Heart over Hype, a few reasons why I’m optimistic about Louisville Football

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But hype doesn’t have any longevity and as soon as the ball is in the air on Thursday night and the players get that first lick in the hype is over. As a fan the hype for this season has got me more ready than I’ve ever been to watch these guys play but it’s the heart of this team and of a few individual players that really puts a smile on my face. Unlike hype that heart will last and will help this team through the adversity of what will be a grueling schedule.

Before I dive in here I’d like to give you an example of heart over hype. I watch the UFC and have seen guys come in with a lot of heart work their way up through the ranks to the top of their division. Then comes the hype. Once the hype takes the place of heart it never fails to see the champion fall.

Everybody is born with a heart but not everyone has heart. Having heart is a deep personal drive for excellence and failure is not an option. Winning, being successful and a willingness to work hard to achieve that perfection is what having heart is all about.

With this Louisville team it starts at the top with Coach Bobby Petrino. One of the greatest offensive minds to ever coach in the college ranks. It was his hard work and guidance that took him to the top of his profession only to have the hype roll in and take it all away. But having faced that adversity only made Coach Petrino’s drive for excellence that much stronger. After leading the program to 17 wins the last two seasons while facing their toughest schedules in years and becoming bowl eligible for a 6th straight season He’s got that look in his eyes again and this time it’s heart over hype.

On the offensive side of the ball:

Reggie Bonnafon is the kind of player that every coach wants. Talk about a guy with a lot of heart. After losing his father he walked into Notre Dame Stadium and led the Cardinals to one of the biggest wins in program history. When he lost the QB job to Lamar Jackson he didn’t let that slow him down and vowed to contribute in any way he could. His versatility and will to win earned him playing time. This year he will again help this Louisville team win. Having him in the backfield along with Jackson will be a nightmare for opposing defenses especially with a guy like Coach Petrino calling the plays. Reggie is one of the most important players on the roster, and the hype is real. But with Reggie it’s never been about hype and he plays with more heart than any kid I’ve seen.

It takes a lot of heart to go from a walk-on to scholarship player especially in major college football and that’s just what Tobijah Hughley did. It didn’t take him long to become a crucial part of the Louisville offensive line after getting his first start. With 25 starts now under his belt he is not only the anchor of the offensive line but an anchor for the offense in general. Lamar Jackson has said that Hughley helped him read defenses last season. Unlike last year the Louisville offensive line has been through the battles. There’s no substitute for experience and now with Geron Christian (13 starts), Kenny Thomas (5 starts), Lukayus McNeil (7 starts), Kiola Mahoni (4 starts) this Louisville line is ready. For the first time in a while there has been some hype surrounding this group. With a guy like Hughley leading the way there’s no doubt that it will be heart over hype in the trenches.

Jamari Staples has overcome so much adversity and is another guy on this Louisville offense with a lot of heart. Jamari had his college football program pulled out from under him at UAB and missed the first four games of his first season at Louisville with an injury but didn’t waste any time establishing himself in the offensive scheme when he finally got his chance. His biggest game last season came against Wake Forest when he had 133 yards with two touchdowns. He finished the season as the top receiver on the team with 638 yards and 3 touchdowns despite missing those first games and he moved the chains at critical moments many times. I talked with him at media day and this young man has a great desire for excellence. Glad he found another home here with our Cardinals. With Jamari its most definitely heart over hype.

Lamar Jackson had four games last season in which he ran for at least 100 yards and threw for at least 100 yards, tied with Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and SMU’s Matt Davis for the most such games in the FBS. Three of these games came against the mighty SEC. He threw for 100 and ran for 106 against Auburn, threw for 130 and ran for 186 yards to lead Louisville to a comeback win over Kentucky, and threw for 227 yards against Texas A&M while running for 226 yards. He became only the third player in NCAA history to run and throw for over 200 yards in a Bowl game. His 960 rushing yards led the team despite not playing on a full-time basis. He appeared in 12 games and started just seven of them. There is a lot of hype surrounding Jackson but watching this kid play you can see his heart on the field. When being interviewed at Media Day Jackson said about that UK game: “When coach threw me out there I knew we were down by a lot and it was going to be hard, but I just didn’t want to lose.”

