--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Jared Anderson
Nobody is picking the Louisville Cardinals over Alabama on September 1st.
The Crimson Tide are coming off another National Championship, while the Cards are trying their third defensive coordinator in three years. The media picked Alabama to once again win the SEC, and Louisville to finish fifth in their division.
If Louisville ends up winning, it could shift the entire college football dynamic. It would almost certainly catapult the Cards into the top-25, and be a game that would give Louisville definite style points.
The Evil Empire of College Football is picked to win almost every game they play. When they lose, even in the playoff, half of the country loses their minds. It wouldn’t be any different for the Camping World Kickoff. Alabama has a 25.5 point spread over Louisville.
If the Cards come within 14, most of the fan base would take the moral victory and run with it.
In order for Louisville to win, the defense has to be *significantly* better than it was last year, the offensive line must block perfectly, receivers need to not miss a beat, and Jawon Pass needs to be perfect in the pocket.
Wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick believes Louisville’s receivers can beat out Tide defensive backs.
"Every receiver in our receiver corps can honestly beat every one of their DBs one-on-one in coverage.” Fitzpatrick said, “It ties into the other stuff, if the blocks are right, if the quarterback's drop is right, we ran eight-yard routes instead of a 10-yard route, that's the kind of stuff I feel like we need to sharpen up. But I feel like straight talent-wise, I feel like we have the upper edge against their secondary, 1,000 percent.”
For Fitzpatrick and the rest of the receiver corps. to prove their point, Pass needs to have an even-more impressive starting debut than Lamar Jackson. Jackson’s first pass against Auburn in the Chick fil A Kickoff game went for an interception.
If that happened against Alabama, Jalen Hurts, or Tua Tagovailoa wouldn’t forgive. The Cards would be forced to come from behind, a seemingly impossible feat.
But if Pass is perfect, and the Cards are able to pull it out, there will be a shakeup in the college football world.
ESPN’s FPI would shoot Louisville up tremendously. All of the borderline games would shift into Louisville’s favor.
The Cards may be considered serious contenders for the ACC Atlantic title.
And it’s a non-conference game. Whether Louisville wins or loses, they have the same opportunity win the ACC as any other ACC team. If they beat Alabama, and come close to winning the ACC, the college football playoff committee will have to seriously consider who to send.
More than likely, Louisville won’t win the game, or even come within 10.
If they do, the college football world will be rocked.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Seth Spalding
One of the most recognizable difference between last year’s Louisville Cardinals and this years is the offense. Lamar Jackson won’t be in the backfield. Now, Jawon Pass is the starting QB.
Even without Jackson, Louisville has a lot of pieces left. For starters, the offensive line all has experience, and depth. They should be able to protect the pocket, and give Pass time to throw.
“I feel really good about Mekhi (Becton) and Lukayus (McNeil) and the fact that they played almost every play together last year.” Head coach Bobby Petrino said, “Cole Bentley is a guy that has tremendous ability. He's still playing both guard and center, so we're trying to see what the best combination is there.”
Both Becton and McNeil hold down the right side. With another year of experience, and the wisdom of O-line coach Mike Summers, they should be able to hold the line down. Bentley had decent playing time last year, and was a stud when recruited. He’s a guy that may be able to shift to both sides, if need be.
“Kenny Thomas has great experience and understands the game and knows what he needs to do. Linwood Foy has shown he can play.” Petrino said. “I’ve looked back on it last year and watched all the video of him last year and thought, “We should’ve had him in there more.””
Foy was a three-star recruit from the College of the Canyons, who committed to Louisville in 2016.
The stronger line should give Pass time to pick and throw. He made 23 of 33 last year, averaging 7.2 yards, and had two touchdowns. He didn’t give up a pick in 2017. He also succeeded rushing, with 61 yards on 13 attempts.
“I think [Pass] needs to go out and play the position.” Petrino said, “Run the show and understand exactly what we're striving for as an offensive staff.”
Pass was a four-star when recruited, and was the fifth-ranked dual-threat QB in his class. He also was praised by quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino for his ability and willingness to learn.
“He does a good job about being vocal and asking questions.” Nick Petrino said, “If he doesn’t know something he’ll let you know.”
With a high willingness to learn, Pass could develop into a great quarterback. At 6-4, Pass has a two-inch height advantage over Jackson, and appears to be a more-natural passer.
Preseason All-ACC selection Jaylen Smith is the No. 1 target for Pass. Seth Dawkins will more than likely line up opposite, with Dez Fitzpatrick in the flex. Fitzpatrick could be set for a breakout year, after he set the freshmen touchdown record in less than a season last year. Micky Crum also looks to be the starting tight end.
