Football head coach Charlie Strong, junior quarterback Will Stein and senior defensive tackle Greg Scruggs each spoke with the media on Thursday morning following the Cardinals’ first fall preseason practice.
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Preseason Senior Spotlight: Chris Philpott
By Garett Wall for In The Huddle
In a season full of pleasant surprises and successes, one of the highlights for the Louisville football team in 2010 was the emergence of kicker and punter Chris Philpott. With his senior season upon him, the Cardinals’ special teams anchor is ready to take his game to a higher level in 2011.
“I want to improve on what I did last season and do everything I can to help us win games,” Philpott said following Thursday’s first preseason practice session. “My goals this season are to make 85 percent or more of my field goals, to increase my number of touchbacks on kickoffs and improve my punting average.”
As a junior last season, Philpott made 14 of 18 field goals, including a long of 46 yards against Arkansas State, and he matched a school record with four field goals in a 26-0 win over Connecticut. He also averaged more than 40 yards per punt while handling the kickoff duties for the Cardinals in 2010. After a busy offseason of work on and off the field, the Atlanta native enters the 2011 preseason slated to handle all three – kickoffs, punting, field-goal kicking – of those duties once again and he is ready for that challenge.
“One of my main goals this summer was to get stronger and faster,” said Philpott. “I knew that if I got stronger and faster, I would be able to handle more of the bulk load while being more flexible and fit to better handle some of the minor injuries that come along. Being stronger in the weight room was important for me so that I can get more air under the ball and get more distance on all of my kicks.”
Despite his consistent season in 2010, Philpott was not among the 30 players named to the Lou Groza Award preseason watch list released in July. The award, given annually to the nation’s top collegiate place-kicker as determined by a voting panel of Division I head coaches, sports writers and sportscasters from across the country, is regarded as the most prestigious college football award for kickers.
“I was disappointed initially (on not being included), but it just gives me more motivation to improve and something to aim for,” he said. “Most of the preseason stuff is based on last year’s statistics, but I know what I’m capable of doing. The goal is to go out there and do it this year.”
With his personal goals in focus, Philpott understands that the most important goal is achieving team success. With a winning season in the books in year one under the leadership of head coach Charlie Strong, Philpott and the rest of the Cardinals’ returning letterwinners have a better understanding and appreciation for what is required from Strong and his coaching staff entering year two.
“Coach Strong expects everyone to improve day-in and day-out,” said Philpott. “Our goal as a team this summer was to never take a step back and only move forward in the weight room and in conditioning. We’ve taken that to heart and we must continue that with this preseason camp.”
With the loss of numerous starters on both sides of the football and more than 20 letterwinners overall from the Cardinals’ 2010 squad, which earned a 31-28 victory over Southern Miss in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, expectations nationally are for Louisville to take a step back in 2011. That was evident as U of L was picked to finish seventh in the BIG EAST in the league’s annual preseason media poll released earlier this week. But that only gives Philpott and the rest of the Cardinals’ more motivation for the upcoming season.
“I think seventh in the league doesn’t do us justice at all, but we obviously haven’t earned any respect yet,” he said. “We’ll take that mentality and work harder every day to reach our goals.”