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With the departure of Lamar Jackson, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino talks about who he thinks will be the lead rusher this year for the Cardinals.
Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal

When the Louisville football team appeared in front of fans for the first time since the TaxSlayer Bowl, the 2018 edition showed a few developments and left several questions unanswered.

The spring game Friday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium provided far from a full picture of what Louisville will look like when it takes the field Sept. 1 against Alabama. The Cardinals played without a half-dozen regulars. The clock ran in both halves. Because the coaches split the team into two groups, they used several walk-ons.

After a pair of early turnovers, the Red team — quarterbacked by starter Jawon Pass — pulled away in the second half and won, 42-13.

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Some quick thoughts from the two-hour scrimmage:

Pass plays all the way: Pass went through perhaps his most significant workout yet as Louisville’s quarterback, and his performance was uneven. On his first series, he drove his team 70 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. On his second, he fumbled and couldn’t recover. On his third, he threw an interception to linebacker C.J. Avery.

Pass did not throw an interception in 33 attempts as a redshirt freshman. He misread the play on his miscue Friday, a mistake he’ll have to avoid in games. He also attempted to pick up the fumble and run rather than cover it.

“It’s part of the game, but it’s my job as a quarterback to have a short memory,” Pass said. “When things like that happen, I said to the guys, ‘We’re gonna be all right. Put it behind, let’s move on.’”

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But for the most part, Pass showed the ability that makes his coaches confident in him. At 6-foot-4, he stood in the pocket well and distributed the ball all over the field. He showed good command of the offense. He executed a play-action rollout pass to Micky Crum and delivered two strikes to Dez Fitzpatrick for touchdowns. After the latter, Bobby Petrino slapped his hand and patted him on the chest.

Depth still an issue: Louisville played its spring game without a scholarship running back. Dae Williams, Trey Smith, Colin Wilson and Malik Staples each sat out with injuries. Staples converted from linebacker in the offseason and suffered an ankle injury late in camp. Williams has an apparent foot injury. Wilson dressed but did not play as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last September.

Petrino said he wasn’t concerned with the depth issues, and that all four should be ready to work out when training resumes in June. Top wide receiver Jaylen Smith also missed the spring game with a wrist injury. Redshirt sophomore center Robbie Bell did not dress, nor did redshirt freshman wide receiver Justin Marshall.

Cunningham shines, too: Malik Cunningham, the backup quarterback, still has work to do with his arm. But he thrived with his legs Friday, rushing 10 times for 62 yards, including a 23-yard scramble and a late touchdown run after he switched over to the Red team to relieve Pass.

Cunningham’s play matched his scouting report: He was a run-first quarterback but made plays in the open field when he scrambled. He could be a threat if Louisville requires his services in the fall.

Burns’ first action: Trinity High product and Ohio State transfer Rodjay Burns started as a slot cornerback for the White team. He did not appear on the outside, where we thought he might. Early enrollee Chandler Jones and redshirt freshman Anthony Johnson were the outside corners.

The coaching staff has months to figure out how to best use Burns, but it was a surprise to see him lined up inside. New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s scheme figures to try players at different positions than they’ve played in the past.

Tobias Little stars: The coaches could not say enough good things about redshirt sophomore fullback Tobias Little during camp. Little showed why on Friday. He was the game’s leading rusher with 13 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown.

Petrino said he wouldn’t hesitate to give his fullback the ball. Little, who is 6-foot and 248 pounds, showed ability as a power back that Louisville didn’t have consistently last season. He also made a nice one-handed catch, and then nearly discarded linebacker Boosie Whitlow on the run.

“I still think Tobias doesn’t really know how good he can be,” Petrino said. “He’s so strong, and he’s fast. He’s starting to see things better. He can accelerate and break tackles. As long as he doesn’t hesitate, I think he can hit the hole on time and be really, really effective for us.”

Jake Lourim: 502-582-4168; jlourim@courierjournal.com; Twitter: @jakelourim. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/jakel.