Dae Williams, Try Smith, and Malik Staples are all rushers that could see action.
Louisville opens their 2018 season in Orlando on September 1st, against Alabama.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photos by Seth Spalding
The Louisville Cardinals hosted media day for football Saturday, giving reporters and photographers their first official look at the 2018 Louisville Cardinals.
While players and coaches talked to the media, a few things stood out:
Brian VanGorder is different that Peter Sirmon
Multiple players and head coach Bobby Petrino commented on Louisville’s defense, and what is different about it. VanGorder’s language is different than Sirmon’s, and he brings a lot from the NFL.
“When he walks into a room, you feel his presence immediately.” Louisville cornerback PJ Mbanasor said, “His aggression, with the way he talks, the way he demands things, it’s kinda more of an emphasis on that.”
VanGorder had success in the NFL and for Georgia, winning the Broyles Award; the top trophy for college football assistants, during his tenure with Georgia in 2003.
“You gotta come to film ready to learn.” Mbanasor said; “Books out, iPads, ready to take on the install he has prepared for you that day. He’s real complex in terms of his lingo and his approach, so you’ve gotta be ready to pay attention.”
“His big key is attention to detail.” Cornerback Rodjay Burns said. “Dependability. He’s got a lot of big factors that he lives by and will help us as a defense. Sirmon’s a great coach but his [VanGorder] presence is felt.”
Already, before the first game, the presence began to be felt. Petrino was complimentary during his press conference, saying that he was very happy with what he has seen.
“I really like the enthusiasm and energy our defense plays with.” Petrino said “I think the defense has shown a lot of improvement. I like the way we’re flying around, and running to the football.”
This is Puma’s team
The most obvious difference between last year’s team and this year’s is the loss of quarterback Lamar Jackson. The 2016 Heisman award winner left the team after last season, going into the NFL draft, and was taken in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Now, Jawon “Puma” Pass takes over. The 6-4, Columbus, Georgia native was a four star when recruited, and had limited action last year.
Pass has big shoes to fill. Jackson led the Cards to three late-December bowl games, and led them over ACC juggernaut Florida State two years in a row.
“I just focus on being the best player I can be.” Pass said, “Just take control. That’s the biggest thing. Take control all the time, and be a game manager.”
Of course, there’s no expectation for a Heisman trophy for Pass. But the young quarterback is ready to learn.
“He does a good job about being vocal and asking questions.” Quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino said, “If he doesn’t know something he’ll let you know.”
The offense isn’t all the way there yet
During his interview, Bobby Petrino was very complimentary of the defense, but wary around the offense. It’s to be somewhat expected. The Cardinals are entering 2018 with a new starting QB under center, with a different system, and there are bound to be kinks that have to be ironed out.
“Puma’s done a nice job of running the show.” Petrino said, “But we’re still off on our timing, as far as receiver and quarterback protection.”
The team officially began practicing in early-August. And there’s still plenty of time to fix timing issues until September 1st.
Louisville kicks off on September 1st, against Alabama at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fl.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Jared Anderson
One of the first signs of fall comes this Saturday. The University of Louisville will host football media day. Reporters will get their first official look at the team, and have an opportunity to answer questions that exist before Louisville takes on Alabama on September first.
Here’s a few things to watch for on Media Day:
What will the official depth chart look like?
It’s close to the middle-part of August, and Bobby Petrino still has not released an official depth chart. Most roster projections are through past rosters, and don’t include freshmen. Louisville brings in a good recruiting class, and some of those guys may produce earlier than expected.
The depth chart may be released on, or close to, media day.
What type of defense will Brian VanGorder run?
New defensive coordinator has worked with multiple schemes in the past. After running a hybrid 3-4 and 4-2-5 under Peter Sirmon, fans will be interested to see how the Cards will line up against Alabama.
VanGorder has worked with the 4-3 and 3-4 in the past. He had stated that Louisville’s personnel best fits the 4-3, but would wait until fall camp to decide.
Reactions to the projected ACC standings
The Cardinals didn’t receive any love during ACC Media Day. Louisville was picked fifth in the Atlantic, behind Clemson, Florida State, NC State, and Boston College.
It’s expected they’d be picked to finish behind Clemson and FSU, and not surprising they were picked behind NC State; but Boston College? That was a team they led against for most of the game at home, and lost due to defensive struggles.
It’s apparent that many media outlets remember that game. Now that the Eagles have an offense, and return all of their key pieces, they have a 59.7% chance to win the game.
