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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #29 Louisville

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 16, 2014

#29 Louisville Cardinals

 

2013 Recap:

Louisville won 12 games and crushed Miami in their bowl game. Yet the loss to Central Florida was a killer as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seemed to play second fiddle to Central Florida and Blake Bortles all season long.  The lofty expectations left people feeling like the team feel short, after some unimpressive wins early in the season and not challenging for the National Title.

 

 

Coaching:

41-9 in four seasons for Bobby Petrino and he is back at Louisville. This is one of the most anticipated coaching hires of the season, to see how the faithful take to Petrino after he turned his back on this program (as well as others) and left for higher profile jobs. Petrino left the NFL hanging after less than one season with the Falcons and another college scandal followed before piecing things back together respectfully at Western Kentucky for a few seasons. Now Petrino helps Louisville transition into the ACC.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

If there was ever a college football “quarterback coach” it's Bobby Petrino. Louisville now deals with life after Teddy Bridgewater but don't fret, there is plenty of talent in the cupboards at Louisville. Will Gardner made appearances in seven games last season and was impressive in his short amount of work. There were obvious questions when Petrino arrived as to whether he would want “his man” at quarterback but Gardner is the starter and played well in the spring...really well. The leash will be short as Pat Thomas is in house, as well as Petrino big time recruit Reggie Bonnafon who may redshirt the season.

They are also loaded in the backfield where Dominique Brown is back for another effective season. Brown doesn't have huge stats but he shares the workload and he is a great receiver out of the backfield, something Petrino will love. Don't forget Michael Dyer is the backup. You may remember Dyer being with Auburn and winning a National Title as a freshman with Cam Newton. A few transfers and bumps in the road later and Dyer enjoyed a quiet but most importantly, drama free season with Louisville. There are questions about the overall direction of the offense but it is not due to a lack of talent, that's for sure.

Best Draft Prospect: Will Gardner QB 4th Round 2017.

 

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

We're not sure DeVante Parker is as good as his numbers with Teddy Bridgewater say or as gifted as coach Bobby Petrino claims he is, but he will be taken early during the NFL Draft process. Parker was likely a mid 2nd-4th Round pick had he declared with his quarterback a season ago but he is convinced he is first round talent and he could wind up there with another big year. Parker doesn't have blinding speed but he always seems to get behind a defense and has tremendous hands. Eli Rogers had 44 catches a season ago and he will fit in nicely opposite Parker, with Kai De La Cruz and last year's prize recruit James Quick ready to lend a hand. Quick may wind up with the starting role and if he is as good as advertised he could be a star in just a few short years.

The real key here may be Gerald Christian, a tight end that posted over 400 yards on 28 catches a season ago. Christian looks like a star in the waiting and he could end up being the #2 option for the passing attack.

Best Draft Prospect: Devante Parker WR 3rd Round 2015.

 

Offensive Line:

With the firepower Louisville possesses, not enough people talk about their immense offensive line, one that always seems to be better than experts and fans give them credit for. Left tackle Jamon Brown isn't as agile as Petrino would like but he has lost a bit of weight and is in at 340 pounds (that's right, I said down to 340 pounds) as he gets a spot on our All-ACC Preseason team. The other big portion of the line is center Jake Smith who is another senior, a returning starter, and player who is one of the best at his positiosn. Four of the five players along the line are returning starters and three of them are seniors. This is a line that simply is one of the better units, so running and passing the football will come easier.

Best Draft Prospect: Jamon Brown OT 5th Round 2015.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Lorenzo Mauldin leads a group up front that will have to adjust to not having 1st round pick Marcus Smith around anymore. This is going to be a huge departure from the defense that ranked #1 nationally a season ago. Mauldin had an impressive 9.5 sacks playing across from Smith who was second in the nation in sacks behind Trent Murphy of Stanford. Mauldin is the only returning starter up front as Louisville has employed a 3-4 base for a number of seasons and it has yielded some big pass rushers in years past like Elvis Dumervil. B.J. DuBose saw a lot of action in a reserve role and will be able to get penetration. The Cardinals just need to hope that DeAngelo Brown holds up at nose tackle, which is the biggest areas of concern up front. Johnny Richardson is the backup as a freshman and he was highly touted coming to Louisville.

Best Draft Prospect: Lorenzo Mauldin DE/LB 5th Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

James Burgess is ready to assume the leadership role on defense now that Preston Brown has moved on to the NFL. Burgess finished 3rd on the team with 72 tackles and 9 coming for loss in 2013. The rest of the linebackers are unproven and very green around the edges. Deiontrez Mount offers the most experience as he saw action in 10 games last season, mostly in mop up work and on special teams. Trevon Young is a junior college transfer who could see action and play a part in the Cardinals defense. Nick Dawson and Keith Kelsey should be the other starters but again the players are going to be interchangeable as Louisville looks for the right chemistry and combinations.

Best Draft Prospect: James Burgess LB 7th Round 2016.

 

Secondary:

This is the area where Lousiville excelled a season ago, but Calvin Pryor was the first safety selected in this past draft taken in the 1st round and Hakeem Smith was also selected, so the best safety duo in the country has moved on. Louisville still has a pair of corners who should see life continue in the NFL. Charles Gaines is a good corner and has added value as a return man. Terell Floyd is a fringe 7th round/undrafted free agent prospect while Gaines is currently slated as a 5th rounder. Between them the pair had 9 interceptions a season ago with an additional 19 defensed. This is the area of the football field where Louisville can ill afford any injuries because the starting lineup is so unproven and the bench is thin and loaded with underclassmen. 

Best Draft Prospect: Charles Gaines CB 5th Round 2016.

 

Special Teams:

We have already talked about Gaines and what he brings to the table as a return man. James Quick the highly touted wide receiver will get more involved and work kickoff returns while Gaines will more than likely just be the punt return man.

John Wallace is one of the better underclassmen kickers at the NCAA level and he has the strength to kick in the NFL. Ryan Johnson needs to improve on his directional punting a bit but his hang time improved over the season and he wasn't guilty of outkicking his coverage. This is a solid special teams unit overall.

Best Draft Prospect: Charles Gaines CB/KR 5th Round 2016.

 

Schedule:

Louisville picks up the season right where they left off, facing Miami and this will be a home contest. The first year in the ACC sees Louisville getting Florida State but they will avoid Virginia Tech and Duke. A November road date at Notre Dame will prove to be interesting, so overall this is a decent schedule with a nice blend of tough opponents but favorable home games.

 

Draft Outlook:

Louisville still has a lot of very good prospects but not as many names that will be near the top of the board like we have seen the last few seasons. Increased visibility in the ACC will help the recruiting as Louisville looks to make a seamless transition.

 

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