Derby Week is the one time during the sports cycle that I feel completely out of place. This is the week that the Universty of Louisville and those who cover it go to the horses. The UofL band will play my Old Kentucky Home at the Derby for the 82nd time today, New Mens Basketball Coach Chris Mack called ”Riders Up” at Oaks and you’ll catch a glance at Cardinal Stadium as the horses come down the stretch.
The who’s who of Louisville Sports folks have spent all week on the backside at Churchill Downs covering the 4 legged athletes. Usually, I’d have an urge to be right in the mix but not this week. I don’t know anything about horse racing. Nothing! But I do enjoy watching and betting on the yearly event. And every year that leads me on a hunt for any advice I can get before my wager.
About 7 or 8 years ago that hunt landed me on Justin TV. Anyone remember that streaming site? I stumbled upon a guy who calls himself the Howling Wolf. He had an interactive horse racing show on Justin TV. There was always a room full of folks watching him pick winners and letting out a big Howl after doing so. Trust me folks this guy picks winners.
I have hit several pick 4’s over the years and cashed more than a few tickets with the Howling Wolf. I recently found my old friend again on Facebook. Feeling like the only Louisville Blogger that isn’t somehow connected to this week I asked the Howling Wolf if he’d write something for the Big Race. He was nice enough to share his Derby Picks with us.
KENTUCKY DERBY SELECTIONS:
TOP SELECTION :
#12 ENTICED 30/1- GOT BUMPED TWICE IN THE WOOD MEMORIAL BY VINO ROSSO. WILL BE STALKING THE PACE EARLY AND SHOULD START MOVING UP CLOSER TO THE PACE IN HALF WAY INTO THE RACE AND GIVE HIS BEST KICK DOWN THE STRETCH.
THE JOCKEY ALAVARADO STAYS ABOARD
2ND CHOICE :
#5 AUDIBLE- HAS FACE AND BEATEN SOME OF THE HORSES IN THE FIELD. GETTING CASTELLANO BACK ABOARD AND WITH HIM ABOARD HAS WON BY ALMOSE 16 LENGHTS ABOARD. LIKES TO STALK CLOSE TO PACE AND GETS TIRED LATE FROM THAT. ILL LIKE TO SEE HIM STALKING BUT NOT TOO CLOSE TO SEE HIM GIVE A BETTER LATE MOVE.
#16 MAGNUM MOON 6/1- IS 4 FOR 4 TRYING FOR THE 5 STRAIGHT TO STAY UNDEFEATED. WILL LIKE THE STRETCH OUT IN DISTANCE. SO GREAT WORKOUTS THE LAST ONE WAS 47.70 BREZING AT THE CHURCHILL DOWNS TRACK ON APRIL 29TH.
GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE!
There you go, folks! The Cardinals Beak finally gave you some Derby love. I really appreciate the Howling Wolf for his Derby Picks. If you are looking for a cheat sheet for the rest of the Derby Day slate please consider giving my friend a look. I hope you are Howling when the winners cross the finish line today. Good Luck!
Pass played well overall. I feel currently he is our guy. He had some turnovers that bother me but are fixable. He struck me as his nerves had a little bit of him. Hopefully this will get worked out. With him being a non-contact target, we didn’t get to see much oh him running minus a few scrambles to the Line of scrimmage. He is physically larger which makes me much more comfortable at the quarterback position, especially for a mobile QB. And I won’t get tired of hearing Pass’ pass no matter how annoying it is over and over ha-ha
Malik…. Malik Cunningham was the biggest surprise for me of the spring game. Malik played excellent. He ran the ball great and was almost dead on his passes. My eyes will be on him 10x more!
Dez Fitzpatrick – What else can you say but SPECTACULAR. He had some great catches, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become a #1 target for Pass.
Kemari Averett…. HUGE. He stood out to me. It may have been his 6’6″ 265lbs stature… or the 5 catches for 37 yards… that doesn’t sound like much but after a season where a 6-yard pass seemed difficult at times this is huge for me.
I’m happy with defense. White team had a pick and a fumble recovery. Hopefully it carries over into takeaways into the season.
