LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – First-year Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is well known for his offensive expertise and the high expectations he places on his quarterback to make his multiple sets work.
Even in the first week of practice.
The Cardinals’ initial workouts have yielded encouraging signs about presumed starting QB Will Gardner and other offensive skill players. But Petrino said the whole unit has a way to go to be productive and expects improvement over the next few practices.
“Offensively, it just takes a little time to get to where you need to be,” the coach said during Saturday’s media day session.
Execution on both sides of the ball is important for Louisville as it prepares to enter the Atlantic Coast Conference. With defending national champion Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame on the schedule, the Cardinals must be able to put points on the board and Petrino believes that objective starts with practice proficiency.
Gardner has taken that message to heart.
“We’re still putting in the offense in and you can’t really stress about it,” the redshirt sophomore said, “but you still have to have that sense of urgency and still be able to have fun.”
Gardner takes over the offense from Teddy Bridgewater, now with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. He played in six games last season and showed his potential by completing all five passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in Louisville’s 72-0 shellacking of FIU.
The Georgia native was even more efficient in the Cardinals’ spring game, completing 32 of 37 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns. Gardner’s first week of fall camp has featured hits and misses, which he and Petrino chalked up to learning new plays and the timing difference of playing without pads.
In fairness to Gardner, the coach added that his teammates have room for improvement. Louisville’s deep receiver corps needs to run crisper routes while tailbacks have to hit holes better.
For Petrino it’s all about progress, and he believes Gardner and the offense will make it in week two of camp.
“I’m sure he feels like he’s not executing the way he was at the end of the spring, and he’s not,” the coach said. “But I always feel like those first two days in helmets only, the advantage goes to the defense.
“It’s harder to pass, it’s harder to block and we’re not executing like we want to like we did at the end of the spring, and the quarterback usually takes the blame. But it’s all 11 guys. … He’s missed some throws, but he’s also had times where he’s capable of completing 10 straight passes.”
Louisville opens the season Sept. 1 against Miami.