On the defensive side of the ball:

Devonte Fields is another guy who let hype get in the way, but he plays with so much heart that he has fought his way back. Fields had to learn the Louisville playbook on the fly last season, but even tougher than a crash course in Granthamology was catching up to the speed of the Louisville workouts. He had played a year of junior college before becoming a Cardinal but Fields was out of shape. He didn’t get any time in the Louisville off-season program, so Devonte essentially had to play his way into shape. And that’s just what he did. Over the final six games of the regular season, Fields racked up all 7.5 of his sacks and 15 of his 19 tackles for loss. In the Music City Bowl he had 8 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 pat downs. He finished the season with a team leading 10.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. He finished 10th in the country in sacks and 1st in the country in tackles for loss. The hype is back but this time Devonte Fields is playing with a lot of heart. That is a good thing for the Cardinals.

One half of the bash brothers Keith Kelsey is a valuable leader on and off the field for the Cardinal defense. He served as a great ambassador at the ACC media days and is just one of many guys that has been more than just a football player to the Cardinal program. But he is a great defensive player and plays with a ton of heart. He finished last season with a team leading 107 tackles and is poised to help lead this season’s group to being one of the best units in college football.

You can’t talk about this Louisville defense without talking about the guy on the front line DeAngelo Brown and you can’t talk about guys playing with heart without mentioning him either. Last season he had 40 tackles, 6.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. He is a supreme run-stopper in the middle for this Louisville unit and will be playing on Sunday’s when his college days are over. Brown is a guy whose game and heart is bigger than he is and that’s big.

Like I mentioned above there has been a lot of hype surrounding this Louisville Football team, and that hype has got the fan base more excited than I’ve seen in a long time. It has also helped the Cards land a spot in both the AP and Coaches pre-season polls. But in order for the program to take that next step it is going to take a lot of heart. The guys mentioned above are who I believe will lead this charge but make no mistake about it there is a lot of heart on both sides of the ball and this team will make us all proud. See you Thursday night Cardinal fans!

Rick is on a roll….


I’m not going to lie I was worried that the Dorm Incident would have an impact on our recruiting for a few years. But it hasn’t happened and one could argue that Rick Pitino is on the hottest recruiting  haul he’s had in years. Back in November he inked 5* top 25 player VJ King to the 2016 Class and now has two 4* top 50 players committed to the 2017 Class in #42 center Malik Williams and #48 true point guard Darius Perry.

With his big man of the future Williams committed most assumed Coach Pitino would next look for his point guard of the future. Today we found out who that would be when Darius Perry announced his commitment. By all accounts Perry is a very talented player that can do it all. He is a triple threat on the perimeter. He can drive and pop, hit the three and run an offense. He has a very solid shot. He will be a very nice compliment to Ryan McMahon in that shooting guard spot in a few years. I’m looking forward to seeing this duo on the court together. Lights out!

This 2017 Class is coming together nicely. With two areas of need addressed I think Coach Pitino and his staff will now narrow down their focus as this class only needs two more guys. Some of the hot names floating around are Brandon Randolph, Alex O’Connell, Lance Thomas, Makhtar Gueye, Lindell Wigginton and DJ Harvey.

If any of you were ever worried about the future then those thoughts can rest easy because the last three years of recruiting have been some of the best ever in Louisville. The Coaching staff are not only getting great talent they are also getting solid young men who want to play hard, improve and help their team win. By all accounts this latest commit fits that mold. Congrats to Coach Pitino and his staff for all of their work paying off. Keep it rolling!

ESPN Breakdown of Darius Perry:

ESPN Analyst

Strengths:

Perry is a true point guard that is tough and competes on both ends of the floor. He pushes the ball on the break and does a good job running the halfcourt offense. He can also make plays when the things break down. Perry can get to the rim and knock down the open three. He is a terrific open court passer as well. Perry has a tight handle that allows him to change speeds and direction and weave in and out of traffic with ease. Perry also has excellent court vision that he uses to get the ball to open teammates on time and on target. Perry can also play off the ball and make scoring plays from the wing. He is also an excellent on ball defender that applies relentless pressure.

Weaknesses:

Perry will need to continue to add strength. He also over dribbles at times and becomes a little careless with the ball all will be fixed as he gain valuable playing experience and maturity.Perry will need to continue to work on developing his overall point guard skills and decision making at times but has already made positive strides in those areas.

Bottom Line:

Perry is a true point guard that can handle, pass and make open jumpers to the arc. He is a good athlete that is tough and competes which makes him a high major point guard with tremendous upside.

Video of Darius Perry:

Darius Perry Silky Smooth SG @ NBPA Top 100

Ten Seasons Ago the Kragthorpe Era Had Just Begun


Sorry for the reminder but you can’t really appreciate where you are without being reminded of where you came from.

