Press Conference: Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, we’re excited to be joining a conference that has the reigning national champion and a conference where just about every single individual award last year was won by somebody in the ACC. Our expectations are going to be high. I’ve always believed that you set expectations high. We have a group of young men that we’re coaching that have been playing for a number of years that know how to prepare, that have played in big games, and know how to win. We expect to compete for a championship. That’s what we want to get done. We do understand that you have to do that on an individual game basis and play one game at a time, focus on that game, and then each game is going to be very, very competitive.
Q. First of all, this year, first year in the ACC, and you have to take a very tough road trip to Clemson. What does that mean to the team in preparing for that sort of atmosphere?
BOBBY PETRINO: I mean, that’ll be fun. I think those are the type of games you really look forward to playing in. You look forward to going into a very hostile environment and understand that it’s kind of us against the entire stadium, although we have had a number of fans back in Louisville that tell me they have tickets and they’re going. So we’ll probably have a pretty good section there of Louisville fans. But it’s certainly a place that I’ve heard is tough to go in and play at. We’ll have our silent cadence ready and have to work hard on that in camp. It’s not something I think you can do in one week. So we’ll start preparing for that in the middle of our camp. It’s exciting. I’ve had the opportunity to coach in a lot of great stadiums, loud stadiums, that have been very hostile environments, and I think it’s a great way to build your team and understand that you have to win it as a team.
Q. With the transition — for 50 years Louisville and Cincinnati had a strong rivalry in the Keg of Nails. What’s it going to mean not to have that game anymore?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I enjoyed playing Cincinnati. I enjoyed the rivalry. I enjoyed going up there and playing. I enjoyed them coming down and playing us. I think it was a special game every year. We liked carrying the keg home after the game. We’re going to miss playing them.
Q. This is your second time at Louisville. How would you compare the talent level as you come in this time versus when you came in the first time?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, I think we were — I’ve been fortunate both times I came to Louisville to follow two really good head coaches that have done a great job in building the program. I felt when I got there with Jonal that the program was in great shape, and all I had to do was take it to the next level. Coming in and following Charlie, he’s done a great job of recruiting and teaching the kids how to work hard and win games. We do lose some really good players. There’s three first round draft picks that we lose off that team, but we definitely have some really good players coming back and have a good nucleus of talent. To be able to go in and compete right away, and obviously moving into the ACC is taking it to a new level –
Q. What are your thoughts about facing Syracuse this year?
BOBBY PETRINO: — well, I think it’ll be fun to go back up to Syracuse and play again. It’s a Friday night game, which is always interesting, but we had a good rivalry going with Syracuse before when we played them in the Big East. I actually played them my first year at Louisville when they were in the Big East and we were in Conference USA. It’s a fun place to go play. I always like playing inside. I think you don’t have to worry about the wind or rain and you can throw the ball around real well inside. It’ll be a fun game to play.
Q. Last year, Louisville had a nationally ranked defense, but you’ve lost some key players from that defense. You’re switching defensive schemes, I think, from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Do you think with all of that you can have a nationally ranked defense again this season?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, that’s yet to be seen, and, certainly, it’s a different league that we’re playing in, too. But I was able to go out and hire a great defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham, a guy that really understands the 3-4 defense and the nickel front that we’ll run, so we play both a combination of a three-down front and a four-down front. A lot of the players that we have from last year that are returning did both of those schemes. It was just a little bit different. They were a four-down front in base defense and then a three-down front in the nickel and dime situations. We kind of do it just the opposite. But Todd is an expert at understanding the techniques and fundamentals that we need to do, and he’s been able to show throughout his history that he gets players to play at a very high level and excel at what they’re doing. I would anticipate that we would be good on defense. Probably our biggest concern is that we lost two safeties that my understanding is played 33 straight games together, and one of them was a first-round draft pick. So we’d certainly have to replace that.
Q. From your time there, this time around at Louisville, what can you say the response has been from the team so far and what you’ve taken away from the spring as far as talent? So kind of on the field, off the field, for you at Louisville right now?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I’ve been very impressed with our team. When I got the job, we had our first team meeting, I congratulated the young men on how much success they’ve had, and told them that things are going to be different. They’re going to be different because our new staff is going to come in and coach what we know, and that’s different than what Coach Strong and his staff know. But the quicker that we adjust to change, the quicker that we are not resistant to change and we get moving forward, the better chance we have in becoming champions. We’ve got a team that has a great work ethic, has a good attitude, and we have some really good leadership from within. I think we have enough talent to compete.
Q. When you’re in a conference for a while, you get an understanding of what coaches like to do and what programs like to do. Coming into a new conference, how do you and your staff go about gathering intel on all the other teams that you have to play?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, it’s a lot easier, nowadays, with this modern technology than it used to be. I think after — we are in the ACC. There was a time when everything was put on the internet. We got everything in our computers, all the games from the ACC conference, and were able to start studying the conference. We did it in a way that we broke down all the Miami, all the Virginia, and then we wanted to study the rest of the teams on what their schemes were and philosophies on offense and defense, and then the talent, what it is that we need to go recruit to win. So we had a lot of work ahead of us. It’s not something that the players have any understanding of because the main focus for them is just to prepare for that Miami game and get ready for one game at a time. But our coaching staff did a good job with it, and it was very impressive. I think the number one thing that we know in this conference is every team is going to have really good players, and every team is going to be very well coached. So most games are going to be won or lost in the fourth quarter, and we have to work our practices and everything we do that we can perform at a high level when we’re tired.
Q. Since the last time we saw you, you’ve been through some things, and I just was curious how much you think what you’ve gone through has changed you as a person and how much do you consider this kind of a second chance?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, I think there’s no doubt it’s a second chance. And I’m very fortunate and very appreciative of Tom Jurich and Dr. Ramsey in giving me this opportunity, and very excited and motivated to have the challenge ahead of us. I’ve certainly grown and changed throughout the years in things that I’ve experienced and things that I’ve caused myself. And I’m just fortunate to be able to continue in the sport that I love so much and to coach football.
Q. You’ve talked about how much the UK-Louisville rivalry has meant for high school football in the state of Kentucky. The Governor’s Cup press conference is coming up this week, and it was released that Mark Stoops wasn’t going to show up for that. What is your reaction to that?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, I’m going to be there. No, I don’t have any reaction to that at all. It’s something that when I came in, it was something we’d always done. I made the commitment to attend to it, so we’re going to go to the reception tomorrow night, come out to the lunch on Wednesday. Kroger has always been very good to us, been very supportive of the University of Louisville, so that’s another reason why I think it’s something that we need to do. I do think that it has helped high school football in the state of Kentucky.
Q. Kind of give us a thumbnail sketch of quarterback Will Gardner, red-shirt freshman, who’s going to be stepping into Bridgewater’s spot, which can’t be easy.
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, Will is a very good-sized young man, he’s 6’5″, just under 230. It’s our strength and conditioning staff’s job to make sure he doesn’t hit the 3-0. We just want to make sure he stays under that because he has had a knee injury, and I think he’ll perform better and stay healthier if he keeps his weight down. He could be 235, 240 in a minute, so he works hard at that. He can make all the throws you need to make. He’s got the arm strength. He’s got a very quick release. We’ve got to continue to work on his footwork with his lower body, getting it in the right positions for his accuracy to be where we want it. But he’s very coachable. He’s a good student of the game, and he’s a natural leader that the players have already learned to follow. He has no problem in leading and taking control of the offense. He’s got a lot of positives. The down side is he’s very inexperienced. He hasn’t played for a number of games because Teddy played and stayed healthy and played through injury and did all that, so he’s just an inexperienced, talented guy.