(Photo of Scott Satterfield: Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As quickly as it began, the Louisville football program has already reached the halfway point of their five-week 2021 spring ball schedule.
Following their practice session on Wednesday, head coach Scott Satterfield took some time to meet with the media. He discussed how the first half of spring practice has gone, how the new members of the staff have adjusted, reflected on the last year dealing with COVID, addressed several positions on the roster, and more.
Below is the transcript from the press conference as well as the video:
(On how the first half of spring practice has gone)
It's been really good, we've kind of spread it out. We've only had one time where we were back-to-back, the rest of the times we're going at least a day in between, which gives you a lot of time to really dissect that practice, and really kind of hone in on the things that we're doing well and what we need to do better in. Then also evaluating everybody. I thik that's what springs are for, just to kind of get a really good evaluation on guys, and particularly guys that didn't play as much last year, that will have new roles this year, then also you know the newcomers. We've had some great work with that. It's been it's been a fun spring just overall, really this whole semester, for us coaches and players. You walk into building, it's just a great vibe and everybody's coming in here to get better. We're still, obviously, in this pandemic, and obviously we've learned a lot over the last 10 months - or a year really I guess, it's been about a year really, we're coming up on that. We're coping with that well, but I just think that everything that's going on, on the outside, these guys really want a lot - I feel like they just want more football, because they're over here a lot more, I feel like. Just studying film, and getting extra work in, and doing extra things in the training room and the weight room. But overall, it's a great environment to come to work and get better.
(On how the new members of the coaching staff have adjusted, and his thoughts on new safeties coach Greg Gasparato)
I worked with Greg at App State as a GA, then he left, then he came back as a full time (coach). Really good coach, does a great job, is more of a teacher more than a screamer. He's going to teach these guys what we want out of the safeties. But I think overall, guys are adjusting well. They kind of got thrown in this thing and pretty quickly. They get here and yeah guys, we're playing spring ball next week. They've done a good job with it, it's been fun to kind of watch them and get together with our guys and mesh. Our guys are learning them, but they're learning to guys. It goes both ways. As a player, you got to look at how the personality of the coach is going to be, and kind of how I'm going to react to that, and those type things, that's going well. But yeah, it's been good. I think all their new coaches - we got everybody here, and they're all kind of blended in well with everybody. One of the things that we do like, obviously, it makes it easier for them because we do have a lot of guys that have played, that have already been in our system, that know what to do. I think that helps a lot. You can almost go into the meeting room, and those kids can almost coach the coaches, which I kind of like that.
(On the running backs)
(Jalen) Mitchell, he's a walking muscle. That guy, I don't know how you can put any more muscle on him really. I told coach Mike (Sirignano) he just needs to go in and stretch, don't need to be lifting any more weights. He's big man, but he's doing really, really good. He's kind of picked off where he left in the Wake Forest game, that last game. I'll tell you what else about Mitchell, is that he's in our 10 strong group, which is our leadership group. He's in that, he's done a fabulous job as far as leadership goes. I'm really proud of him for that, and he brings it every day. He doesn't say a whole lot, but when he does talk, the guys listen. Hassan (Hall) is doing, I think doing better. Hassan, and he'll tell you it was a disappointing year for him last year, I just think overall - well, he had a lot of different things going on, personally and football-wise. But, he's in a better place. He's breaking off some good runs, he's staying on his feet, he's working hard, and all those things. He's got a ton of potential. He's that game breaking speed, and we've seen it in the last couple practices, particularly last Friday, and today he had two where he kind of broke out. He's that guy, you kind of - if you go to sleep, you look up, all of a sudden he's bursting. Then I think Greg (DeRosiers), the other kind of running back, he's put on some weight too. I asked him today, and he's up to about 204/205, and he's doing some really good things. He's got some good burs, he's a great athlete, This guy's got good balance, good hands, I could see him certainly playing for us at running back this year. (Trevion) Cooley, he's kind of coming up. Today was his first day where - Cooley kinda did everything today. He's back kind of going, so we'll kind of slowly but surely get him in to get more reps, but it's good to have him back out there. So you know you're looking at those four guys, and they're doing some good things.
(On what the running backs can add to the offense)
This is the most we've checked it down since we've been here, which is great. We got to be able to do that. I think within our schemes, we're doing a few more things where we are getting the back out. So now that quarterback, in his mind, it's like, 'Okay, it's not there, let me dump it off'. So now, you don't take as many sacks, you don't take as many pressures in the pocket. You just dump the ball off and let those guys go to work, and we're doing a much better job with that. We call it a check downs and first downs. If you check the ball down, then that has a great opportunity where he can go get that first down. I think Mitchell's done some great work with those linebackers, I think Greg has, both of those guys got a great feel for that.
