ACC Kick-off, High Expectations for the Cardinals

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The Cardinals Football team came out of Spring workouts on a very positive note and all through the Spring Camp the theme seemed to be that of high expectations. I think that theme followed this group through their summer workouts and it was the centerpiece today at the ACC kickoff event in Charlotte.

Coach Petrino talked about how his team had all the ingredients to be very competitive this season. It is a team with experience, talent, speed, heart and wisdom. These guys went into battle together last season and to overcome an 0-3 start like they did this team won that war together. Forget about team chemistry these guys are brothers. Brothers want to win for themselves and the guy standing beside them.


(Video Courtesy TheCrunchZone)

When a program loses a player like Teddy Bridgewater it hurts. This is a guy who we watched have many moments… That clutch performance in the Sugar Bowl, the heart pounding win in Cincy and heroic win at Rutgers. You wait a lifetime for that player to come to your school. Folks the wait won’t be as long this time around. Lamar Jackson is going to have many moments. This kid like Teddy just gets it. He knows his strengths and wants to improve his weaknesses. As a player he enjoys high expectations and competition. Jackson is bound for greatness. This kid has a great personality as well and he had that on full display at ACC Kickoff today.


(Video courtesy TheCrunchZone)

Another great kid and outstanding defensive player Keith Kelsey was with Jackson at ACC Kickoff. Kelsey one half of last years smash brothers is a tackling machine. He has a nose for the football and he doesn’t react he reaps. The Louisville Defense will be one of the best units in the ACC and have a chance to be the best. A big reason why is players like Kelsey. He will be the centerpiece of Coach Grantham’s plan. He also has a great personality and was winning over the media at ACC Kickoff.


(Photo courtesy TheCrunchZone)

I know I have written these words before but I really don’t think I’ve seen expectations as high as they are. And this year it’s not just the Cardinal faithful who want it. The players and staff expect just as much from themselves. I was excited after the Spring Camp now I’m counting down the days until I can be on the sideline covering this team. Come on September..!

Cardinal’s ACC Kick-Off, Third Time’s A Charm

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Thursday marks the unofficial start of the college football season for us in ACC country. It’s a lean time of the year for college sports but conference media days are a thirst quenching event for all avid fans. Coach Petrino will have Line Backer Keith Kelsey and QB Lamar Jackson with him at the Westin Charlotte located in Charlotte, N.C. July 21-22. They are two great players that will certainly play a major role in the Cardinals success in year three of the conference.

The past two years at the ACC Media Days the Cardinals garnered quite a bit of attention being the new kids on the block. They brought with them a reputation of a program on the rise and one that was going to give their very best every time they hit the field, and they had to go out and prove that in year one and two.

On Thursday they will make their third appearance at the event and this time our Cardinals will bring with them a proven identity. An identity developed from going out and competing at the highest level with every ACC football program they’ve played against since being in the conference.

The Cardinals did more than prove they belonged in year one and two. They proved they could contend. I don’t think the players or the coaches considered the past couple of years a transition or really thought about it that much. They went out on the field and performed trying to be the best football team on that day.

As a fan I have really enjoyed the transition and have enjoyed getting to watch my Cardinals play and get wins in great venues like Notre Dame Stadium. I also have enjoyed watching them go toe-to-toe with the elites of the ACC. I’m looking forward to another great year in the ACC and looking forward to seeing my Cards take another step up in the hierarchy.

Here are the top questions I think the media will have for our Cardinals over the next few days:

#1 What about that starting QB?

Coach Petrino has started the past two seasons with all of his guys on an equal playing field and there were no leaders for the position. He didn’t have them ranked and was looking forward to watching them compete for the starting job. After the Cardinals started 0-3 last season Coach Petrino finally settled on Lamar Jackson as his starter but even changed that up in the last game of the regular season. Jackson had the top 3 rushing games in ACC history last season. Will the Louisville offense be built around him and his ability this season?

#2 Are the Cardinals poised for a breakout ACC season?

Unlike the first two seasons in the ACC they only lost seven starters in the off season. Two on offense in T Aaron Epps and G Skylar Lacy, three on defense in DEs Rankins, and Pio Vatuvei and ILB James Burgess as well as PK John Wallace and P Ryan Johnson. Will returning nine starters on offense and eight players on defense help the Cardinals be consistent enough to take the next step in the league and help them compete for an ACC Title?

#3 Can the Cardinals and Coach Petrino top their 9 win ceiling?

It’s going to be a little different this season for our Cardinals. They will go from being the hunter to the hunted. The ACC has been put on notice and they know what they are up against now. With one of the best offensive players in the league in Lamar Jackson and defensive players in Devonte Fields can they compete and beat the ACC elite?

