College Football

Satterfield ends drills early to evaluate Louisville roster

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

By GARY B. GRAVES

AP Sports Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Scott Satterfield is eager to learn what holes he has inherited with Louisville's current roster so he is shaking up the Cardinals' spring football practice schedule.

The new coach began workouts last month and they will end before next week's spring break, which will allow Satterfield and his staff more time to identify prospects.

The switch - which also eschewed the traditional Red-White game in favor of a public workout - appears to have injected energy into a Louisville squad coming off a 2-10 season, its worst campaign since 1997.

"We reiterated to them that spring ball was going to be fast and you've got to learn as quickly as you can," said Satterfield, the former Appalachian State coach who was hired on Dec. 4 to replace Bobby Petrino. Louisville fired Petrino on Nov. 11 after a 2-8 start to his fifth season.

Satterfield added, "Part of the benefit of going early is so we can know, really. Dive into all the recruiting for next year as we head throughout March and April before we go out on the road with the evaluation period. So, we should be way ahead in the game."

The offense-minded Satterfield was hired after guiding the Mountaineers to a 51-24 mark with three bowl appearances over six seasons. App State ranked 20th nationally in scoring (36.7 points per game) and 42nd in total offense (429.6 yards) when he left the Boone, North Carolina, school for the Power Five conference position.

Satterfield will spend the offseason installing his scheme featuring run/pass options in preparation for the Cardinals' Sept. 2 opener against Notre Dame. If nothing else, the accelerated routine has led to louder, spirited practices that can be heard outside their training complex. That alone is an improvement from 2018, when losing dampened the mood.

"It's just a big difference," sophomore quarterback Malik Cunningham said. "Coach Satterfield is bringing nothing but positive energy to the program and around here, it's like we love it here now."

Optimism often follows a coaching change, and the Cardinals needed it coming off their dismal season after 2016 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson departed for the NFL.

Louisville lost its final nine games, went winless in Atlantic Coast Conference play and did not beat a single Power Five school. A falloff was expected from Jackson's record-breaking play that had the Cardinals contending for a College Football Playoff berth three years ago, but his exit revealed weaknesses that were masked during his remarkable tenure.

Cunningham and opening-game starter Jawon Pass - whom Petrino insisted would make the offense more efficient than Jackson - were shuffled behind center. The ground game also struggled, and Louisville finished ranked near the bottom of several conference statistical categories.

Worse was a Cardinals defense that yielded at least 50 points seven times last fall. And as opponents scored with little resistance, players seemed less engaged.

Morale has improved dramatically under Satterfield, whose transition has included an open-door policy with players. The Cardinals appear to be on the same page with the new coaching staff, which includes their fourth defensive coordinator (Bryan Brown) in as many seasons.

"The coaches are fun, they get to dancing," junior cornerback Rodjay Burns said. "It just gives off good energy, so the players see that and they like to have fun as well. We enjoy it."

With so much to be determined, Satterfield warned against reading into who starts and what schemes are run during Thursday night's workout. All that has mattered the past four weeks was turning the page from a forgettable season, and quickly.

Said Brown, "We've got a long way to go, but we've definitely taken a lot of steps forward."

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AP freelance writer Steve Bittenbender in Louisville contributed to this report.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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Follow Gary B. Graves on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/GaryBGraves

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Updated March 7, 2019

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