--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photos by Seth Spalding
The Louisville Cardinals hosted media day for football Saturday, giving reporters and photographers their first official look at the 2018 Louisville Cardinals.
While players and coaches talked to the media, a few things stood out:
Brian VanGorder is different that Peter Sirmon
Multiple players and head coach Bobby Petrino commented on Louisville’s defense, and what is different about it. VanGorder’s language is different than Sirmon’s, and he brings a lot from the NFL.
“When he walks into a room, you feel his presence immediately.” Louisville cornerback PJ Mbanasor said, “His aggression, with the way he talks, the way he demands things, it’s kinda more of an emphasis on that.”
VanGorder had success in the NFL and for Georgia, winning the Broyles Award; the top trophy for college football assistants, during his tenure with Georgia in 2003.
“You gotta come to film ready to learn.” Mbanasor said; “Books out, iPads, ready to take on the install he has prepared for you that day. He’s real complex in terms of his lingo and his approach, so you’ve gotta be ready to pay attention.”
“His big key is attention to detail.” Cornerback Rodjay Burns said. “Dependability. He’s got a lot of big factors that he lives by and will help us as a defense. Sirmon’s a great coach but his [VanGorder] presence is felt.”
Already, before the first game, the presence began to be felt. Petrino was complimentary during his press conference, saying that he was very happy with what he has seen.
“I really like the enthusiasm and energy our defense plays with.” Petrino said “I think the defense has shown a lot of improvement. I like the way we’re flying around, and running to the football.”
This is Puma’s team
The most obvious difference between last year’s team and this year’s is the loss of quarterback Lamar Jackson. The 2016 Heisman award winner left the team after last season, going into the NFL draft, and was taken in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Now, Jawon “Puma” Pass takes over. The 6-4, Columbus, Georgia native was a four star when recruited, and had limited action last year.
Pass has big shoes to fill. Jackson led the Cards to three late-December bowl games, and led them over ACC juggernaut Florida State two years in a row.
“I just focus on being the best player I can be.” Pass said, “Just take control. That’s the biggest thing. Take control all the time, and be a game manager.”
Of course, there’s no expectation for a Heisman trophy for Pass. But the young quarterback is ready to learn.
“He does a good job about being vocal and asking questions.” Quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino said, “If he doesn’t know something he’ll let you know.”
The offense isn’t all the way there yet
During his interview, Bobby Petrino was very complimentary of the defense, but wary around the offense. It’s to be somewhat expected. The Cardinals are entering 2018 with a new starting QB under center, with a different system, and there are bound to be kinks that have to be ironed out.
“Puma’s done a nice job of running the show.” Petrino said, “But we’re still off on our timing, as far as receiver and quarterback protection.”
The team officially began practicing in early-August. And there’s still plenty of time to fix timing issues until September 1st.
Louisville kicks off on September 1st, against Alabama at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fl.