CardinalSports.com is proud to partner with Louisville-fullback-turned-radio-commentator Joe Tronzo for analysis during the 2012 season. In this first edition, Tronzo provides his thoughts on the first open practices.
What stood out to me in Saturday's practice was not so much what I saw, rather what I heard. During every offense vs. defense drill, defensive coaches echoed "rip it out" or "strip the ball." A large emphasis for Strong's defense will be put on creating turnovers. The Cards finished the season tied for 67th nationally, and 7th in the Big East in turnover margin. Coaches will preach that once the opponent has been "stood up" by a defender, the second and third tacklers should rip the football away from the ball carrier.
Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson made it clear that Louisville will line up in a two back set and play throwback, downhill-running football. As a former fullback, not only am I excited to see smash-mouth style offense, but I am more excited about what this will generate on the perimeter. While Bridgewater is an effective drop back pocket passer, another weapon in his arsenal is his mobility and ability to make plays with his feet.
With the two back sets, look for a wider array of play action boots with Teddy outside of the pocket. This will give the quarterback the option to throw to single man coverage or, if well covered, tuck the ball and pick up positive yardage.
If you were one of the 3,000 fans to take in practice on Friday or Saturday, you could not help but notice the slimming of some players and the broadening of others. Strength and Conditioning Coach Pat Moorer, assistant Brandon Roberts and their staff did a phenomenal job this off season of putting each athlete in a better individual position to perform at their best. You may have already heard center Mario Benavides speak about cutting weight and how it has him feeling better and more mobile. Others who I believe to have slimmed down and look more mobile are RT Jamon Brown and DT Jamaine Brooks. On the opposite side of the coin, those who have added good weight are DT/DE Roy Philon and DE B.J. Dubose. The trenches are where the games are won, and look for these players to take their games to the next level thanks to their hard work in the off season.
Over the past two seasons we have seen the transformation of true freshmen thrown in the fire. These players whose names most fans didn't know developed into game-tested players with established credibility. However, can anyone tell me the names of who will be kicking and punting this year? Exactly. If you did, you are a die-hard Cardinal fan. Kickers and punters are not the most glamorous positions (unless you are the great Art-O-Matic, Art Carmody), but these two will be crucial to the fulfillment or not of Louisville's conference championship expectations this year. For this segment, I will focus on punting. Though the Cards punt coverage team ranked in the top 20 of fewest punt return yards allowed, the Cards ranked 110th in average punting distance. Simply kick the ball further down the field! It will be in the hands - or the foot - of Ryan Johnson, Joshua Appleby or John Wallace. We all expect for the Cardinal defense to be stout, but the first play on defense starts with the punt.
Joe Tronzo is the co-owner of Louisville Sports Performance Institute, a business focused on the athletic development of athletes of all ages and ability levels. Located in the Mid-America Sports Center in J-Town, LSPI works to improve speed, agility, strength, and power in a more personalized atmosphere than most training facilities. Each athlete, group, or team has different needs. Through individual and methodical programming, every athlete gets the program that will best contour to the athletic development of the individual, group, or team. Visit them online at LouisvilleSPI.com.
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