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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #9 Louisville

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 23, 2017

#9 Louisville Cardinals

2016 Recap:
A 9-4 season after going a stout 7-1 in the ACC with the only loss coming to Clemson in a game that was probably the best game we saw all year. The campaign became more about physical accomplishment as Lamar Jackson walked away with the Heisman Trophy Award.


Coaching:
What can you say about Bobby Petrino other than he is an offensive guru that is far from boring. Petrino is in his second stint at Louisville and he has won an average of 9 games a season and routinely sports one of the top offenses in the nation. The Cardinals attack finished 3rd overall in 2016 at 532 YPG.

 

Offense

The offense ranked 3rd in the nation last year and was 6th in scoring average at 42.5 PPG. The big question here is have teams figured out Lamar Jackson? True Louisville was 9-4 last year but they were 9-1 and down the stretch the team averaged 19 PPG where before the three game slide the team was averaging over 46 PPG. Jackson lost a lot of starters around him but there are still plenty of weapons in the cuboard. Reggie Bonnafon is becoming a reliable receiver who can make big plays. Bonnafon started his Louisville career as a quarterback and was the starter before the arrival of Jackson. Bonnafon can be used in the backfield and of course under center so he seems to be a true "slash" player. The offensive line is a bit inconsistent as they do not boast the depth of a Clemso or Florida State but the starters are just as good. Geron Christian could develop into a dominant blocker for the next level. The biggest issue will be protection as Louisville needs to gel as a unit and cut down on the number of sacks allowed.

Best Draft Prospects: Lamar Jackson QB 1st/2nd Round 2019.

                                       Geron Christian OT 2nd/3rd Round 2019.


Defense

So much was made of the offense a season ago that many overlooked the accomplishments of the defense. The unit ranked 3rd in total defense within the ACC and a very respectable 14th overall in the nation. Devonte Fields may be gone but Drew Bailey and James Hearns have plenty of experience bringing down quarterbacks. The linebacking corps is solid yet unspectacular and paced by Stacy Thomas who is coming off an 85 tackle season. The entire secondary returns and Jaire Alexander is one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. With so much expereince around him Alexander cannot be avoided by most teams and with safeties Chucky Williams and Zykiesis Cannon in the background Louisville can be equally as effective in run support as with pass coverage.

Best Draft Prospects: Jaire Alexander CB 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration Candidate).               

                                       Chucky Williams S 4th Round 2018.


Special Teams:

Malik Williams looks like he will be the primary kickoff return man while all-world cornerback Jaire Alexander handles the punt return duties. Blanton Creque had an effective year kicking field goals but his opportunities werelimited with the amount of touchdowns Louisville racked up. The punting job is currently open for competition and may not be settled before the start of the season.


Schedule:

Week 2 Louisville welcomes North Carolina as Louisville scores an early conference games. September 16th Clemsaon comes to town in a game that had been circled on the Louisville calendar all season long. Florida State comes on the road in late October and the Seminoles will be looking to avenge the 43-point drubbing handled to them by Louisville just a season ago.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

Take away Florida State and Clemson and the ACC team that has produced the most draft picks over the last five seasons has been Louisville. You see plenty of individual talent and with so many blue chip juniors on this team it will be very interesting to see how many declare after the season.

 

DJ Boyer