#4 Are there any key injuries/issues heading into Fall camp?

Coach Petrino has said that everyone should be healthy and ready to go by August. We may get another update this week.

#5 Can the Cardinals offensive line take the next step?

Last season the Cardinals had one of the youngest offensive lines in the league. Three of the five starters return this season led by Geron Christian, Lukayus McNeil and Tobijah Hughley. They also have guys poised to step up like Toriano Roundtree. These are some big, tough guys. And keep an eye out on the Roundtree kid he is going to be a beast. Coach Klenakis deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done with them. They sure looked the part this spring. Can they carry some of that positive momentum they had when the season ended at the Music City Bowl into this season?

It should be an informative few days, and if you are craving football like I am then you’ll want to tune into the festivities over the next few days. Here’s how:

ACC Kick-off Live Coverage
The Cardinals will get their turn in the ACC Spotlight on Friday morning at 10:00am…

Cardinals Learn First Opponent at Atlantis

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We learned around June of last year that our Louisville Cardinals would be participating in the 2016 Battle 4 Atlantis pre-season Tournament. And today it has been determined who the Cardinals will face in their opening game. The Cardinals will open up play in Atlantis against Old Dominion on November 23rd at 9:00pm. The Cardinals will then play the winner/loser of Witcita State and LSU. That would make for an intriguing game with a Final Four rematch against the Shockers or LSU and Antonio Blakeney. Michigan State, St. John’s, VCU, and Baylor are the other teams who have been added. This is considered by most to be the best preseason tournament of the year. 

Louisville last played in the Battle 4 Atlantis during the 2012-13 season where they went 2-1 in the tournament beating UNI and Mizzou before losing to Duke in the title game. The Cardinals would get their revenge on the Blue Devils a few months later beating them in the Final Four in route to a National Championship. It’s ironic that the Cards will play in Atlantis in 2016 because like that 2013 group this group will be a favorite to win the National Title. I certainly wouldn’t mind a little déjà vu here…

The Battle 4 Atlantis is a Kerzner International owned and operated preseason college basketball tournament that takes place in late November of each year, at Atlantis Resorts on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas usually the week before Thanksgiving. The tournament is known for being the richest Division I Men’s pre-season college basketball tournament. Teams are awarded 2 million to participate in the event.

No doubt this will be a great preseason tournament to start the college basketball season and will be a great gauge to see just how good our Louisville Cardinals will be to start the season. I can’t wait!

2012 Battle 4 Atlantis promo:

Thank You Muhammad Ali For Making Us Move

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I took my son to his first T-Ball practice last week. Before the practice starts I see this kid over to the side playing catch with his father. This kid was really good and catching every ball his Dad was throwing to him. Wanting to be challenged more he was yelling at his Dad “make me move”. As I’ve grown older I find myself wanting to be challenged more and am always looking for someone or something to “make me move” There aren’t very many times while we are on this earth that we will be truly “moved”

This past week we lost one of The Greatest men this world has ever known. In his lifetime Muhammad Ali was responsible for not only making those around him “move” but inspired the world to “move”. Over the past week I have been “moved” hearing the stories and seeing the impact that this Great Man had. Among my favorites are the time Ali helped a random car full of college students whose car had broken down on the side of the road, in 1981 how Ali talked a suicidal man out of jumping to his death, or the time he helped secure the release of 15 US hostages in Iraq.

I was also “moved” this past week to see the impact Muhammad Ali has had on not only his generation but many generations to come. Covering Louisville sports this week It was great to see the Louisville Baseball team wear the name “ALI” on their hats, and seeing that even in his passing he was with them and inspiring them to be great, or reading about a group of Louisville Football players who went to Ali’s childhood home to pay their respects. Even on Friday seeing that the Louisville Basketball team was together paying their respects at the Ali memorial service.

Watching the memorial service Friday afternoon I was not only “moved” but was challenged personally to “move”. The speeches were incredible and very inspiring but the thing that really stood out was how Muhammad Ali even in his post-life was able to bring a city, a state, a country and a nation together. Friday there was no black & white, us & them, Christian or Muslim, gay or straight, Cards or Cats. That day we all came together to honor someone who “moved us”.

Thank you Muhammad Ali for making this world a better place, thank you in these trying times for showing us all that we can co-exist and thank you for making us “move”.

Ali “moved” me this past week and I will “move” to be a better person. I think that is his final challenge to us all.

