Notebook: Louisville Football Fall Camp Week 1
The first week of fall camp for the Louisville Football program is officially in the books.
On the morning of Tuesday, August 4, the Cardinals gathered on the fields outside of the Trager Center and were able to conduct their first practice of the 2020 preseason. Camp continued throughout the week and into the weekend, with the program finally taking Sunday off.
Media was barred from physically attending camp, but several coaches & players were made available over the week to give updates on the status of camp, as well as discuss a variety of other topics pertaining to the program.
Louisville Report was there for it all, and below is our notebook of everything that transpired during the first week of camp.
The Cardinals will return to the practice fields on Monday morning to commence the second week of 2020 Fall Camp.
Program Welcomes Return to Fall Camp
Following a turbulent offseason caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Louisville had a bit of normalcy return to their program with the start of fall camp.
"It was a good first day. Our guys were eager to get back on the field and I was excited to see them all back together," head coach Scott Satterfield said.
"It was not very different. It was just good to get back out there with the guys," redshirt junior quarterback Micale Cunningham said. "We had great weather today, so we had fun flying around. It was just good to get back out there as a whole."
Offense Working to Eliminate Big Plays
A season ago, the Cardinals ranked 24th in total offense and rushing offense last season, but were hampered by negative plays that disrupted drives.
“We are an explosive offense and we can make some plays in the run and the pass down the field, we got to eliminate those negative plays - the tackles for loss, the sacks, the penalties,” head coach Scott Satterfield said. “If we can eliminate those plays, we can be that much more of an explosive offense.”
In year 2 of the Satterfield Era, redshirt junior quarterback Micale Cunningham says the team has a greater grasp of the offense this year and the coaches have increased the tempo in practices.
“Bringing that effort day-in and day-out,” Cunningham said. “As a whole we want to execute more.”
Micale Cunningham's Confidence is his Biggest Improvement
Out of all the on-field progress that quarterback Micale Cunningham made in 2019, head coach Satterfield believes that his confidence is what has taken the biggest leap forward in his time that he has known the signal caller.
"You can see that last year throughout the season as he progressed and as he played," Satterfield said. "By the end of the season, he felt so much more command of the offense."
Even with a stranglehold on the starting quarterback position, Cunningham hasn't let that alter his approach or mindset.
"I attack every day with the same mentality: to get better and make the guys around me better. To be more of a leader because I am in that [starting] role," Cunningham said. said. "Guys look at me kinda different, so I gotta know how to carry myself."
Fall Camp Held with Safety in Mind
The schedule for fall camp looks a bit different than it did a year ago due to COVID-19. It is more condensed as the breaks throughout the day have been removed for faster-paced practices.
Even with cases increasing around the country, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford said players haven’t felt unsafe during the pandemic.
“It’s our job to make sure we are listening to these guys,” Ledford said. “We care about these guys, their safety is first and foremost with us.”
Redshirt senior Robbie Bell said the team trusts the protocols put into place to curb the spread of the virus.
“Our entire camp is built around trying to limit contact as much as you can playing football and having a camp,” Bell said. “Obviously you’re going to think about it going to practice wearing a mask.”
Dwayne Ledford Looking For Next Key O-Line Contributor
In year one of the Scott Satterfield era, the program felt that they only had six offensive linemen in which they were comfortable with seeing meaningful game reps.
While that number is now up to seven, offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford isn't done quite yet. During the duration of fall camp, he is hoping to have eight guys in which he feels comfortable with game in and game out.
"I think it's not too far off (from finding the eighth guy)," Ledford said. "The more we opportunities we get to put these guys in game-like situations where the speed is a little bit faster than practices, I think that tells us a lot."
Ledford believes that when the program start conducting scrimmages in practice, that's when guys will really start to separate themselves.
"In these first two practices, those guys are being put in some roles in which we're seeing right away ... if they're going to be ready to compete for that seventh/eighth spot, and just kind of see how that plays out," he said.
Play at Offensive Tackle is "Coming Around Well"
Louisville lost both starting tackles in the offseasom, however the Cardinals are not in a bad spot at the position like one might think. In fact when asked how the play at the position has panned out over the first two days of fall camp, offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford said that "it's coming around well."
"That's something I'm very excited for - to kinda see some of these position battles that we're gonna be having through fall camp," Ledford said.
While the preseason depth chart clearly lists who is starting and who is the second string heading into fall camp, Ledford says that his plan is to rotate guys at numerous positions on the line in order to find the five best guys to put on the field.
Schedule Release Energizes Camp
Prior to the third day of the football program's fall camp, the players and coaches were able to take a look at their new schedule before hitting the practice fields. It's safe to say that it got them all juiced up.
"It's awesome. It's awesome to finally see team with actual dates," defensive coordinator Bryan Brown said in a teleconference after practice. "Our guys are excited. ... (Practice) had a little extra 'oomph'."
"The new schedule is definitely different, but we actually like it," redshirt junior cornerback Anthony Johnson said. "We like for the fact that we get to compete against an ACC opponent almost every week, and we just get to showcase how good we are. (I'm) looking forward to the competition."
Defensive Competition Showcases Numerous Standouts
While they have yet to conduct a scrimmage and COVID-19 has limited the amount of 11-on-11 reps taken thus far, that isn't stopping the players from giving it their all when stepping on the practice fields.