(On how Malik Cunningham has tried to cut down on his turnover numbers)
What we're doing every day this year in spring practice, we've done a turnover circuit, which is offense on defense, utilizing both guys. Defense, obviously, wants to create turnovers, in this case fumbles, we're talking fumbles. We got several different drills that we're working with. We got some things from the New England Patriots that they've been doing for years, that we started to do. I think that helps. It's just a huge emphasis on it with Malik, because you go back and you watch some of his film, as soon as he goes to take off running, his hands separate from the ball. So we just got to get that great habit of, as he goes to take off running, bringing both hands with him. That's hard to break that habit if you've been doing that your whole life, because he's such a great athlete. He takes off running, and he's running like this. So you just got to coach him up on that, really harping on it. He's done a better job with that. But today again, we do something that we started this as well called 'sudden change' throughout our practice. The guys don't know when it's gonna come, I don't tell anybody, and all of a sudden we put the ball down and we play ball. Today, we put the ball on the plus-16, 2nd and five, we call up a pass play, Malik takes it down, but he does a good job of it time. He takes it down with two hands, he goes around the left side, he ends up scoring a touchdown. We don't ever want to take away that threat, because it is a great threat. That's a great thing that we can do against defenses, he's such a talent to be able to do that. So we just got to, in a proper way, where we're not obviously not losing the ball.
(On if anyone else other than Jack Fagot and Desmond Daniels has undergone a position change)
I can't think of anybody else at this point in time, but I think Jack's done a really good job down at Card. I think that's a good spot for him. He's really filled in well there, and learned it, and done some great things. But I can't think of anybody else. If there's somebody that we see we need to move around, we kind of will, but there really hasn't been a whole lot of movements, other than some offensive linemen where we've kind of let them play different positions: guard, tackle those type of things, but that's gonna happen anyway because we like to cross train those guys. But there's not anybody that we've kind of put from offense or defense, or slid into another position. Greg (Rossiers), the running back who was a wideout last fall, that we moved to running back. I feel like running back's a better spot for him. for sure. I think he can help us there, and out of the backfield catching the ball, and the quarterbacks feel good about getting him the ball in that scenario.
(On the addition of David Cooper as a recruiting coordinator)
I think Coop will come in and really - man, he'll help bolster our recruiting, there's no question about it. He's a great personality, he's a hard worker, comes highly recommended by a lot of different folks. He's been in the SEC at Florida and Texas A&M, and some other places as well. We're excited about getting him on board. He's not even here yet, but he's already working hard. We're going to add some more spots as well. We've got a new graphics person that'll be coming in, a new video person is coming in, and another recruiting type person that we're going to look to hire as well. Hopefully in the next week or two, we'll be able to get those announced.
(On how much that helps the program level the playing field with recruiting)
There's no question that we were not where we needed to be, where we are in this level of recruiting. It's all about getting as many people out there and building relationships as you possibly can, and we were kind of behind in that in the last year. Partly, that was because of the pandemic, and we made some cuts and didn't add positions back, and we're able to add those back now. But we have to be able to compete in recruiting, we all know that's the name of the game. You got to bring kids in that can help you play, and it makes coaching a lot easier, I can tell you that, when you got some players to go out there and make plays for you. We got to continue to add that department, and we are. I think the guys that we've had here in the past, Tyler McIntyre and Pete Nochta, those guys have done a great job really kind of holding the fort down, and really undermanned. But we did sign a really, really good class last year, even with that. 10 of them are already here right now, we're really excited about these 10 and can't wait for the new guys to get here to summer.
(On what the last year has been like living in a COVID world)
I remember on that Friday, our spring practice, I said, 'Hey guys, I hear there's something out there, this virus, make sure you wash your hands, we'll see you in a week'. Then we don't see them until middle of June. It's unbelievable. Really, just patience, I think that's probably the biggest thing, is to have patience really throughout this whole thing. So much of unknowns that we went through, and all the changing, and we're still changing. Like Monday, we were gonna practice and then we didn't. We had to push it back another week. All the things that we had, and the changes that we've had, we're still going through it. I just hope that - it looks like there may be some light at the end of the tunnel at this point, as you start looking at the - numbers are starting to come down, the vaccine is starting to roll out. We're hoping that, over the next couple months, this trend continues. With the news that we had last week, as far as the dead period getting extended to May 31, maybe June? We'll see if we can kind of get opened up, because we would love to be able to host recruits. They're frustrated. You think about what those these guys have had to go through, these recruits, I mean, I just I can't even imagine being a parent or a recruit, and not being able to go talk to the coaches on campus, and that's happening now. The last time I've been out, was 13 months ago in January. It's just been a long time since we've been able to see recruits. Maybe this summer that'll open back up, and if not, maybe by the fall we can bring them on campus to see our games. I'm hoping we'll be able to have fans throughout the country to be able to come to games in the fall. We'll see where we're at. I know it's been hard on everybody. Everybody. It doesn't matter what your profession, it's been it's been hard, it's been frustrating, it's been different. We're all anxious and excited for what we can see, maybe that we get back a little bit normalcy. I feel like this fall, it still won't be totally normal, but it'll be close. I think we proved last year, football did, that you can go outside and play, and get these games and play these games. I think we, not one time that I know of, did this virus transpire through playing football. Obviously, we all know what went on the outside, what it does. But on the football field, I think we just - our sport's done a great job with that, and hopefully we'll continue to do that as we head throughout the rest of this semester.