Was great to see so many former Cards players at the half time awards ceremony. Between Deion Branch signing his name and taking pictures along the sideline (took him 30 minutes to get 50 yards to leave) to Jaire Alexander coming into the stands forever to sign autographs and take pictures. A line formed in the stands on the home side and he happily seen all that he could…They showed the truth in #L1C4
From a Touchdown squirrel to the NCAA bubble
It’s crazy how a few weeks can change everything in college sports. Back in early September things couldn’t have felt more promising for Louisville Basketball fans. The way too early NCAA polls were starting to circulate, and the Cardinals were one of the favorites to win an NCAA Title.
The program so hot that Coach Pitino would be the guest picker for the College Gameday event before the Clemson game. That jersey was way too little but hey we didn’t care. Rick was the man and had us sitting pretty again. Not only did he appear to have the current team poised for the success he had some very promising recruits signed. I couldn’t wait for the College Basketball season to begin.
The basketball buzz remained in the air especially after the Football team had just had another loss to Clemson. That was a bummer but it didn’t really faze the fanbase that much. There was a great feeling still in the air. The NCAA decision loomed but we had put all of the Stripper talk behind us. There was a lot of positive momentum back in the program.
I remember the weekend of the Kent State football game. Things were so good on Louisville social media that everyone was talking about a squirrel that had just run the field looking like it had scored a touchdown. Touchdown squirrel was trending in Louisville. That was on September 23rd.
A few days later it started to circulate that the squirrel had probably died from the trauma of his big moment. Then on September 29th just six days after a cute little squirrel had been the talk of the town reports surfaced that the Louisville Basketball program and its Hall of Fame coach had been named in an FBI probe of College Hoops. Only the University of Louisville could go from cute little squirrel to FBI probe in just six days. It was stunning.
Forget a black cat running across your path. If a squirrel crosses your path be ready for the bad luck to follow. Since that damn squirrel, it has been one thing after the next for the athletic program. Pitino fired, Jurich fired Jurich’s son fired, and now the BOT is in shambles.
Things couldn’t have gone any worse for the basketball program. Hype gone, Coaching staff gutted, prize recruits gone, but wait a minute. This team is showing some moxie, we are in 2nd place in the ACC… Could it be? Nope! Has a squirrel run across your path lately? The bottom appears to be dropping out again. NCAA decision could be days away “who knows”, BOT drama at a new level of yuck, and the Basketball program is the newly appointed Bubble Team.
Oh, what did I do as a Louisville Basketball fan to deserve all of this? And now I get to spend the next three weeks in college basketball limbo. Live cut-ins with Joe Lunardi during our games breaking down our bid chances, being team one or two in those blind resume segments and being the butt of whatever clever NIT joke our rivals come up with. Why oh why?
Touchdown Squirrel to the College Basketball Bubble. Things can change quickly in college sports so I’m going to try and stay positive. Who knows… Maybe the basketball gods will finally stop kicking us in the nuts.
It really was a game of two halves tonight in the Yum Center. The Cardinals couldn’t find any answers on the offensive end of the floor during the first half and were out-rebounded by a much smaller Siena team. At times they just out-hustled the home team.
Give Coach Padgett an A tonight on his half time adjustments. Don’t know what he said to the guys, but they came back out for the second half playing with more intensity on both ends of the floor. The shots started falling and the Cardinals started taking the ball to the basket with some authority. They started using their size and athleticism to overpower the saints out-scoring them 47-24.
Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos is a character… he used a horse racing analogy to describe his team’s effort during the post-game. And he praised the Louisville team saying that their defense was a lot better than he thought coming in. Coach Patsos also said something about how every team builds towards the post season. Truth…
This Louisville team is a long way from reaching their true potential. They are going to lose games and have horrible halves of basketball like they did tonight. It’s the process. I believe in Coach Padgett and I believe in these players. I’m going to support them win or lose. It’s time to FAN UP.
Ray and Anas played in another gear tonight. Ray had a great stat line with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks and 4 steals. That’s hustle. Anas was one block from a triple-double. He had 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 blocks. Going to need this kind of effort out of these guys every night. Especially in ACC play.