"We're competing our butts off on both sides of the ball, but defensively that the one thing I see," Brown said in a teleconference with reporters Thursday following practice. "Guys competing and punching the ball, they're competing their butts off - and that's what we look for."
Brown notes that fall camp has been rife with defensive positional battles. In fact, when asked who has stood out during practice, the second-year defensive coordinator listed numerous guys at each level.
Secondary Showing Growth Early in Camp
A secondary with more depth and added stability seeks improvement this fall, and redshirt junior cornerback Anthony Johnson has seen growth in the secondary in its second year playing under defensive coordinator Bryan Brown’s scheme.
“We have been having a lot of changes here, having the stability, the same coach, the same technique the same playbook, really helped us advance to have an advantage to play faster,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the next step for improvement for the secondary is to eliminate big plays while making big plays too.
“We want to be the guys that go take the ball out of the air when teams take those deep shots instead of giving them up,” he said.
Anthony Johnson asking Louisville to Continue Addressing Racial Injustice
Johnson, organized a peaceful protest with teammates, coaches and support staff on May 31 at the Walking Bridge, has continued to address the issue of racial injustice. The redshirt junior wants Louisville to use its platform this season
“We have talked with Coach Sattefield on some of the things we want to implement throughout the year and throughout the team with some of the social justice things that are coming up,” Johnson said. “I feel like Coach Satterfield and his staff have done a great job listening to us.”
Johnson says the team has decided on feasible goals that aren’t hard to do in addressing social justice. One of which is planning to wear shirts during pregame workouts that emphasize equality.
Position Flexibility Sought for Louisville Receivers
Competition has carried Louisville football’s receiving core early in fall camp as several players look to emerge as contributors this season.
“We have a lot of competition, we have some veteran guys and some young guys,” Brewer said. “Competition is the best thing that you can do to get better.”
Braden Smith, Justin Marshall, Corey Reed, and Jordan Watkins all have the opportunity to become Louisville's third go-to receiver.
Dez Fitzpatrick Focusing Teammates as a Leader
Entering his final season with the program, Dez Fitzpatrick is doing his best to be a leader for all his wide receiver teammates as the most experienced guy in the WR room.
“I try to give them certain sources and resources they can use,” Fitzpatrick said. “Trying to be a good leader and a good role model.”
Louisville wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer said Fitzpatrick recently spoke to the team about his experiences and journey as a college football player.
“He gives you so much more than production on the field,” Brewer said. “Around the building, being a student of the game, trying to show the young guys whether it is in the locker room or in meetings about how it is to be a professional, how to act the right way, how to practice the right way.”
Program Stressing Precautions after On-Campus COVID-19 Outbreak
During fall camp, Louisville Athletics announced a pause in four sports due to an an off-campus party that cause 29 positive COVID-19 cases, leading to a dismissal of three men's soccer players who "were the ones primarily responsible."
No football players tested positive, with cornerback Anthony Johnson & wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick saying that players take necessary precautions and avoid contact from people outside of the team.
“Our training staff does a really good job trying to contain us and keep us from exposure,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, it is on us.”
“I feel more safe in the stadium with all the precautions we are taking than outside in the real world,” receiver Dez Fitzpatrick said. “In the stadium, everyone has a mask on, the custodians have masks on, the food workers, the coaches, the trainers.”
Defensive Line Depth Slowly Shaping Into Form
While the Cardinals lost starting defensive linemen G.G. Robinson & Amonte Caban this past offseason due to graduation, defensive line coach Mark Ivey thinks Louisville is in much better shape thanks to the depth that has been developed at that spot since last year.
"We're getting a lot closer with what we'd like to do up front," Ivey said in a teleconference with reporters Saturday. His coaching style revolves heavily around rotating players in and out to keep everyone fresh throughout the game and season.
Ivey notes that Louisville's three preseason starters on the line - NT Jared Goldwire and DEs Tabarius Peterson & Dayna Kinnard - are "doing fantastic" but that they won't hold up all season if the load is placed squarely on them. That being said, he believes the twos and threes on the depth chart are really starting to step up.
Goldwire and Peterson Leading Fall Camp
Starting senior defensive linemen Jared Goldwire and Tabarius Peterson went to work this offseason with a focused approach.
Defensive line coach Mary Ivey thinks Peterson can be a star on Louisville’s defense this year, and he is playing with better technique and seems more determined according to Ivey.
“Tabarius Peterson is a consummate leader, he is a guy that does the right,” Ivey said. “He plays hard, he does the things you want him to do.”
Goldwire takes a different mentality into his final year of college football, and has a greater driving force this year.
“He fully understands this is his last time,” Ivey said. “If he wants to have any kind of chances to ever line up on a Sunday afternoon, then he has to have a great year because he hasn’t put enough out there prior to this year.”
Newcomers Bringing Talent to D-Line
A week into fall camp, freshmen Ja’Darien Boykin, Henry Bryant and Dezmond Tell have flashed some talent, and defensive line coach Mark Ivey says the freshmen continue to gain confidence as they learn more about the college game.
“The development of those younger guys right now and all the way up until we play a game and throughout the season is going to be paramount,” Ivey said. “Those are three really talented young kids. They are very similar to what you see with all young guys. They are all going to be great players.”
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