|Kragthorpe and Louisville look to take last big step|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 20 August 2007 12:54|
``I'm not going to try and emulate somebody's style just so people say 'Oh, I like that,''' the new Louisville coach said. ``It's kind of like the Frank Sinatra song. I want to do it my way.''
Kragthorpe's way will be about trying to put his stamp on a program that rose to national prominence under Bobby Petrino, peaking last season with a 12-1 record and berth in the Bowl Championship Series.
Just days after Louisville beat Wake Forest 24-13 in the Orange Bowl, Petrino bolted for the Atlanta Falcons and soon after that Kragthorpe was hired away from Tulsa.
Now the challenge for the Cardinals is to prove they can succeed without Petrino.
No. 10 Louisville returns the core of last year's team, including star quarterback Brian Brohm, but West Virginia is the favorite to represent the Big East in the BCS.
``It's nice to be the underdog sometimes and know that we've got something still to prove,'' Brohm said.
Namely, that the eye-popping numbers the Cardinals offense produced under Petrino were as much a result of the guys on the field as their innovative but not exactly touchy-feely coach.
``There's no excuse for us not to be competing for the number one (offense) in the country,'' center Eric Wood said. ``That's our goal every year.''
Expectations remain high, particularly for Brohm, who threw for 3,049 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior, despite missing time with a hand injury.
Ask Brohm about what he remembers most about 2006 and it isn't the huge victory over West Virginia or the Orange Bowl.
Nope, it's the Cardinals' lone loss at Rutgers. Louisville led comfortably at halftime but fell apart in the second half and it cost the Cardinals a possible shot at a national championship.
``We were close last year,'' Brohm said. ``You get a little taste of that and you want to come back and try it again and give it your best shot.''
Brohm could have left for the NFL after last season. Instead, he's entrusted his best shot to Kragthorpe, who put together a remarkable turnaround at Tulsa by taking a pragmatic approach that's in stark contrast to Petrino's exacting style.
``All I really care is that we score one more point than the other team,'' Kragthorpe said.
That's fine with Brohm, though what he has in mind is to ``score one more point than the other team, then a lot more on top of that.''
The pieces are in place to do that.
Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia are one of the top receiving tandems in the country. Running back Anthony Allen scored 13 touchdowns as a freshman last season. Art Carmody, who won the Groza Award in 2006 as the nation's top kicker, is also back.
``For me to keep every offensive player happy this year,'' Kragthorpe said, ``I'm going to have to snap it 250 times a game.''
``We held back a little in the spring,'' Wood said. ``Nobody's seen our offense.''
What teams will see is a hybrid of Petrino's and Kragthorpe's systems. Rather than gut the entire coaching staff when he was hired, Kragthorpe retained several key assistants, including passing game coordinator Jeff Brohm, Brian's older brother, who will work with offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs on game plans.
``We tried to respect the things that were done here, but show some things that can definitely help us play our game,'' Stubbs said. ``The biggest challenge for us as coaches is to not give them too much.''
Defensively, the challenge will be rebuilding the defensive line and secondary. Adrian Grady and Peanut Whitehead will try to replace defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, and junior college transfer Woodny Turenne is expected to hold the secondary together.
The biggest addition, and maybe the biggest question mark, is linebacker Willie Williams.
Williams was one of the top recruits in the country two years ago, but highly publicized legal problems in high school nearly cost him a scholarship to Miami. He never panned out with the Hurricanes and spent last year at West Los Angeles Community College.
Kragthorpe has a reputation as a players' coach, more laid-back than the fiery Petrino. But Kragthorpe let it be known that he was no pushover when he dismissed several players for violating team rules in the spring.
``There were some people who thought there was a players' coach coming in and they'd be able to walk around a little easier,'' Wood said. ``But he showed them differently real fast.''
Kragthorpe hopes to show them even more during his first season with Louisville - and help the Cardinals e take that one last step they failed to under Petrino.
``If you take care of your business in terms of shortsighted goals, then the long-sighted goals will take care of themselves for you,'' he said. ``But if you look at the prize, you lose focus on what it takes to get to that situation. I don't think there's any question that we want to play in the national championship game this year. In order for that to happen, there's a lot of little steps to take.''