“Don’t count the days; make the days count”- Muhammad Ali

Louisville Baseball Hottest Ticket In Town

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Louisville baseball dates back to 1909. There is no rich history and contending for conference Titles and fifth place finishes was the norm for 96 years. The program was decent but lacked the consistency to be on the other level. That all changed when Dan McDonnell took over as coach in 2007. Now hosting NCAA Regionals are the norm. The Cardinals will host their fourth straight NCAA Regional on Friday night.

Scanning the radio shows this week and the flavor was much the same. It wasn’t basketball or football conversations that dominated the airwaves. Cardinal Nation is all a buzz for Louisville Baseball. Not only are folks excited to get out and watch this team play on Friday night they are also looking forward to showing Coach Dan McDonnell some love for signing his new 10 year contract.

The Cardinals are coming into this tournament as the #2 seed in the country. Expectations are at an all-time high. This team has a roster oozing with Major League potential and seems to be peaking at the right time. With a great defense and an offense manufacturing runs at will this Louisville team will be hard to beat.

We often talk about how far the football program has come up over the years but I think one could argue that there hasn’t been a bigger rise from the ashes story than with the baseball program. If you are hoping to watch the Cardinals play tonight but don’t have tickets good luck. The Louisville session is sold out and there aren’t even any seats to be had on the secondary sites. The Cardinal Nine and Coach Dan McDonnell are the hottest ticket in town.

More on this years team and the NCAA Tournament from GoCards.com

A Humpy Day for Cardinal Fans

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To say that Cardinal Basketball fans have been held captive would be an understatement. We’ve waited anxiously for the last 2 months to hear news from the NCAA about a scandal we’ve waded through for the last 6 months. Today Louisville fans waited for another decision, and had plenty of company. Most College Basketball fans where stuck to their social media accounts waiting to hear who would stay and who would go. As most of us where just trying to get through our “Hump Day” it was also filled with many “Humpy” moments as college athletes held our nerves. As college sports fans it’s hard not to get caught up in the drama of young athletes making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. We invest a lot of time and emotion on these guys and don’t want to see them go. And we know that our team is better with them.

Chinanu Onuaku by my account is a very humble young man, and out of all of the Louisville players in that locker room he seemed to dislike the media attention the most. Many times the sounds of a post-game locker room drowned out his soft tone during interviews. I’m not going to blame him for having his moment, but these decision day platforms are frustrating. The NBA needs to find a better way to recruit their talent and aren’t doing these young men any favor. The other professional sports have it figured out give them a call.

After all of the ups and downs and plot twist of a daytime soap opera Chinanu did make it official Wednesday evening on his Instagram account:

“After talking to my family and going through the NBA process, me and my family have decided that it would be best for me to keep my name in the draft,” Onuaku wrote on his Instagram post. “I will take the Terry Rozier route and work my way into the first round. I have talked to Coach Pitino and he is behind me 100 percent.”

I wish him all of the best this world has to offer and hope he can grab a hold of success at the next level. He was a great Cardinal and helped win a lot of basketball games.

There was also another young athlete who made a big decision today. Tadarrius Patterson, a three-star outside linebacker from Birmingham (AL), committed to Louisville Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps not grabbing the attention it deserved this was big news. We pulled this kid straight from the jaws of the mighty SEC. This kid held offers from Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Kentucky. He also held the attention of Alabama and other SEC schools.

ESPN breaks down his talent:

Size-Strength-Range
Adequate height with good length and range. Runs well and covers ground quickly. Lacks strength and power at the point of attack at this stage.
Instincts/Take On Skills
Above average recognition skills finding the ball, plays fast and reads on fly. Will occasionally over run the ball or take and inside angle and lose contain. Feels routes develop well in coverage. Lacks an strong anchor versus the run and can continue to develop strength and improve power-base. More effective slipping blocks then then taking on and shedding.
Tackling
Reach and grab tackler, not a wrap and drive through type. Would benefit from coming in lower as he tends to grab high for drag downs.
3rd Down Capabilities
Shows raw ability as a pass rusher, quick with hands and has the athleticism to make an inside move or redirect to beat blockers. Flashes of effective speed-to-power. Shows good savvy and range dropping and closing in zone coverages.
Bottom Line
Patterson is an active defender with good range and athleticism. Big upside given his frame and lack of great run support strength at this stage. Has the tools to develop into a three-down linebacker in time.

We lost a great basketball player today but gained a great football player. I couldn’t be happier about the progression of our football program. Coach Petrino and his staff are at the top of their game, and this thing is on a collision course.

As humpy as this day was for many Cardinal fans it still turned out pretty good. We got a verbal commit from a great football player and the Cardinal 9 keeps rolling on. GO CARDS!

