Vaught's Views: Petrino likes offense

August 08, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

With his team scheduled to start preseason workouts this week, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino insists he's tired of talking about the upcoming season.

The Cardinals have been ranked in several top 25 polls. They are considered one of the leading contenders to win the Conference USA championship. They are coming off a season in which they won nine games.

That's why it really wasn't that hard to get Petrino to talk about his team last week before preparations start for the opener against Kentucky.

While he knows preseason hype about his high-scoring offense has centered on returning quarterback Stefan LeFors and running back Eric Shelton, he says not to forget the offensive line is why his offense could be even better this year.


The offensive line includes junior tackle Travis Leffew, the former Boyle County all-state lineman who will be starting for the third straight year.

"I really feel good about the guys we have up front," said Petrino. "We are going to be big and physical. They all run well. Those guys can do a lot."

Want more hype?

"We have a lot of depth everywhere on offense. We are going to have great competition at running back. We have three or four that could play for anybody," Petrino said.

What about wide receiver?

"Our depth will be good here, too. We have guys that are going to push the starters at every spot," Petrino said.

He's not as pessimistic about his defense as others are

He's not nearly as pessimistic about his defense as others are. The Cardinals' defense eroded late last season, but he thinks that experience will pay off this year.

"We will still be young, but we will at least have another year of experience at most spots," Petrino said. "We need to rush the passer better. Our secondary took the most criticism last year, but a lot of their problems had to do with the players around them.

"If we can play fast, that will be a strength for our defense. We'll be better. We have good players. I think our defense might surprise a lot of people."

If he's right, Kentucky could really be in a lot of trouble Sept. 5. Kentucky's best hope would seem to be that its more experienced defense could slow down the Cardinals and that the Cats could exploit the Cards' defense.

One of several stumbling blocks for UK could be quarterback Shane Boyd. He's going to have an untested line, young receivers, new tight ends and an unproven running game. Boyd has to prove he's learned to be a better decision maker and more accurate passer.

UK special teams coach Steve Ortmayer is one who thinks Boyd has done both.

"This is a good young player," Ortmayer said. "During the offseason he really captured this team from a leadership standpoint. Now he has the opportunity to do a lot of things. I really think he could be the next great Kentucky quarterback."

But the final word has to go to Petrino before he starts practicing this week.

"The best thing about this game is that no matter what is said, it's still won on the field," Petrino said. "That's why the sooner we quit talking and start playing, the happier everybody will be."

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