Whenever you think of summer, you think of barbeques, beaches, and relaxation. It’s a time that many students at colleges all around the country use to relax and recuperate from the stressful time that is finals week. And while all of the students are out and about, it leaves the Belknap Campus quieter than usual, with all restaurants on campus closed and residence halls lying empty.
One area that isn’t empty, however, is the practice field and Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, as our football team prepares to build on the 2015 team, which ended its season on an 8-2 streak, capped by a win over SEC power Texas A & M in the Franklin-America Music City Bowl. The team went 8-5, with a 5-3 ACC record, good enough for third in the ACC Atlantic Division. The 2015 team’s success is largely credited to Lamar Jackson, a dual-threat QB that passed for 1840 yards and rushed for 960. That was after he settled into his starting role and got used to the style of offense ran by Bobby Petrino. It was because of him that many College Football websites are predicting us within the top-25, with Bleacher-Report ranking us at number 13. With Jackson and the rest of the offense coming back, with another year’s experience, you might find the Louisville Cardinals heading to either Atlanta or Glendale on New Year’s Eve 2016 to play for the opportunity to do what no recent team was able to do: win the BCS National Championship. Let’s face it, this is a good football team. It’s a team that only lost to the Clemson Tigers by a field goal, led the Florida State Seminoles by a touchdown going into halftime in Tallahassee, came back from being down a touchdown in Lexington to winning by 14, and beating the Aggies in Nashville on December 30th. This team can compete with the big dogs, and like a fine bourbon, will get better with age. Louisville opens up on a Thursday, certainly on national TV against the Charlotte 49ers, will host Florida State in week three, while traveling to Death Valley to play national runner up Clemson two weeks later. In the second half of the season, we will play the much-improved Boston College Eagles on the road and then travel to the state of Texas to take on the Houston Cougars, whom upset us in week two of last season. This is not a cupcake schedule by any stretch of the imagination, but the one thing that the Cards can do is to stay in every game on the schedule. This team nearly beat Clemson, but lost due to a missed field goal, and this team led Florida State before a huge comeback on the road, probably due to a realization by Jimbo Fisher that ‘this is a tougher team than we prepared for.’ If the Cougars were on the schedule in the later part of the season, they would have found it a bit tougher to contain the offense led by Jackson. If the Cards can pull a W in each of those matchups this year, and beat the rest of the ACC, you might just find us in the Semifinal game come December. You might be thinking, “That’s all fine and dandy, but how’s the team look next season?” my answer to you would be excellent. Our key losses include Aaron Epps, John Wallace, James Burgess, and Sheldon Rankins (who continued our streak of three straight 1st round NFL Draft Picks). The players we will gain include 22 three-star players, as well as four-star WR Desmond Fitzpatrick and four star dual-threat QB Jawon Pass. As for the coaching staff, the Cards welcome Lonnie Galloway, who will serve alongside Chris Klenakis as Co-Offensive Coordinator. Galloway, who was the Wide Receivers Coach with the West Virginia Mountaineers last season, is one of the nation’s top wide receiver coaches and helped the Mountaineers reach three consecutive seasons at 9-4. The Cards also welcome back Todd Grantham as Defensive Coordinator, building on a season which he led the Cards to the 18th overall defense, with the 13th best passing defense in the nation. Yes, this may be the time that dormitories lay empty, where campus eateries are closed, and all students at the university only worry about the daily activities they want to do, if they do anything at all, but for the Louisville Cardinals football team, it’s the time for work and preparation. This isn’t the offseason to them; it’s the time for the Cards to take flight. And come December, you could see them soar.