Trey Lewis sends Powerful Message through Faith

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I have wrote several articles about Trey Lewis and his time as a Louisville Basketball player. Those stories often revolved around how many baskets he scored or his dedication to his team and to the Louisville program. But those things are nothing compared to his passion and dedication to his religious beliefs. His faith is an inspiration and it is impressive that a guy his age isn’t afraid to share it with whomever will listen.

We sometimes forget that the trophies we win here on earth are not anything compared to the ones we get when our work here is done. Yes, Salvation is the ultimate trophy. The University of Louisville’s FCA gives athletes like Trey Lewis an opportunity to share their testimony in an attempt to help fellow athletes reach that ultimate prize. There have been many athletes who have accepted Christ into their lives and have been baptized thanks to this program. Sports has the power to change lives but the FCA program has the power to change souls.

I want to send out kudos to Trey Lewis for his powerful testimony and to all those involved with the FCA at the University of Louisville. Thanks to Chaplain Chris Morgan for the work he is doing for the student athletes on campus. Also to those athletes who are being spiritual leaders on and off the field of play using their gifts to bring glory to Christ. We have a great group of athletes to cheer for at the University of Louisville and things like this should not go unnoticed. Kudos again guys!

Be sure to give the University of Louisville Chaplain Chris Morgan a follow on twitter @UofLfca to follow the great work he is doing on the campus and with our student athletes. And I’m sure they would also be thankful for our prayers as well.

The Battle for the Bourbon Barrel

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The Cardinals and Commodores played their last game against each other last May. It was Vandy that came out with the hot bats in that game taking an early 5 run lead before a little rally in the 6th by Louisville. It was Vandy who walked away with the win in that game 5-2. Before that these teams had last played in Omaha back in 2014 where Vandy eventually went on to win their first National Championship. That is a grand trophy indeed, but when it comes to the Louisville Vs Vanderbilt series there is another trophy that is one of the coolest in all of college baseball “The Barrel”

The Cardinals and the Commodores are far from strangers to one another. In fact this has become one of the most competitive rivalries in college baseball. The programs, separated by only 175 miles, became regular foes in the NCAA Regionals (4 times in last 7 seasons) due to the close proximity. From that “The Battle of the Barrel” game was born in 2012. What started as a typical midweek game has evolved into something much larger a true rivalry.

Louisville is just 7-24 all-time against Vanderbilt in a series that dates back to 1971, and our Cardinals have come out on the losing end lately dropping the last two. The Cards do hold a current 3 game win streak in Nashville. Today at 5:00pm this great college baseball rivalry will again take center stage its “The Battle of the Barrel”. Be sure to tune in to see who walks away with this super masculine emblem of greatness. Go Cards!

The game, originally slated for 7 p.m., but adjusted due to the threat of inclement weather, will be televised on ESPNU. Radio coverage of the game will begin on 1450 WXVW and transition to 93.9 The Ville at 6 p.m. Live stats for all Louisville baseball games are available at GoCards.com.

Louisville Football Springs Into Action

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It was a beautiful day for some Louisville football. Over 16,000 fans came out to cheer the Cardinals on as they wrapped up the spring session with a very competitive scrimmage. The first team offense dazzled scoring 73 points while the first team defense locked down the white team holding them to just 7 points. Cardinal fans got everything they expected and more from this year’s team.

I expected a lot from Lamar Jackson today and he did not disappoint. Shining just as bright as the sun over Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium he lit up the football field throwing for 519 yards and 8 touchdowns. As impressive as he turned out last year with just a limited time to adjust to the program the writing was on the wall as to just how good he would be after a full season. While now also getting to spend the entire off season in the strength, skills and conditioning program. The improvement is noticeable with better accuracy, arm strength and field command. I can’t wait until September to see him take the College Football world by storm.

As far as the other skill players are concerned it was a big day for the receiving corps. James Quick led this group with 150 yards and a touchdown. His highlight moment was when he and Lamar Jackson hooked up on an 85 yard bomb.

I was looking forward to seeing Jamari Staples today as he finished last season on such a high note and he also looked very good out there. His highlight moment was when he and Jackson hooked up for a 54 yard score.

Another guy you’re going to want to keep an eye on this season is Cole Hikutini. He will be a very important part of the Cardinals passing game. Today he hooked up with Jackson for two scores finishing with 75 yards. He has great hands and really gets himself in good position coming out of his routes. I think he could end up being one of the best tight ends in the ACC.