The one thing that I noticed at Media Day this past weekend is that the winning attitude and personal drive for excellence is very much engrained into this Louisville program. This is a program that now has everything it needs to get to that next level of competition and compete for both conference and national titles. It’s not easy climbing the ranks of College Football and it hasn’t been easy for Louisville.

Every year at the Media Day event we are provided a great hard bound copy of the media guide. As I was flipping through it this weekend I was reminded that it had been ten seasons ago that Coach Petrino left the first time and we were just headed into year number one of Kragthorpe.

Ten seasons ago Louisville Football fans were still dealing with the loss of Coach Bobby Petrino as he headed to chase his NFL dream. We were headed into year number one of the Kragthorpe era. After being a field goal away from a possible National Championship appearance Cardinal fans had to sit thru three seasons of sub 500 football 15-21 overall record and a 5-16 Big East record. Not to mention three straight losses to Kentucky.

What had taken generations to build up Steve Kragthorpe came along and in three seasons tore it all down. He was even responsible for the worst jersey in Louisville’s history. “The Ville” jerseys… Yea remember those… As I watched during that 2009 season my heart broke seeing what had become of the Cardinal football program. And I wasn’t the only one.

After the rock bottom season of 2009 Tom Jurich sent Kragthorpe packing and brought in a guy that got the ship headed back in the right direction. Coach Charlie Strong cemented his legacy as the Louisville coach who done major damage repair and fast. It was Coach Strong who implanted that winning attitude and personal drive for excellence back into the Louisville program.

There is a lot to be learned from a disastrous coaching hire, but the biggest is not to ever do it again. That’s why when Charlie left to chase his dreams Tom Jurich didn’t hire another guy to build a foundation; he hired the guy to finish the job. It has all come full circle. Ten seasons ago Bobby left us holding the bag and this season could have us holding the trophy.

Working thru Media Day it was obvious that these players believe in themselves and in the coaches leading them. And the message was loud and clear that the coaches believe in their players. There is just something in the air folks. It’s that smell of success. Expectations are thru the roof and after what I’ve seen so far they should be.

After watching the Louisville program struggle thru those sub 500 years and not getting to celebrate at the end of the season in a bowl city has sure made me respect their success that much more. I’m excited about where the Louisville football program is and I’m excited about the guys leading it. I do think Coach Petrino will finish the job this time around and can’t wait to celebrate when he does.

Below is some of the video I shot from the Football Media Day event Saturday morning. You can judge for yourself the attitude and excitement. I asked each coach about their confidence in the depth this season. Great teams have a great depth chart. The 2 has to be just as good as the 1 and the three has to be ready to go. I also interviewed some of the players who will be very important this season.

Coach Petrino Part One:

Coach Petrino Part Two:

Offensive Line Coach Klenakis:

Wide Receivers Coach Galloway:

Secondary Coach Heyward:

Linebackers Coach Tony Grantham:

Lamar Jackson:

Reggie Bonnafon:

DeVonte Fields:

Brandon Radcliff:

Jamari Staples:

DeAngelo Brown:

Always a light hearted moment during Media Day:

Cardinal Basketball Lands Big Man of the Future

Along with the high expectations of the upcoming Cardinal Football season there has been a level of anticipation waiting to hear from the NCAA about whether or not they will accept the self-imposed penalty by the Louisville Basketball team or will it be more punishment coming. I know it has been the big elephant in the room for many die hard Cardinal fans and we just want it to be over and behind us.

While the Louisville Program continues to wait on that final judgment of the NCAA today Coach Pitino got some big news from the big man of the future Malik Williams. Williams is a 6-11 product of R. Nelson Snide High School in Indiana. This kid really burst onto the recruiting scene during the spring playing with Legit Basketball in Indiana. When you see scouts and other folks breaking down his game they talk about how well he runs the floor as a big man and how well he moves in the post. He is a player that is capable of facing up and making a move to the basket and can step back and hit shots on the perimeter.

Coach Pitino said recently that he was going to go back to having his teams press a lot more. This means that the back-court guys along with front-court guys are going to have to be able to run up and down the floor and be able to make things happen on both ends of the court. Malik Williams is a guy that can do that and will fit in nicely to what Coach Pitino’s plan is for his team. Williams just recently started to break-out as a big time player but a lot of programs had taken notice of his potential. He held offers from Georgetown, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State, North Carolina State and UCLA.

