It’s never too early when it comes to talking Kentucky-Louisville, so here’s part of what Louisville coach Bobby Petrino had to say at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff. Enjoy.
Q. What can you say since your return to Louisville have been the biggest improvements going into this season, what you’ve seen out of each of the units as a whole?
COACH PETRINO: The first year that we came in, we had a very, very talented group coming back. The problem was there was like 23 seniors. I think we had three or four juniors that came out, too. We had a really good year. I was impressed.
We had a couple close games that we didn’t win, Clemson, and for a while we had the lead against Florida State. But we won some big games that year, too. One of my most memorable games would be going to Notre Dame and beating Notre Dame there just simply because growing up, my dad, my grandfather, uncles, everybody was Notre Dame fans. That was certainly a memorable win for us.
Then they were all gone. It’s like, okay, we’re starting over again. So last year we knew there could be some growing pains and some struggles. What I’m really excited about now is the actual depth that we do have.
Standing here a year ago I didn’t know who our starting offensive line would be. We didn’t have a starting quarterback named.
To be able to really understand the players that we have, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are throughout the entire depth chart, I think we can get better quicker. We can make great strides when we get started in camp.
I know we did over spring. I thought our coaches did a really good job of working hard on our individual players getting better, then their position groups getting better, which made our offense, defense and special teams better.
Q. Looking back at Syracuse, the Dome can get pretty loud. What are some of the challenges of playing in such a loud environment?
COACH PETRINO: Well, it is loud. There’s no question about it. Being indoor, the echoes. The number one challenge there is to be able to communicate on offense, but also to be able to communicate on defense, particularly at the tempo they’re going to play at. Third down always becomes an issue. You have to make sure you have the ability to use silent cadence.
Two years ago when we played there, it was very loud. We played there my first year when I was at Louisville the first time. Another really good game. You have to be able to be able to communicate, deal with the noise, and not have it affect you.
It usually comes up in situations where there’s pressure involved, the game being on the line, third downs, fourth downs. We have to prepare our players for that. We’ll do some things in camp so we’re able to communicate and deal with noise.
Q. What has Lamar’s emergence at quarterback meant to your offense? Running and passing, what would you like to see as improvement?
COACH PETRINO: That’s a great question. Last year, he’s a tremendous talent, unbelievable ability with his legs and running, making plays. But the thing that stood out to me so quickly and early in practice was his ability to throw the ball, his vision, the things he could see down the field, snap his wrist and get the ball there.
What we did this spring is we kind of took the running game away from him and worked hard at making him throw from the pocket, making him keep his vision downfield when there’s pass-rush around him. Like he said up here, there were times when his instinct was to move and leave. Sometimes that caused sacks more than other issues.
He really matured. He has a great understanding of the game now, of what we’re trying to do offensively with him. He’s getting better understanding what defenses are trying to do. He’s got great poise.
If we can get him to throw the ball down the field and be accurate with his passes, that will open up his ability to run the ball even more.
Q. Aside from winning games and championships, how do you measure whether or not a season is successful, upcoming year or past years?
COACH PETRINO: The number one way I measure a season is how we improve as it goes on. What is your attitude. What are we doing in practice. How do we overcome obstacles. That really is so much of college football. It’s a long season now. The conference that we’re in is very, very competitive. Every team we play is going to have good players and be very well-coached.
The challenge for us is to be able to win games in the fourth quarter which takes attitude and discipline and depth. The better we practice, the more depth we develop. We’ve been able to see guys that don’t play a lot in the first four games of the year help you win games the last two or three games of the year.
We’re going to work hard at practicing hard and getting better as the year goes on.