At this point in the early season the player that has me the most excited is Jordan Nwora. This kid is going to be a beast. You really must see him in person to appreciate his size. With that size and agility, he is a real weapon. He provided a spark tonight with 11 points.
It was hard to watch at times, but it was nice to see the Cardinals get back in the win column. Hopefully they will carry some of that momentum from the second half tonight into the game on Saturday against Hoosiers.
Tonight, the Cardinals had their final warm up before it really starts to count on Sunday afternoon. They beat Bellarmine 72 to 57 but, I don’t think the Cardinals were as sharp as they wanted to be tonight and think that they recognized after this one that they still have some work to do. Hats off to Bellarmine for taking it right to the Cardinals. This game will help this team down the road. Playing a team like Bellarmine that took the punch and kept bringing it was much better than playing a team that laid down. This team learned tonight and that’s what exhibitions are all about.
I was really impressed with Jordan Nwora who had 8 points and 8 rebounds. This kid is going to develop into a very good player and I’m looking forward to his 4 years here. You aren’t going to see many guys his size be able to do what he can do. He has the finesse game and can stop and pop from anywhere on the floor and can bang for the rebounds. His tools are impressive.
And Deng Adel is going to have himself a season as well. Talk about having all the tools. He finished tonight with 21 points. When he decides he’s going to take the ball to the rack then he’ll get it there. His baseline dunk tonight was next level.
This team will have to clean up some things on the defensive side of the floor as it does every season around this time of the year and really needs to learn how to protect their possessions better. They had 20 turnovers tonight. I think this will get better as this team learns how to play together. Right now, there is too much rushing and trying to do too much. But after the final exhibition I’m still very optimistic about the season ahead. There will be some growing pains along the way but there is so much talent and athleticism that they can’t fail. We’ll get a better idea after Sunday because the George Mason team will be another tough early test.
There was a time in my life that things weren’t going great and during that time I wanted to get back to my roots. I wanted to be around some of those folks that were the foundation of my life. Friday night at the Yum Center the Louisville program started a new journey and there was a lot of old school walking around that building. This program is going back to its roots and it felt good to see some of the old players and coaches there in support of David Padgett and this team. This program is going thru some difficult times but the foundation is just as strong as it ever was. And its because of that foundation that I’m confident that everything is going to be fine and this is going to be a fun season.
You couldn’t tell that there had been any turmoil over the last couple of weeks in the post-game locker room tonight. Those young men were enthusiastic, happy and seemed very confident in their mission this season. All of them seemed very excited to be back in front of the fans and playing the game that they love.
Some observations from the Red & White Scrimmage:
Friday Night was the first time that I had seen the freshman class live since the Derby Festival Basketball game. I was really impressed with Jordan Nwora that night and felt the same tonight. He was the fourth leading scorer with 18 points and 4 of 6 from the three. He is a kid that can drive and bang in the lane and can pull up from deep. He has all the weapons supported by a massive frame. Will be fun watching him for 4 years.
Out of this freshman group I thought that Lance Thomas had the most work to do. He was the second highest in scoring in this group with 8 points. This kid has put in the time in the weight room and has added some bulk. He is another player that can score from all over the court. He is going to be a good one.
Darius Perry and Malik Williams had quiet nights offensively but Perry led in assist with 9 and Williams was the leading re-bounder with 17. And both are going to be incredible scorers. This freshman group if they stay together will end up being our bridge over troubled water. We can ride out a few rough years with guys like these.
I had felt it all along but after watching VJ King score 30 points tonight I know that this will be his breakout year. And he is a guy that is probably playing his last season of college basketball. I think his nerves got the best of him with the 9 turnovers but once he settles in he will be a game changer. His game has some Earl Clark in it…
I have always been a Ryan McMahon fan. He has a beautiful three point shot and is a better basketball player than some give him credit. He got off to a solid start tonight going 2-2 from the three and scoring 6 points before he got hurt and had to exit the game. He had a behind the back assist in a break away play with Adel that brought the house down. His court vision is next level.
Deng Adel was the leading scorer for the game with 32 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. And what can’t he do? He is a future NBA player and has got all the skills. This team will win a lot of basketball games just because he is on it.