Coach Pitino got the guy he wanted in the 2016 Class when he inked VJ King, and now has started the 2017 Class off with a guy to build around. Williams will blend into the Louisville program nicely. He is a kid that has been described as having a great work ethic and has that competitiveness and desire Coach Pitino loves in a player. With the potential to be a future NBA player is a kid who will need a couple of seasons of college to get ready for that. Williams a four star recruit is ranked #42 in the ESPN 100, #22 in 247 Sports, #30 in the Scout 100 and #35 in the Rivals 150.

Now that Coach Pitino has his big man of the future he will turn his focus to the perimeter. Other primary targets that he will look to add to this class are Makai Ashton-Langford, Brandon Randolph, Alex O’Connell, Darius Perry, Lindell Wigginton, and Matt Coleman. You can check the profile of these players along with Malik Williams over on the Beak Recruiting Page

This has been a great week for Cardinal Sport’s fans. Football season is ramping up and with less than a hundred days until College Basketball tips we got a very solid player for the future of the program. I’m looking forward to what is shaping up to be a very good year of Cardinal athletics.

ESPN BREAKDOWN OF MALIK WILLIAMS

Strengths:
Williams is extra long and lean power forward. He has good hands and runs the floor extremely well. He is also a high level shot blocker with great length and timing. In the lane he scores with quick turn shots or finishes above the rim when he receives drop off passes created by dribble penetration. He handles the ball pretty well for his size and has good range on his jumper from the mid range areas out to the arc with needed time and space. He rebounds well with his length as opposed to strength.

Weaknesses:
Williams will need to continue to.work on adding strength and weight in order to be more physical and make his production more consistent.

Bottom Line:
Williams is a high major prospect with excellent versatility. He is talented and loaded with potential with his best playing days ahead of him.

Deng Adel & Donovan Mitchell take their games to Adidas Nations

Adidas Nations, the premier international grassroots basketball program is holding their event this weekend. Practices, pool play and college counselor games are being held July 29-31. More than 80 of the top under 18 players from around the world have the opportunity to hone their skills under the guidance of elite coaches and players. The camp culminates August 1 with third-place and championship games played at Cerritos College beginning at 4pmPT and broadcast live on ESPNU.

Over the years several Louisville players have been chosen to be counselors at the Adidas Nations Camp. This year Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell got the honor. There were 37 current U.S. college players, who competed on four teams. The counselors are taught and put through drills by coaches and pro-type players. They also get to scrimmage a lot against other top players. The experience should help both of these guys get better and that is important heading into a season where both will play significant minutes.

Here is a list of college players at Adidas Nationals:
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Deng Adel started his first two games as a freshman and had a small setback missing eight games with a sprained left knee suffered in practice on Nov. 20. He
returned to practice on Dec. 20. He had his best game of the season against Boston College where he totaled season highs with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and 34 minutes starting in place of injured Damion Lee. He started the last five games, averaging 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while providing a valuable defensive presence for the Cardinals. He played in six games as a freshman where he scored 8 points or more. Deng is a match-up nightmare for opposing teams and can score in a lot of ways. There has been a buzz surrounding him this summer and by all indications he is due for a special sophomore season. Adel had one really stand-out performance at Adidas Nations on Saturday when he had 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal.

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Donovan Mitchell had many moments where his athleticism stood out last season. He is just one of 10 players in Louisville history to score as many as 14 points in a freshman career debut, tying for eighth on that list. He made his first college start against Wake Forest, scoring a career-high 18 points and pulling down a career-best eight rebounds. Mitchell played at least 10 minutes in every game last season and was a starter on five occasions. He was a double-figure scorer in 13 games and averaged 7.4 a game. If Donovan can add a consistent jump shot to his arsenal along with his extremely athletic game he will be one of the very best to ever suit up for the Cardinals. I have enjoyed watching him evolve and look forward to seeing him be one of the best players in college basketball this season. Like Adel there has been a lot of buzz around him also this summer. Mitchell’s standout performance of Adidas Nationals came on Friday night where he had 10 points, 6 steals, and 4 rebounds.

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As we get ready to embark on another exciting Louisville Football season it’s never too early to talk some basketball. The ceiling is very high for the current Louisville roster. Players tend to have the biggest jump under Coach Pitino from their freshman to sophomore year. Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell are both guys who will play major roles for the Cardinals this season. Glad that they are out getting in the extra work. Go Cards.