--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Jared Anderson
The Louisville Cardinals officially kick off the new year tomorrow. Bobby Petrino and Co. take on No. 1 Alabama in Orlando at 8pm. While we gave our preview yesterday, there are a few keys to the game if Louisville wants to upset the *massive* 25.5-point favorite Crimson Tide.
After waiting in the wings for two years, Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass has his time to shine. A four-star recruit and the 19th-ranked player from Georgia, Pass showed glimpses of success last season. He went 23 for 33, for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He had 62 from the trenches, and a touchdown.
Pass will have his first start against an Alabama team that lost a lot on defense. Alabama replaces their entire secondary, and lacks a little on the line. Louisville has one of the best offensive lines in years, and a talented wide receiver unit with experience. They also have a stacked running game.
Bama runs the 3-4. Louisville should be prepared for outside blitzes. Pass should be prepared to try and get rid of the ball quickly, or run the option.
The nation knows what to expect from either Alabama starter. They’re not sure what to expect in Pass’s first start.
Don’t raise the flags
In their first game last season, Louisville committed 16 penalties. Over half were from offensive false starts. The Cardinals can’t afford to gift Alabama any additional yardage, on defense or offense. Nick Saban will take advantage of all the little mistakes.
Being in a neutral-site, which is significantly closer to Tuscaloosa, the crowd will be loud. There will be some confusion on when to snap the ball. Pass will need to be clear and deliberate on when the ball should be snapped, and the line should be ready.
Again, don’t gift Alabama anything. They’ll take it and run with it.
If the Cardinals get the lead after halftime, and the defense makes a stop, Louisville will need to chew as much of the clock as they can. If Alabama’s defense makes a stop, try and force the Tide to play from behind; and speed the game up. If the offense is rushed, there may be a mistake or two.
Be prepared for two
There are two starting quarterbacks listed on Saban’s depth chart. Jalen Hurts received most of the snaps in 2017, but was injured in the second-half of the national championship game; replaced by Tua Tagovailoa. Both QBs have over 60 percent passing, and over ten touchdowns in 2017.
Saban will wait until the last minute before he releases who starts the game. It wouldn’t be surprising if he had both quarterbacks come onto the field before the first play, and pull the non-starter off before the first snap.
Both QBs will also likely play at some point in the game. Brian VanGorder’s defense needs to be prepared for both.
Aside from the quarterback position, there are some similarities between the rosters. Both teams are dealing with losses on defense. Most offensive linemen come back. They bring a lot back on offense.
The closer the game comes, the more one must wonder if the names of the program have anything to deal with predictions. If both rosters switched, there will be a decent amount of national media outlets that will project Alabama to win.
Saban is 9-0 in neutral-site season openers. He’s 11-0 overall. There’s always a chance for No. 1. My season preview listed Alabama as being the 35-30 losers. To be different, I’ll agree with Bobby Petrino and Co. and say Louisville will win in a close game.
My prediction: Louisville 37, Alabama 35
It should also be noted that I did not do well on projections last season. Let us know what you think in the comments below
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson, River City Cards
Repeat. After. Me: Louisville Football is back.
The Louisville Cardinals take on the top team in the nation, Alabama; this Saturday, September 1st. The game will be at 8pm on ABC, and is at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fl.
Louisville and Alabama have faced three previous times. The Tide have won two. Their last matchup, in 1991, was won by Louisville, 34-7.
There’s a lot of talk from Louisville. Dez Fitzpatrick claimed that Louisville’s wide receivers are more talented than Alabama’s defensive backs. Bobby Petrino stated that Louisville was “gonna go beat ‘em.” Most recently, Louisville offensive lineman Lukayas McNeil said that “I definitely think we’re capable of going out, starting fast, and dominating their D-line.”
When you look at the comments, there’s some which make you think. First, Louisville has an experience advantage over Alabama’s secondary. The Tide are replacing every starter in the secondary from last season. Nick Saban still has a recruiting edge over pretty much anyone in the country, but it makes you wonder about how the fresh unit will do against an experienced wide receivers unit.
Bama runs a 3-4. Up front, their sizes are 6-5, 293, 6-4,285, and 6-7, 306. Their linebackers hover around 6-3 and 240. Their outside LBs are both over 240 lbs.
Considering that Louisville’s average size is roughly 6-5 and 300 (No math involved in averaging), there may be something to McNeil’s statement. Louisville’s offensive front five are also more experienced. They have three Seniors and two sophomores.