Another guy that was doing it all on Friday night was Ray Spalding. He was the third leading scored with 22 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist and 6 steals… He is by far the most improved player on the team and showed that in this scrimmage. Ray being one of the hometown kids makes it even better.
Speaking of hometown kids Quentin Snider is headed into his last season as a Cardinal. He had 12 points, 5 assists and 2 steals. He is one of the most consistent players that I’ve ever watched in my lifetime. He quietly leads this group on the court and his calm demeanor never changes. Not even in the big moments. Those big tourney games and that performance against UK last season. I’ve enjoyed them all. I feel a lot better knowing a guy like Quentin Snider is around. No matter what happens you know he’s going to show up to play basketball.
Another guy that I’m glad to have in the locker-room is Anas Mahmoud. He’s going to get dunked on, and he’s not going to be the best player on the court but that guy brings a lot of heart to the table. His positive attitude is contagious. The more positive we can have right now the better.
Freshman Walk on Jo Griffen added his name to the long list to dunk on Anas. Griffen is going to be another great walk-on to add to the Cardinals great legacy. This kid can play and has that sneaky athleticism. He will dunk on you. Just ask Anas.
Folks better not sleep on this group of Cardinals. They are long, athletic, and they can shoot the ball very well. This might be one of the better offensive teams that the program has ever had. I think they will have to overcome some obstacles but so far, they seem like they haven’t missed a beat. I contribute that to the leadership provided by David Padgett. He was a floor general back in 2008 when he played for the Cardinals and now he’s running this team with that same passion, dedication and pride. After watching the first Red & White Scrimmage I feel much better about things.
When the sun comes up over the Twin Spires and shines through the trees on the UofL campus in the morning and for the first time in 16 years Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino will not be pulling the strings. Pitino officially fired and Jurich on administrative leave and has essentially been replaced for now.
Two men for their time both innovative, creative and in some cases revolutionary in their career fields. A flashy sports businessman from California and a brass basketball coach from New York City Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino changed the face of Louisville sports and helped to change the sports world in general. They brought the Cardinals into the 21st century and gave the University the platform to compete on the national stage.
They were also the two men of my time… We only have a certain amount of it and with each passing day it gets shorter. The time we spend on this earth is filled with memories of the things we love, the people we love and the times we share together. Sports is one of the things that I love and I’ve spent a lot of time sharing the experiences surrounding that with the people I love.
Rick Pitino would enter my sports world in 1989 when he took the University of Kentucky job. I was a freshman in high school and was probably too young to really appreciate it then but Coach Pitino was revolutionizing the game of college basketball. Coaches at all levels were trying to model their strategies around his run and gun, three-point shooting style of play and blitzing defense. Being a short un-athletic player myself I now had an opportunity to contribute to my high school team by learning how to shoot the ball from deep. I’ve never been a University of Kentucky fan but I enjoyed watching some of those Pitino led teams.
It wasn’t until he had beaten my beloved Cardinals for a fourth straight time that my love for Pitino’s style of play turned into disgust for who was reaping the benefit. I couldn’t stomach another National Championship or Final Four run from that program in Lexington and couldn’t wait until Rick took an NBA job. It finally happened and I couldn’t have been happier.
Ever have a rival guy date an amazing girl and out of jealousy you have nothing nice to say to her or about her? Then your rival and that same girl split and she starts to have eyes for you. Suddenly it is you with the prettiest girl at the prom. That’s the way I felt back in 2001 when Rick Pitino was named the head coach of my beloved Cardinals. I couldn’t wait to get that air brushed T-Shirt with our names on it to show my rival that she was my girl now. And when Rick Pitino became my coach I couldn’t wait to wear that “Got Rick” T-Shirt to show college basketball fans that he was our coach.
Just as he had done in Lexington Pitino didn’t waste any time changing the climate and the culture of the Louisville basketball program. Things started to look different and things started to feel different. His name alone gets you on the front page and Louisville who was coming off a bad 10 yr. run was a household name again. In just 4 years the Cardinals would return to the Final Four. With success on the court going as planned Coach Pitino wasn’t having as much of it in his personal life. Admitting to an affair in 2009 things became cloudy but the program continued to move forward. It didn’t hurt that a new arena was in the works. Coach Pitino wasn’t going to play second fiddle to horse shows and truck pulls and would start immediately to petition for that new arena. He and Tom Jurich would get their wish. Some coined it the Pitino Palace when the Yum Center opened in 2010.
