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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #4-Louisville

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 20, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#4 Louisville Cardinals

 

2012 Recap:

A pair of late season losses to Connecticut and Syracuse made Louisville a national thought going into their BCS game with Florida, but Louisville captured the Sugar Bowl 33-23. In a  weaker conference this could be a situation where they run the regular season table and set themselves up for another BCS game, and this time it could be for everything.

Coaching:

Charlie Strong seems to have his hand on the pulse of this team and knows this could be a special season, one where his signal caller brings home a Heisman Trophy. Strong has done a great job making Louisville relevant again and is 25-14 in 3 career seasons.



Offense


Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Teddy Bridgewater, Teddy Bridgewater and more Teddy Bridgewater. The Louisville football team is always something that has been a nice addition to this basketball school (congrats on winning the tournament this past season). Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals changed that briefly with a Sugar Bowl BCS victory over Florida, a team not playing very far from home and in a game where Louisville was 16-point underdogs. The score wasn’t even as close as the 33-23 score indicates as it was over by halftime. Bridgewater threw for a pair of touchdowns with 266 yards on 20-32 passing. Bridgewater showed everyone watching that he wasn’t just putting up numbers against inferior schools. Most of that damage came in the first half as Louisville mostly ran the ball and controlled the clock in the second half, or those stats would have been even better. Bridgewater is my preseason pick for the Heisman and at 6’3” 225 size is not a problem. The only factor will be health. Bridgewater is tough and he showed he can play through injury but NFL teams want to ensure nagging injuries do not follow him everywhere. Bridgewater is the player who will challenge Jadaveon Clowney as the #1 overall pick in this draft and it is 99.9% certain that both prospects will be entering the draft early.

The run game was a little pedestrian last year ranking #102 in the nation but Louisville may have just gotten a shot in the arm in the form of Michael Dyer. If the name sounds familiar it is because he was the MVP of the BCS title game as a freshman when Auburn defeated Oregon for the national title. Some legal troubles and a few transfers later and Dyer has ended up at Louisville with a pair of seasons of eligibility remaining. I think Dyer will be a draft pick and leave this season since he is 24 and has immediate eligibility, since the school where he was enrolled last, Arkansas Baptist, did not have football. Pair Dyer with last year's starter Senorise Perry, who is back from injury, and junior Dominique Brown, and you have depth at your offensive trouble position from a season ago.

Best Draft Prospect: Teddy Bridgewater QB 1st Round 2015 (He will turn pro for 2014 and is my preseason choice for the Heisman Trophy. Bridgewater is the only player capable of knocking Jadaveon Clowney aside as the top overall pick, it will depend if the team at the top of the board needs a quarterback).
 


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Teddy Bridgewater is not the only NFL prospect on this team along the offensive side of the football. DeVante Parker didn’t start many games at receiver last year but he was far and away the best on the team and a constant threat. Parker posted only 40 catches but he had nearly 20 yards a catch and reached the end zone 10 times. Parker has nice size at 6’2” and 210 pounds and combines that with deceptive speed and precise routes. Parker will need to play a pair of seasons to really prove his worth but it will also give him a chance to raise the current draft stock which is the 4th round.  With another strong season and improvement with his hands, we could see him going as high as round 2. Damien Copeland and his 50 catches led the team a season ago and he should put up similar type numbers and get a camp invite for 2014. Robert Clark is listed as the other starter but James Quick could crack the lineup after being the prized possession of this recruiting class.

Tight ends Gerald Christian and Ryan Hubbell will not add much in the form of receiving but both are terrific blockers and we will see a lot of formations where both are on the field together.

Best Draft Prospect: DeVante Parker WR 4th Round 2015.
 


Offensive Line:

The offensive line has a few places to fill since some starters have moved on but this is still a solid unit that will not be a deficiency. The next breakout star from this team may be left tackle Andrew “Taco” Garcia who started as a true freshman.  Garcia is not just a novelty with his massive 355-pound frame, he has true potential. Garcia needs to work on conditioning and hand placement but he seems to be a quick study. The right side of the line is where we see the most cohesiveness with Jamon Brown and Jake Smith back at tackle and guard. Jake Smith was moved to center during spring practice but right now Lousiville is keeping him at guard and playing Kamran Joyner at center. I expect some movement on the interior line but again, this is not a cause for alarm or panic as the line is still in good shape. Right now Garcia is the only true NFL prospect along the line although Jamon Brown could garner a camp invite for the 2015 class.

Best Draft Prospect: Abraham Garcia OT 3rd Round 2016.
 