Another team Louisville was projected to lose to is Florida State. The Cards have a 44.1% chance to win. Louisville demolished the Seminoles in 2016, and beat them on a game-winning field goal last year. Since then, the ‘Noles lost Jimbo Fisher, and replaced him with Willie Taggart. Taggart has been praised by the energy he brings to Tallahassee. The ‘Noles also return QB Deondre Francois, who left the first game of last season with a season-ending patellar tendon tear. It’ll be interesting to see if he is back to full-strength after missing almost a year.
While coaches don’t usually look at the standings, or tell the media they don’t care, there must be some reaction to the talk behind it.
Introduction to 2018 recruiting class
Louisville has the 29th recruiting class this season, according to 247sports.com. They’re seventh in the ACC, and feature multiple four-star recruits. Three are listed on the roster: Marlon Character, Robert Hicks, and Trenell Troutman. All three are defensive players. Character is a sophomore cornerback from Grady in Atlanta. Hicks and Troutman are both freshmen. Hicks is a linebacker, and Troutman is a Safety.
It’ll be interesting to see how all these guys may be used in game action. Character may be the most likely to get significant action, due to his experience.
Tutu Atwell, Michael Boykin, Chandler Jones and Demji Dumervil-Jean (nephew of UofL great Elvis Dumervil) are also names to keep an eye on.
--By Jared Anderson
--File photo by Seth Spalding
Not all key Louisville Cardinals are gone.
Yes, Lamar Jackson and Jaire Alexander are gone. The Cards will be without two of the top stars from last season. Despite this, Louisville has plenty of talent left on the team. Here’s a few players to look out for:
Jaylen Smith: A senior, Smith has high expectations from fans and media alike after a successful junior year. He recently underwent emergency appendectomy surgery and is expected to miss up to two weeks of the regular season. Upon his return Smith could set a pace equal or greater to his numbers last season. A 10-touchdown season is possible but would be a high mark for a receiver whose top number is seven.
Desmond “Dez” Fitzpatrick: As a redshirt freshman in 2017 Fitzpatrick had a breakout season. He led the team with nine touchdowns last year, making his reception-touchdown ratio an incredible 5-1. Teams now know his name but stopping him is another story.
Jonathan “Jon” Greenard: Greenard was eighth on the team in tackles last year. Five above him graduated, moving the redshirt-junior into third on the list. The linebacker tied for first on the team with seven sacks last year and will hope to make an even bigger impact on defense as a defensive captain and having a new defensive coordinator.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Jared Anderson
In less than a month, the Louisville Cardinals will kick off in Orlando against Alabama. When they take the field, Louisville will field a new-look defense under long-time coordinator Brian VanGorder.
Many people have questioned the hire, but VanGorder had a good track record in the early 2000s. He won the Broyles Award; given to the top assistant of college football; in 2003. He coached at Georgia from 2001 to 2004, where his Bulldogs were in the top-10 in scoring defense during the span.
After a stint for three different teams in the NFL, VanGorder returned to the NCAA. His next long-stint was as the coordinator for Notre Dame from 2014-2016.
“It’s a steep learning curve to get to where you need to be to have success” said Joe Schmidt IV, who was a linebacker under VanGorder. “It’s one of the more elaborate and complete NFL schemes that you’ll come across.”
Louisville may best fit the 4-3 formation. Pass rushers spent a lot of time as down linemen under Peter Sirmon last season.
“I think good coaching is really doing a great evaluation of your players and finding out what your players are best at doing.” VanGorder said.
His players are inexperienced on the defensive line. Only Henry Famurewa, GG Robinson, and Jon Greenard have starting experience.
Famurewa and Robinson will play up the middle, leaving Greenard and Tabarius Peterson as the defensive ends. Peterson played in 12 games, and finished with 18 tackles and one forced fumble.
The linebacker corps features London Lakopo, Dorian Etheridge, and CJ Avery. Etheridge was the No. 6 player from West Virginia when recruited, and finished 2017 with 83 tackles, three for losses. CJ Avery was one of ESPN’s Top 300 when he committed. He was ranked as a four star recruit and had 25 total tackles in 2017.
Lamarques Thomas takes over at cornerback for the first-round pick Jaire Alexander. He played in all 13 games on special teams and secondary last year, and was a three-star prospect when he committed in 2015.
Russ Yeast will be the other cornerback. He was the No. 3 player from the state of Indiana, and was a four-star recruit when he committed.
Dee Smith and Khane Pass are most likely the two starting safetys. Both had action under Sirmon.
Time will tell if the new-look defense can keep up with the learning curve. If they can, 2018 could feature a defense that surprises fans.
“Once it clicks for you, it’s all simple” said Danny Verdun Wheeler, a linebacker for VanGorder at Georgia.
Louisville will find out if it clicks on Saturday, September 1st, in Orlando.