With a new arena and a new brand Louisville Basketball was back in the spotlight. They say pride comes before the fall. I don’t think you could have had more pride than what I felt in my heart walking out of the Georgia Dome that night in Atlanta when my Cardinals had just won their third National Title. I didn’t think I’d ever live to see it. And that entire year was special to me. That joy would soon turn back into heartache and in 2015 those clouds rolled back in. The stripper scandal unlike the Sypher scandal was not going away. And while the program still waits on the final word from the NCAA on that now here we are amid yet another scandal. I don’t think this is a sign that he’s done anything wrong but just might be a sign that it’s Ricks time to move on. College basketball might not have a grand exit planned for one of its most influential figures but all those coaches and players he’s mentored along the way and who are now coming out in support of him is a pretty good one in my opinion.
The hiring of Rick Pitino was the cornerstone of Tom Jurich’s career at Louisville and perhaps is the reason he feels so much loyalty. So much that he is willing to jump on the sword with his friend. The Pitino hire gave Jurich the juice he needed to start making ground breaking moves in the athletic department. Tom Jurich celebrated his 20th anniversary as the Cardinals athletic director this year. The impact he’s had on the Louisville athletic programs are nothing short of amazing. He turned an athletic program once mocked as Silo University into a major brand. The Silos are gone and now only serve as a shadow of another stadium expansion. I think one of his bigger achievements is pushing the Louisville football brand on Thursday night football. He was willing to take that leap with ESPN when it wasn’t a popular thing and has been credited by them for the success of that platform. And that platform helped put a budding program on the map. After years of hopping around from conference to conference that visibility helped Louisville Football and the Louisville athletic program find a permanent home in college sports. And without Tom Jurich there would be no ACC affiliation. Period!
I got to drink a beer one time with Tom Jurich at a Louisville event. I say drink a beer because that’s the story I tell. It was actually a couple drinks of beer while I told him how things had changed with UofL Sports in my lifetime and thanked him for his contribution. The picture from that day hangs in my man cave. He always greeted me with a smile and a handshake after that. There is more to Tom than just all his accomplishments. He is a nice guy who I believe genuinely cares about the University of Louisville, Louisville fans and the student athletes on campus. They might not ever build a statue of this man on campus but all the new buildings, and personal achievements of those student athletes he helped along the way will serve as monuments to his great legacy.
They came in as Batman and Robin saving the Louisville athletic program when it needed a new direction and now might go out like Thelma and Louise holding hands as their careers at Louisville go over the cliff. During the prime of my life these guys have indirectly had a substantial impact on my life. If it is the end of the Jurich and Pitino era then I want to thank them both for the good they have done along the way. I don’t know what my last 16 years of being a Louisville fan would have looked like had they not been a part of it but I don’t think it would have been as fun as it was. We all fall short of perfection and the only thing you can do is appreciate that good someone does.
I’m really hurt by all this stuff but probably not as much as I would’ve been 10 years ago. Growing older I’ve gained some new perspective. My Louisville Cardinals are still an important part of my life but it’s not life and death. I will survive this and the University of Louisville will survive this. There are going to be some dark times it appears but I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go thru it with than the Cardinal Nation. We have one of the best fan-bases in all of college sports and that is ultimately the reason for all the success to begin with.
Over the next couple of weeks let’s keep things in perspective. Now is not the time to run and hide. Wear your Cardinal gear with pride and continue to support the student athletes. They deserve our best especially those guys on the basketball team who while just starting their journey in life have had to deal with so much.
Louisville fans prove yet again how they are among the best in the country in supporting their basketball programs. According to the official NCAA numbers just released The Louisville men’s Basketball program finished 3rd in the nation in college basketball attendance, averaging 20,846 fans per game. The Louisville women’s Basketball program finished fifth with 8,256 fans per game. The two programs combined had a total average attendance of 29,102 and that puts Louisville at #1 in the country. Our attendance for women’s basketball was better than five ACC men’s programs Notre Dame, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Miami.
