there, including pulling the redshirt off true freshman Shenard Holton.
Louisville is the most penalized team in the Big East and seems to find the absolute wrong time in each drive to draw a flag. Kragthorpe said he planned to tape his offensive linemen's wrists this week to prevent them from getting their hands outside a defender's body. And others who committed penalties last week had to run as punishment.
It remains to be seen whether any of these changes are more than cosmetic against a Southern Miss team that has some issues of its own. The Golden Eagles lost starting quarterback Austin Davis to a season-ending injury last week in a loss to UAB. Junior Martevious Young will start in his place. They will get back running back Damion Fletcher and receiver DeAndre Brown from injuries this week.
The Cardinals left old rival Southern Miss and Conference USA behind when they moved to the Big East; losing to the Golden Eagles at home would be yet another black mark for a program that's gathered too many of them lately. With two Big East away games up next and road trips still left to West Virginia and South Florida, Louisville can't afford any more slip-ups.
"A win would sure lighten the mood up," Benavides said. "Nobody likes losing."
Louisville will begin spring practice on Sunday, the first school in the Big East to get back on the field. It will be an important time for the Cardinals, who are trying to fill several holes after a second straight season that ended without a bowl game. I caught up this week with head coach Steve Kragthorpe for the latest installment of our spring Big East Q&A series.
Is spring time an exciting time for the coaching staff?
|AP Photo/Mel Evans|
|Steve Kragthorpe will take on offensive coordinator duties this season.|
Steve Kragthorpe: To me, spring ball is always one of the fun parts of our job, in terms of taking a new group of guys and molding them together, seeing how all the pieces start to fit together. We've got a lot of guys who've maybe had no roles at all that are going to jump into roles and some guys who've had minor roles who are now going to jump up into major roles. And the fun part about spring practice is there's always a surprise or two, a guy you weren't quite sure was ready to play who jumps up and says, "Hey, I'm ready to take one of these spots."
How do you see the quarterback competition shaping up, and how will you divvy up the spring reps there?
SK: We'll divide them up pretty much equally for the major part of the spring and start to see guys separate from each other. And as guys start to separate, we'll give them a few more repetitions. But my goal is not to name a starting quarterback by the end of spring practice. We will do that about 10 days before the first game. But I'm looking for guys to be consistent, I'm looking for guys that move the chains, I'm looking for guys to lead the other 10 guys on that field and I'm looking for guys who, over a continuum of time, can be a consistent performer.
You have to shape your offense around the talents of the quarterback, obviously. So how do you, as your own offensive coordinator, do that now if you don't yet know who will be your starter?
SK: We're going to install concepts and make sure we do a good job of establishing an identity on offense, establishing a way of playing the position of quarterback and a way of going about playing offense. And then from there we'll wrinkle, based upon what guys do well, based upon what guys are stepping up ... For us, we want to make sure we're very conceptual on offense, we're very concise in terms of our teaching and we establish a system. And from that system we'll wrinkle based on the guys who need the ball in their hands.