Every coach in the country has concerns about their teams going into spring practice and Louisville was no exception. The nation's 6th-ranked team had lost 12 starters, including the nation's most effecient passer Stefan LeFors, bruising back Eric Shelton, the team's leading tackler Robert McCune and nearly the entire secondary.
Then toss the question of how would this year's Louisville team approach the season and head coach Bobby Petrino had his share of concerns heading into spring.
On day one of spring practice, it was evident that this group of Cardinals had the talent to equal or better last year's 11-1 season and it didn't take long to realize the high amount of drive and determination that existed.
"I was impressed with the way the players came out with a lot of enthusiasm," Petrino said following day one. "I think the coaches did a good job of preparing them for practice."
The off-season work put in by the players during the winter months was visible. Many had added needed weight while also maintaining or improving their speed.
U of L Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Jason Veltkamp pointed out two players as examples.
"Abe Brown is up to 235-pounds. When we got here he was about 204 and a safety. Brandon Johnson has hit 220-pounds for the first time in his life. He was 198-pounds when we got here. Now they actually look like linebackers."
"Brandon Johnson ran faster this year than he did last year and Abe Brown ran exact same 40-yard time as he did last year," continued Veltkamp.
The following players are just a few that made a difference this spring. Players that performed well consistantly from start to finish.
Brian Brohm has has played
well in the three scrimmages
The experience he earned playing as a true freshman last fall was evident when he confidently took over the reigns of Petrino's offense. Replacing the nation's most efficient passer wouldn't be simple for anyone, but Brohm has been pretty efficient himself through three scrimmages. The sophomore has completed 64% of his 86 attempts, tossing for 595-yards and six touchdowns.
The junior entered spring practice lighter, a touch quicker and excited to finally get a true spring practice under his belt. He's ran better each time out, including a 98-yard performance during Saturday's scrimmage.
The redshirt freshman is making things difficult for quarterbacks. He is great with man coverage and has frequently deflected passes, as well as grab a couple of interceptions. His presence this fall will help the Cardinals boast of having one of the toughest groups of cornerbacks in the country.
The senior defensive end looks like a new and improved version of himself. He looks better than the Elvis Dumervil that recorded 52 tackles and 10 sacks as a junior. He's rushing the quarterback with even more purpose and effectively stopping the run.
Rimington List nominee Jason Spitz
The two-time All-Conference USA offensive guard was asked to move to center and he has done it extremely well. Penetration up the middle is close to impossible. Spitz looks right at home in his new spot on the line and will be considered on of the nation's best this fall.
He's bigger, stronger, faster and hungier. The senior from Albany, Georgia has become a vocal leader for the Cardinals defensive line. He's drawn a couple of comparisons to former U of L great and NFL All-Pro Ted Washington during the spring.
Redshirt freshman running back George Stripling will allow Coach Petrino to continue to have a balanced and multifaceted running attack. Stripling has run well all spring and rushed 39 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns in the team's three scrimmages.
I'd say that it's safe to say that the Fern Creek grad has been the talk of the spring. When Urrutia reported last fall he looked lost and slow. This spring he has emerged as a serious offensive threat. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound receiver caught 16 passes for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns in the three scrimmages.
The Spring Game begins at 7:00 p.m., with the parking lots at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium opening at noon on Friday.