U of L spent most of the 2000s fourth or fifth in average attendance until the KFC Yum Center, with a 22,090 capacity, opened in 2010. The Cardinals have finished third every year since. Freedom Hall officially seated 18,865.
Louisville ranked 5th and was one of the schools that had the most people watch them with 554,803 in 36 games last season in home-away-neutral settings and was one of just three schools to average at least 20,000 fans per game.
The ACC ranked #2 in conference attendance figures with a total of 3,005,685 fans that attended games and an average of 11,257. In Division I, attendance totaled 24,407,410 for the year. Although it was down slightly from a season ago, the attendance is the ninth highest total in history. However, the NCAA tournament total attendance increased. The tournament earned its third-highest attendance in history with 739,798 fans. The record-setting total of 800,377 came in 2012-13.
Kudos to the Cardinal Nation for showing up last season. Let’s do it again this season. Go Cards!
Media Day is a signal that our sports dry spell is almost over Cardinal Fans. Another exciting Louisville Football season is now only weeks away. It’s always great to hear from Coach Petrino, his staff and the players during this time of the year. Especially since the end of last season left most of us with more questions than answers. Talking with these guys on Saturday morning I felt the anticipation and excitement from them to get to Indy and open up the season. Everyone seems very optimistic but did not undersell the hard work they still had ahead of them to get ready.
Raise your hand if you thought that the Cardinal’s offense became too one dimensional at the end of last season. That’s one of the main things that Coach Petrino addressed in the off season. He went out and hired Coach Lonnie Galloway and Mike Summers to be co-offensive coordinators. With the help of Coach Summers the 2006 Cardinals were ranked 2nd in the nation in total offense. He is a mastermind of manufacturing and establishing a run game. Add that with Coach Galloway’s track record of recruiting and producing NFL talent at the wide receiver position the Cardinals could quickly develop into one of the nation’s most versatile offenses this season. It doesn’t hurt that they will have guys like Lamar Jackson and Reggie Bonnafon in the huddle.
Last season also left me wanting to see improvement on the Offensive Line and on the defensive side of the ball. Both units have new coaches and a new look. Both Coach Summers and Coach Sirmon know football and both know how to teach it. You can’t help but not get excited hearing these guys talk about their groups Saturday. And talking with their players you can see how they have bought in.
Much has been said about the performance last year by the Offensive Line… statistically Louisville had one of the worst last season. That criticism didn’t fall on deaf ears and both the players and the coaching staff seem motivated to get things turned around.
Coach Petrino went out and brought back Coach Mike Summers to help improve things on the O-Line. I got a chance to raise my question about the O-Line with Coach Summers yesterday. I feel like we’ve had size and ability but have lacked the intensity and nastiness at times up front. My question got a chuckle from Coach. But I want guys that want to line up and go hit the other team in the mouth.
Coach Summers has a great football mind and knows that it all starts with fundamentals. In listening to him yesterday It seems that he will use that philosophy to bring much needed improvement to his group this season. I think he will have those guys ready to be more physical and playing harder. We will see improvement.
I’ve written a lot and talked a lot about the Cardinals new defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon. This morning at Media Day I could talk to coach and ask him about some of those talking points.
Back during Spring Ball and again when I watched practice on Monday I noticed a buzz about the defensive unit; guys bouncing around more, having fun and keeping it simple. The thing I loved about the Vance Bedford years was how they had guys flying all over the field making plays and just hitting people. And they had fun doing it. Over the last two seasons I feel like the defense got too mechanical and there wasn’t enough freedom within the scheme to just go out and make a play.
Enter Coach Sirmon a guy I think can bring some of that excitement back. Watching his drills, you can see the way he wants his group to be active and by how he instructs you can tell he wants to keep it simple. Sirmon is blue collar football guy like Vance… these guys take Football and make it easy. Go hit somebody, make a play and have fun. You’ll hear me ask Coach Sirmon about this in the video.
Coach Klenakis is an offensive mastermind in his own right. So much so that he has his own three DVD set about the Pistol Offense. Coach Klenakis will use some of that knowledge this season coaching the tight ends. I think his knowledge will help that unit with their blocking assignments in run game and help them with their run after contact ability. Coach Klenakis is a program first, team first kind of guy.