(On having an increased focus on athletes' mental health)
When I became a head coach back in 2013-14, right in there, that's when I really became aware of it. The things that came across my desk back then at that point in time, there was a lot of mental health issues then. I think for me over the years, you're just hyper aware of it. I think that's why - even right from the start when this was happening, I was talking to our administration and our people like, 'Listen, I worry about the mental state of our guys'. I don't think that's changing, I really don't. I just think in young people in general, that is something that we have to deal with, and we have to address. We are very aware of it, and that's why we have open lines of communication throughout this whole building. Maybe they won't come talk to me, but maybe they'll talk to Pete Nochta in recruiting, or somebody else in our building. We got to continue to have those open lines of communication. I think that's got to be at the forefront of what we're doing, and what we're talking about with with these young people.
(On the competition at nose tackle following Jared Goldwire's departure)
Dezmond Tell's been out, so he hadn't been practicing, so we're kind of at a disadvantage again right there. That's a work in progress, I can tell you. We got to get better there, we're not where we need to be. That'll be a spot where we'll continue to look out throughout the country for players, for that spot. I think that's a need for us. I think as we move throughout this semester into summer, we'll kind of see what becomes available within that. But if not, you get Dezmond Tell back, and you got some other guys that are coming in, that we'll take a look at that spot as well. Then the guys that are here playing got to get better also. Goldwire was a good, solid player for us up front. When he didn't play when he was in the game last fall, there was a difference. You could tell. That's a big need for us right there. We got to get better in that spot.
(On who has stood out the most in spring ball)
I think Kendrick Duncan has really caught my eye at safety. Number one, he looks the part. He is a big human being and safety. Long arms, built well, probably around 215, has a great knack and savviness for playing the position. He's coming from Georgia Southern that runs a very similar defense that we play, and so he understood what he needed to do. His first six or seven practices, he's making plays every time. He has really stood out to me. I think YaYa (Diaby) has really stood out up front, the defensive line position. I think he's made a lot of plays there up front. We all have a high ceiling, we think he's gonna be really good, and he's just kind of coming to that. Trevor Reid is a guy, left tackle, that I think has really stepped his game up. He is one of the more athletic lineman in the country. He's 6-5, 305 pounds, he can do a backflip. Being able to do a backflip is one thing, but learning how to block is another, and he's done a great job with that. We've moved Adonis Boone inside a few practices, and we put Trevor with the ones at left tackle, and man he's done a great job. We're kind of playing with that lineup up front, where we're gonna have as much depth this year that we've had since we've been here over the last couple of years. We're excited about that, and some young guys have really stepped up as well. Michael Gonzalez, really good player. He was working with the ones the last two practices, kind of rotating in there, and he's a guy can play tackle. He gives us some more depth at tackle. Luke Kandra is another guy who didn't play much last year, had a shoulder injury, but really playing well at guard for us right now. Big strong guy. Man, I'm excited about what Luke's gonna bring to the table as well. Bryan Hudson, who came in from Virginia Tech, is in the mix. He's playing guard/center, and he's working ones and twos. He's doing a lot of great things as well. We got a lot of depth up there, which is very exciting to have that up front. With a lot of young players, too. I think the future is going to be really good up front. If we can get our O-line and D line playing a high level, then you give yourself a much better chance.
(On if Hudson could be a day one starter)
He could, absolutely. He's gonna be pushing guys up front. If he doesn't start, he's gonna be playing, I can tell you that I mean. He's that kind of player. Comes in, and works hard every day, good demeanor. He'll be in the mix.
(On what he's seen out of the wide receivers stepping up)
Those guys have played well. Braden Smith has done some really good things that we can count on him. Shai Werts has coming in, and he'll play. He's gonna play a lot, he'll be in the mix. To me, him and Braden and JJ, it'll be those inside guys, all three will be able to make plays for us. Shai made a big time play today on a touchdown across the middle, and a nice back-shoulder catch as well today. He's a guy that played quarterback, so he's not really had an opportunity to make these plays. When you can see a guy who caught, reached back, make a back shoulder catch, that was impressive. You know it's something when he comes back, and the players are giving him high fives and all that. He's making plays for us, Christian Fitzpatrick's a big target on the outside, and Justin Marshall's had a nice spring for us. Justin's got, to me, a lot of potential. He's made a lot of plays as well. We're not going to replace, I don't think, a Tutu Attwell, a Dez Fitzpatrick, this early in the season. We got to find ways where we can, where these guys can come in and make plays in their own way, and really help our offense. But I think it's certainly going to be probably by committee this year as you look at all those names we just mentioned, that just kind of come in and help the offense.
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