Louisville’s Football Team Has One Way to Go--Up
The road back to football notoriety will be a long one, but at least the University of Louisville is cruising up the on-ramp.
Second-year coach Howard Schnellenberger said that the team’s prospects are better than they were a year ago, but the Cardinals are not ready to achieve the goal he set for them--a top spot in the polls and a national title.
“It might take five years,” Schnellenberger said. “It might take 10 years. I don’t know how long it will take to reach our goal. The important thing is progress toward that goal.”
“I’m really pleased with the overall direction of our program,” he said. “A year ago I had to stand here and tell this community where our football team was. I was concerned about the level of the talent. It was two or three years behind what I had at Miami.”
But things have improved, said the coach who took Miami (Fla.) from relative obscurity to the national title in just five seasons between 1979 and 1983.
“We’re still below that talent level, but what’s exciting is the turnabout in our mental attitude--those intangible things which go to make a winning football team.”
Last year Louisville players reported to spring drills out-of-shape and overweight, but Schnellenberger said that’s no problem this time around.
“We don’t need players to lose weight,” he said. “We’re 200% better conditioned than we were a year ago.”
His team is also older, and that will go a long way to improving on a 2-9 campaign which saw the Cardinals go winless against Division I-A football teams.
The return of 17 starters, 10 on a porous defensive unit, will bolster the team’s chances, he said. So will the arrival of four junior college transfers in time to practice with the team this spring.
Two of the transfers are challenging for starting jobs and their arrival has enabled him to move several other players to “their natural positions,” Schnellenberger said.
On offense, returning quarterbacks Ed Rubbert, a 6-foot-5 senior from New York City, and Jay Gruden, a 6-0 sophomore from Tampa, Fla., are battling for the starting job.
The pair combined for 2,314 passing yards last year with Rubbert starting all 11 games but increasingly giving ground to Gruden as the season progressed.
Running back John Adams, a 6-1 senior from Lebanon, Ky., leads a crop of returning rushers.
Danny Cerione, a 6-foot senior from Miami, Fla., returns as the placekicker. His 47 points led the team in scoring last season.
But even with the return of the heart of the team’s offense, Louisville’s chances this season will depend on its defense. The Cardinals gave up 429 points.