I got to talk with Linebacker James Hearns, DB’s Jaire Alexander and Chucky Williams on Saturday. These guys are the backbone of what will be a very solid defensive group for the Cardinals this season. These three guys have a lot of swagger and they are ready to line up and get after it.
I love Reggie. He is my favorite player on the Louisville Football team and will be one of my favorite players of all-time. A genuine all-American kid. He understands the value of where he grew up, has a strong work ethic and takes pride in the program and himself. I had the opportunity to give him a hug and walk off the field with Reggie after the victory at Notre Dame (https://youtu.be/qCN8yvDDhGk).
I’ll think about that moment in my final days. As a long time, college football fan to have the opportunity to walk off that field and up that ramp after a big victory was surreal. And to watch a freshman QB get that program defining win for his city and his school shortly after losing his father was poetic. Could be a 30 for 30… Reggie Bonnafon is a winner and there isn’t a football program in the country who could’t use a guy like this.
What else is there left to say about Lamar Jackson. He is an elite athlete that has added both size and speed during the off-season. He has also worked on becoming a more complete QB. Having a more versatile offense around him with an established run game and that should make Jackson more dangerous this season than he was during his Heisman campaign. That should scare college football but it hasn’t. There hasn’t been a more disregarded Heisman Trophy winner ever. But that hasn’t fazed this young man and he is determined once again to prove his detractors wrong. This young man impresses me in so many ways but it’s his humble nature that I most admire. He’s not worried about the praise or the spotlight and just wants to help his team win games.
With the sports ultimate individual prize already in his possession there’s only one trophy that is on his mind this season. Talking with Lamar on Saturday morning he thinks that the Cardinals have the team to win a national championship. I’m not ready to make my travel plans just yet but I wouldn’t bet against Lamar Jackson.
The offensive line really did take the brunt of the fault for last seasons failures. And they do deserve a certain level of criticism. But these guys seem to have handled that criticism well and talk like they have really bought into what Coach Summers is trying to teach them. Lukayus McNeil, and Geron Christian are a couple of great young men and big young men. They will be the backbone of a new and improved offensive line this season.
I had a great time out at the first practice of the fall camp today. The first thing I noticed was how the guys seem to have put on a lot of muscle. They say championships are won in the weight room. It was obvious on that practice field today that this team has hit the weight room hard. Reggie Bonnafon’s muscles have muscles… he is a physical specimen folks. It is also obvious that this football team has a lot of athletes. Athletes at the skill positions and on both sides of the football.
There is going to be a lot of beef on the offensive line this season, but we’ve had size. We just haven’t had that nasty size. Our offensive line came off as very soft in several games last season. That should all change with the addition of Coach Summers. This is the guy that will implement that nasty streak. It is fun to watch him interact with his guys in practice. The Louisville offensive line was statistically one of the worst in college football last season. That will change this season.
Have a guy like Lamar Jackson on your team and you are going to win football games. Have a guy like Lamar Jackson on your team with talent and athleticism around him and you are going to win championships. Last season Lamar provided a smoke screen for a team with a lot of problems. Biggest being the offensive line and a defense that was lost. This season instead of having to worry about winning games for his team he will just have to help his team win games. Lamar has also transformed himself physically and has added bulk to his freakishly athletic frame. Get ready for Lamar 2.0 folks…
Driving a car is easy, but when you took your driver’s test and were worrying about all the little details it wasn’t that easy. Coach Grantham was a very good defensive coach but his defense was very detail oriented. Guys were more worried about where they were supposed to be under instead of just making the play. Enter the genius of Coach Sirmon. He is teaching his guys to make plays instead of just being in the position to make plays. His defense is very active and this year’s defense will be on skates flying around all over the field. You can already see the transformation. His defense is going to be less worried about the details and more focused on just kicking tail. More active and less reactive. And his guys are having fun. Another important part in all of this. I didn’t see a defense las season that was having fun.
I could talk about this team for days. I’ve only been excited about a few Louisville Football teams like I am with this one. We are going to enjoy cheering for these guys. After today I wish I was loading up the family and heading to Indy next weekend. Go Cards!