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Notes and Observations from Louisville's First Spring Practice of 2024

Here is our notebook of everything that transpired during Louisville football's first day of spring practice.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Spring ball is officially here.

On Tuesday, the Louisville football program gathered at the Trager Center, and conducted their first of 15 sessions for their 2024 spring practice.

The session open to fans and the media, and Louisville Report was there for it all to watch the first day of the Cardinals' month-long period of spring ball.

Related: Louisville HC Jeff Brohm Talks Start of Spring Practice

Considering it was the very first day of practice, there is bound to be an overreaction or two, especially since players were just in soft shell helmets and shoulder pads. That being said, below is our notebook of the more notable happenings that transpired during the first day of camp:

  • Not a ton of surprises when it came to who was running with the first team:
    • Texas Tech transfer Tyler Shough got almost all of the first team reps, which was expected (more on him in a bit). Behind him, walk-on Harrison Bailey got most of the second team reps, but Pierce Clarkson got his fair share with the twos are well. Brady Allen was mostly in the mix with the threes.
    • Toledo transfer Peny Boone got a lot of the RB1 reps, but Maurice Turner, Miami transfer Donald Chaney, Keyjuan Brown and Isaac Brown all got plenty of run throughout the afternoon.
    • Alabama transfer Ja'Corey Brooks and South Alabama transfer Caullin Lacy were the two wide receivers most regularly with the ones, although the position shuffled often throughout the day. Tuskegee transfer Antonio Meeks, Jadon Thompson and Chris Bell were the guys who were most often shuffling with the ones.
    • The first team offensive line stayed relatively consistent throughout the day: Trevonte Sylvester at LT, Michael Gonzalez at LG, NIU transfer Pete Nygra at C, Austin Collins at RG and Yale transfer Jonathan Mendoza at RT. Renato Brown will likely eventually slide back into RG, but he is still dealing with an injury.
    • Louisville got almost every single tight end involved throughout the day, but the most often playing with the ones with Miami transfer Jaleel Skinner and Jamari Johnson.
    • With as deep as the defensive line is, they shuffled this position group the most during the first practice. That being said, the primary first-teamers here were Ashton Gillotte and Adonijah Green on the edges, and Dezmond Tell plus FIU transfer Jordan Guerad on the interior. Tennessee transfer Tyler Barron was dealing with a minor injury, otherwise he would likely slide in opposite of Gillotte.
    • I didn't have the best vantage point with the linebackers throughout most of the day, but from what I could see, T.J. Quinn and Jaylin Alderman got most of the first team reps at inside linebacker, with Texas A&M transfer Jurriente Davis and Stanquan Clark getting in the mix too. Over at STAR, Benjamin Perry was the primary starter here, unsurprisingly.
    • Cornerback stayed pretty consistent all afternoon. Quincy Riley and Illinois transfer Tahveon Nicholson were the most common first stringers, with UCF transfer Corey Thornton and UNC transfer Tayon Holloway right behind them. Thornton was most often used corner in nickel sets.
    • Over on the back end at safety, Louisville used a three-man first-team rotation of Devin Neal, plus Tennessee transfer Wesley Walker and Tamarion McDonald. I'd expect M.J. Griffin to slide back into a starting role eventually once fully healthy. 
  • During the position drills, I spent most of my time watching the quarterbacks and receivers, and some of the running backs (I'll shift focus to other position groups in later practices). With Shough coming off of a broken fibula, I fully expected him to not be a full go to start spring ball, or at the very least wear a non-contact practice jersey. This was not the case at all. Not only was he actively participating, you wouldn't have guessed that he was coming off of a major injury by how well he was moving around. When it comes to his ability to throw the ball, he has a very snappy and effortless throwing motion, and more often than not puts it right where he wants it to go. He's the runaway QB1 by far.
  • Let me touch on the other quarterbacks for a moment. Bailey also has some good zip and accuracy on his throws, as well as some solid footwork in the pocket to go along with it. Something I immediately noticed with Clarkson that I didn't see last fall is that his throwing motion looks like he's trying to put a lot of effort behind it. Almost like he's preparing to chuck 50 yards down field every time. It didn't seem to impact his accuracy though, which is still his calling card. One of the best throws of the day came from him in 7-on-7s when he threw the ball to the sideline over a defender in a tight window. Then with Brady, he's got more of an over-the-top throwing motion now, and seems to have dramatically worked on his accuracy issues that I saw in fall camp last year.
  • The very first things I noticed when I walked into the Trager Center were the builds of both Brooks and Lacy. Brooks is much bigger and longer than I expected, and almost looks like if Kevin Durant gained some weight and played receiver. Lacy is the opposite, and definitely looks shorter than what I remember from watching his highlights (but that's not bad, more in a bit).
  • One quick note from what I noticed about the running backs: Louisville will most certainly have a much more physical run style in 2024. Both Boone and Chaney, who I assume will eventually become RB1 and 2, are certified beefy boys.
  • I have a couple brief notes on the 1-on-1 period before I transition to 7-on-7 and 11-on 11. This period is where is began to see that Lacy can be elite slot receiver in the ACC. Because of his size, his release off the line is insanely fast, and he routinely got quick and easy separation here. Well, except for his rep against Riley, who made a great play on the ball in tight coverage.
  • A couple other observations from this period: Meeks had a very difficult sideline catch at one point, and Jahlil McClain could eventually elevate himself into the main receiver mix simply because of his open field speed.
  • Now onto the 7-on-7 period. During this segment of practice, and really for most of the afternoon, Thompson was one of the most consistent pass catchers during this session. Whether it was over the middle or close to the sideline, he was able to get open more often than not and make easy catches. Jimmy Calloway also made a few plays as well, which was good to see.
  • Something that I picked up on earlier in the practice was that Louisville was very intentional in getting the tight end position as many pass catching reps. Johnson, Skinner, Nate Kurisky and Kentucky transfer Izayah Cummings all had multiple targets and catches. There was even a rep where Louisville experimented with a formation where Skinner - who is 6-5/225 - was split out wide. Both him and Johnson stood out the most in this group, with Johnson making a couple tough catches through contact.
  • Of course, the defense made plenty of plays too. STAR Antonio Watts had an interception early in practice, Riley made an impressive diving pass break up over the middle in man coverage, Holloway made a great play on the ball in coverage up the sideline, and cornerback Aaron Williams delivered a good hit to force a pass break up.
  • Onto the 11-on-11 period. This is where the wide receiver position really seemed to shine. Thompson had a play early on where he split the safeties up the middle, but an under thrown ball prevented what would have been a massive gain. McClain made a great effort on a sliding sideline catch right in front of me (he was out of bounds, but still). Bell had a nice sideline toe tap catch with a defender draped over him. Meeks hauled in a very difficult catch in double coverage on an accurate strike from Bailey.
  • When it came to running the ball, it was tough going, as the defensive front did a good job at keeping whoever was in the backfield contained. However, Boone had some really good runs late in the practice, plus Keyjuan Brown had a run the perfectly put on display his top tier vision.
  • Towards the end, there seemed to be an emphasis on the quarterbacks running the ball on designed runs. Shough was able to pick up nice chunks of yardage this way, but Clarkson looked the best when it came to this facet of practice. His burst when it comes to dashing out of the pocket is next level.
  • Overall, I think my main takeaway from the first day of practice is that Louisville looks so much more athletic than last year's team did. Not to say that a team that went 10-4 lacked athleticism, but the Cardinals' overall speed and length seems to be much improved. We'll see how strong they look when they slap on the pads later in the spring.

(Photo via Matt McGavic - Louisville Report)

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