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2016 Fierce 40 Previews: #13 Louisville

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 10, 2016

#13 Louisville Cardinals

2015 Recap:
The Cardinals finished at 8-5 after defeating Texas A&M 27-21 in the Music City Bowl. Louisville was rather quiet since they opened the year 0-3 their asention came under the national radar. After the 0-3 start the only losses came against Florida State (in a game they gave away, that is two years in a row they let Florida State off the hook) and Pittsburgh.


Coaching:
Bobby Petrino is a lightning rod for controversy but his second time around at Louisville is going well and they are a school that is on the upward trend. The recruiting classes have improved and Petrino has shown he is just as comfortable at the University now as he was years ago when he rose Louisville back to national relevancy.


Offense

Lamar Jackson had an uneven performance as a freshman but his improvement as the season went on was obvious. The great piece for Jackson coming into this season is his arsenal as the cupboard is far from bare at Louisville. James Quick was perhaps the top receiver recruit in the entire country when he came to Louisville and he offers us little pieces and glimpses of him taking over games and being a huge weapon. Quick averaged nearly 20 yards per catch and found the end zone five times as he moved from the outside receiver position and into the slot. Jamari Staples offers a nice compliment along the outside. Louisville has a nice running attack and the top three Running backs from 2015 are all back in the form of Brandon Ratcliff, L.J. Scott and Jeremy Smith. Jackson was the top rusher so the Cardinals still have that threat running the football behind their line which excelled at run blocking while stuggling with consistency with pass protection. Geron Christian looks like he has the ability to be a future first round pick at offensive tackle and will lead the way for the Cardinals line.
 

Best Draft Prospects: James Quick WR 3rd Round 2017.

                                       Geron Christian OT 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration).


Defense

The defense ranked in the top five of every major category within the ACC with all except for pass defense. The Cardinals ranked 18th overall in total defense (3rd in the ACC) and 39th in scoring defense (4th in the ACC). Nobody was more responsible for the terrific numbers than the pass rush which was fierce in the second half of the season and led by Devonte Fields. Fields started his career at TCU and as a freshman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Fields career was derailed by off field incidents and after a JUCO transferred he arrived at Louisville and posted 11 saks a season ago. Now as a senior, Fields has the chance to be a first round pick as his work at end and linebacker makes him a tweener pick with the experience at the NFL level. DeAngelo Brown is a playmaker at defensive tackle that looks poised to emerge as one of the nations finest. The entire secondary is back with safety and Georgia transfer Josh Harvey-Clemons, ready for a huge year and to impress scouts looking for next level prospects.

Best Draft Prospects: Devonte Fields DE/LB 2nd Round 2017.

                                      DeAngelo Brown DT 4th Round 2017.


Special Teams:

The Cardinals have lost both their kicker and punter from last season and both were major weapons for the team. John Wallace was perhaps the greatest kicker in Louisville history and Evan O' Hara has the nearly impossible task of replacing him. Mason King looks like he will be the pounter but that is not set in stone at this time. The Cardinal punt reurn coverage was #1 in the ACC last season while they placed in the middle of the pack covering kickoffs.


Schedule:

A home date with Florida State is there in week 3. The last 2 seasons Louisville has had every opportunity to win against the Seminoles and they have pissed it away on both occasions. This game may be as important for the overall confidence of the team as it will be in the standings. October 1st then brings a road game against Clemson, the team starting the year #1 in our poll. A November 17th game at Houston may be one of the bigger games at the end of the schedule that many don't see coming.



Draft and Overall Outlook:

We are seeing more and more talent coming from Louisville, especially along the offensive line. James Quick was one of the top prospects in the country when he came to Louisville a few years back and he has shown glimpses of being a dominant college wide receiver. Devonte Fields caught fire and was one of the best defensive players in the country over the second half of 2015, if he keeps that form he could see his stock push him into the top half of the first round and he has experience at defensive end and linebacker.

DJ Boyer