The Cardinals are once again going to have a stable of very good running backs. Brandon Radcliff has an extra gear when he hits that sideline, and with his work ethic and drive he’s in for a big year. Jeremy Smith and Malin Jones are also very capable backs. Jones had a very impressive 65 yard trot for a score in the scrimmage.

On the defensive side of the ball it was some of the usual suspects on the field flying around making tackles. I was most impressed with Stacy Thomas, Chucky Williams, Alphonso Carter, and Zykeisis Cannon. These guys combined for 30 tackles. Josh Harvey was a guy I was watching closely and he had 2 tackles. I look for him to step it up this season as he really wants to play at the next level.

These Spring scrimmages aren’t a be all end all predictor of how the upcoming season will look, but it is a great opportunity to see how certain players have improved their games and gives you an idea of just what the offense will look like come September. Today in the post-game pressor Coach Petrino said that he welcomes high expectations and said to “bring them on”. He surely will get his wish as I know mine are thru the roof and if you were at the spring game today I’m sure yours are as well.

See you in September Cardinal fans…!

SPRING FOOTBALL GAME 2016

Culmination of Hard Work & Dreams Realized at Derby Basketball Classic

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I just finished covering another Derby Basketball Classic and it was three days of great hoops action played by some of the most talented High School seniors in the country. There were dunks, three point shots, alley oops, and give and go’s. But there were also many years of hard work on display and this all-star game like them all was a culmination of hard work and dreams realized for the players. There were several big-time college basketball programs represented in the Derby Basketball Classic and also a few central Kentucky counties. I spent my three days of the Classic covering Bullitt East High School’s Tyler Sharpe who will be attending the University of Louisville as a preferred walk-on and Owen County High School’s Carson Williams who will be playing for Northern Kentucky University.

Located just south of the city of Louisville Bullitt County is included in the Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN Metropolitan Area, commonly known as Kentuckiana. Tyler Sharpe a 6-1 guard played for Bullitt East High School. He has several scholarship offers, including Pikeville, and Kentucky State, but like many kids in the area he grew up a Louisville Cardinal fan. He could have chosen to go to one of these other schools but when he was offered the coveted preferred walk-on spot at the University of Louisville he jumped at the opportunity. Watching players like Elisha Justice, Tim Henderson, and David Levitch have success in this walk-on spot over the last six years was all the motivation Tyler needed. Watching Tyler Sharpe compete in the Derby Basketball Classic events over the last three days I can tell you that he is a very humble young man who is a decent athlete with surprising leaping ability. He had an off shooting night in the Classic but he has a very nice jump shot. This young man has spent his life dreaming of playing in front of the Louisville crowd and in the Derby Basketball Classic he got to realize some of that dream.

Carson Williams played his high school career for the Owen County Rebels in Owenton Ky. In that small rural Kentucky town you never hear the words “real deal” when it comes to the athletes that play sports there. Don’t get me wrong there are some very good athletes that have played for Owen County over the years but nothing like Carson Williams. This kid first made waves when he was running the floor, making plays, and dunking a basketball as an 8th grader. Folks in that small town started to realize then that he was going to be special. Carson is an athlete that has been dedicated to the sport of basketball and worked really hard to gain recognition in such a small town. Winning Mr. Basketball in Kentucky was a surreal moment for Carson and everyone who has followed him along the way. And being able to play in the Derby Basketball Classic just put an exclamation point on a very successful high school career.

Carson Williams represented himself very well this week in the Derby Basketball events. He won the 2on2 Championship with Jared Harper who will be attending Auburn University at Night of Future Stars and also made it to the Finals of the Slam dunk contest. He finished the Derby Basketball Classic with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assist. Not only was Carson representing himself in Louisville on Friday night he was also representing a very tight knit community. Owen County fans have traveled thousands of miles watching and supporting Carson Williams during his career. One of those fans was Chase Duvall. Chase the brother of Owen County basketball Coach Devin Duvall passed away suddenly on Wednesday afternoon right before Carson left town for the Derby Basketball festivities. On Friday night Carson wore a special band on his Derby Basketball uniform to honor Chase. That’s the kind of young man Carson Williams is and nobody deserved to have his moment more than he did at the Derby Basketball Classic.

“It’s always basketball season in Kentucky,” said Derby Festival President and CEO Mike Berry. “We have the most dedicated fan bases in college basketball. Tonight they were treated to a game with outstanding talent and we’ll be watching these young players closely as they continue their careers.”

I know I can’t wait to see how Tyler Sharpe and Carson William do in the next phase of their basketball careers and I will be watching and supporting these two great young men as they continue to live out their dreams.

Night of Future Stars

Derby Basketball Classsic