Defense

Defensive Line
:

The Achilles heel of the defense last season was rushing defense as the team was outrushed by opponents in 8 of the 13 games in which they played. The Cardinals were 48th in the nation against the run, not a horrible ranking but that was the lower half of the Big East. Even more troubling was the 22 sacks posted by Louisville which was 3rd from the bottom in the conference. Though that makes the accomplishments of the secondary a little more impressive, one has to think how much their ranking would improve if the Cardinals had a consistent pass rush. Marcus Smith, Brandon Dunn and Jamaine Brooks all return along the defensive line although Brooks is the only one with a shot at a legitimate NFL future. Deiontrez Mount will be joining the starters at defensive end and he may be the best pass rusher of the bunch but won’t offer much stopping the run. I expect a little improvement but if there is an area to worry about for this team it has to be the defensive line. Finessee Middletoon is the #2 ranked recruit from this class after receiver James Quick and we may see him slide into the starting lineup at some point during the season

Best Draft Prospect: Jamaine Brooks DT 7th Round 2015.


       
Linebackers:

The linebackers start the back seven of the defense which is among the top ten units in the nation. Preston Brown leads the five returning starters among the back seven with two of the three linebackers coming back. Brown had 109 stops last year and is much better at stopping the run than he is in pass protection. Without Brown this team may have been last stopping the run in the conference. Brown is a sure tackler with amazing range,  but his instincts and play recognition needs to improve to make plays earlier. Yet he has shown constant improvement during his tenure with the Cardinals. George Durant is a fellow starting senior who was voted the teams most improved player for 2012. Durant was responsible for 37 stops with 4.5 coming for loss and the stats should improve again in 2013 as he should now be starting for a whole season. Sophomore Keith Brown should be the other starter, and we will see a lot of fellow sophomore James Burgess. Brown has some experience as a starter and both could prove their future worth with possible NFL careers this season. The linebackers are very deep and undersized but fast, this is an underrated group that could catch a number of teams by surprise.

Best Draft Prospect: Preston Brown 6th Round 2014.



Secondary:

The Louisville secondary is the cream of the crop for the Big East, sporting one of the best starting safety combos in the nation as both are listed as 2nd round prospects. Hakeem Smith is projected to go near the end of the second round/mid third while Calvin Pryor is currently listed as a second rounder for 2015 who has a chance at going pro for 2014, especially if Louisville has the amazing success that many, including myself, are predicting for this year. Smith had 73 tackles with 7 pass breakups but he is more of the run stopper. Calvin Pryor is the jack-of-all-trades that posted 100 tackles with a pair of picks and an amazing 5 forced fumbles.  Pryor could declare after this season because there was talk last year that he would declare, since he had a redshirt season he was an eligible sophomore, but he quickly refuted the report. I pointed out that Louisville ranked #16 against the pass a season ago, an amazing ranking since they had a very anemic pass rush. While the safeties are the stars, Louisville cannot have that ranking with their play alone. The only thing missing from the cornerbacks is size as only one of the top four corners on the depth chart stands 6’0” and that is new starter Jermaine Reve, who played primarily as a backup safety in 2012. Reve gives the corners more size while the safeties already have a very capable backup that can play both the strong and free safety positions in Gerod Holliman. Reve had 32 tackles and 4.5 for loss a season ago and Louisville could take advantage of his blitzing ability off the corner and maybe add some additional pressure in special situations. Terrell Floyd returns as a starter and he is the top returning interception man with 3 from a season ago. They have depth and players and backups capable of playing multiple positions. Louisville just needs a little push along the front line and this team could find itself winning another BCS Bowl game to start 2014.

Best Draft Prospect: Hakeem Smith S 2nd/3rd Round 2014 and Calvin Pryor S 2nd Round 2015.



Special Teams:

The return game was another area where opponents seemed to get the best of the Cardinals. James Quick the receiver pulled out from schools like Ohio State and Oregon at the last minute, and he could be the key to getting the return game on track. Where Louisville has no issues is on field goals where John Wallace hit all 14 attempts inside 40 yards. Ryan Johnson is the punter who did not have a huge number on yards per kick but the coverage teams didn’t let him down as he was very respectable in the net punting department. Wallace has a chance at getting a camp invite and making a team for 2016, and with another big season he could work his way into a legitimate draft prospect.

Best Draft Prospect: John Wallace K UFA 2016.



Schedule:

Louisville has a home game against Rutgers on October 10th along with closing the season on the road against Cincinnati in the first week of December. If Louisville wins both contests it is likely they are undefeated and playing in a major bowl and maybe for the National Title.



Draft Outlook:

Bridgewater will have a lot of attention and the Louisville safeties will get a ton looks over the next two seasons.  Recruiting classes are getting better and better, in a few years Louisville may be seen as more than just a basketball school.

 

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