That may give Jawon Pass time to pick and throw. It also may help Louisville in the trenches. The Cardinals return six running backs, including Jeremy Smith, who left the team in hopes to transfer.
On the other side of the ball, Brian VanGorder and Co. will have their hands full. Bama returns four of five offensive linemen, and return both tight ends. Bo Scarbrough was the only departure from an uber-talented rushing attack.
Alabama also returns both Jalen Hurts and national-championship hero Tua Tagovailoa. With as talented as their offense is, the game may end up a shootout early.
This, in combination with Louisville’s loss of eight starters on defense, and a new system, will give a headache to Louisville coach Bobby Petrino.
Game one will untimately come down to Pass’s performance under center. He did well against mismatched opponents last year- hitting 23 of 33 for 238 yards with 62 yards rushing. Pass also has the tools available to put together a good year of football. He also has a height advantage over Lamar Jackson-at two inches taller.
If Pass does well, and the line holds up like it should, Louisville can hang with Alabama for most of the game. If Louisville plays perfectly, and takes advantage of Bama’s inexperienced defense; and VanGoder’s unit makes a few key stops, then this could end up as an upset.
More than likely, it will be a close game for most, and Alabama will pull away during the last few minutes. It won’t be a 25-point blowout, however.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Seth Spalding
The Louisville Cardinals football team are heavy underdogs against Alabama on Sunday. The line is 25.5 points, well over three touchdowns and a field goal.
Despite this, Bobby Petrino has said that he believes Louisville can beat Alabama. Alabama coach Nick Saban also said that the Cardinals are “historically good.”
While this may be just hype for the game from both sides, everyone must wonder: does Louisville have a chance?
History says no. Not because Louisville is a bad team, but because Alabama is Alabama. The Crimson Tide seem like perennial national champions, and won the national championship last year. The Tide are 11-0 under Saban in season openers. Alabama is 8-0 in neutral-site locations. Alabama also hasn’t lost to an unranked team since 2007.
All of those stats are in the past.
Once you break down the roster, Louisville does have an advantage at wide receiver. At least with size. Alabama’s starting secondary all hover at around 6-1, or 6-2. Jaylen Smith, Seth Dawkins, and Dez Fitzpatrick are all at least 6-2. They also have experience. Most of the secondary haven’t started much last season.
Alabama also lost a key linebackers. Terrell Lewis had a torn ACL in July. The rest of the unit is strong, but Anfernee Jennings had injury concerns in 2017.
The Tide also lost nose tackle Da’Ron Payne, who was the tone-setter earlier in the season.
Louisville’s best shot is to try a few trick plays, and test the inexperienced secondary. If Louisville gets the lead, they can try to run up the middle and chew plenty of clock. What they can’t do, however, is try to come back from behind.
One other interesting note is that Saban recruited Jawon Pass to Alabama, before he chose Louisville. Pass will have time to pick and throw- Louisville has the best offensive line in years. They’ll need to be prepared for a heavy pass rush; as Louisville’s offense will mostly be from the air.
To also win, Louisville’s defense needs to hold up. While the Cards lost eight starters from last season, their current unit has some experience. Brian VanGorder also is an upgrade from Peter Sirmon last year.
It’ll have to be a vast upgrade over Sirmon in order to contend against Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa.
Bobby Petrino “Busted on them [Alabama]” when he was a coach at Arkansas. The closest matchup was in 2010, when Petrino came four points short against Alabama.
More than likely, the trend won’t change. There’s plenty of things that could go awry for Louisville. But despite this, the Cardinals will likely give them a challenge. Louisville will more than likely win the point spread, but not the game.
Something to note, however, is that Louisville is on a one-game winning streak against Alabama. They beat them 34-7 in 1991.
There’s a chance Louisville could beat them. But the Cardinals need to be perfect for it to come to fruition.
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Seth Spalding
Bobby Petrino and the Louisville Cardinals released their first depth chart of 2018 Monday, ahead of Saturday’s matchup with No. 1 Alabama. On the initial listings, there were a few key things to take away. Here’s a few standouts:
Rodjay Burns will have an impact this season
Louisville’s redshirt sophomore cornerback is listed as a starter for multiple positions, on defense and special teams. The transfer from Ohio State is listed as an option for the strong side corner, and is the punt returner and kick
He is not a bad option. He was a two-way specialist at Trinity, and was on the 2014 state championship team. ESPN had him as the No. 3 athlete in Kentucky. He was also in the top 50 athletes by ESPN and Scout. Burns was the No. 73 cornerback of the 2016 class by 247Sports.
He appeared in seven games at Ohio State, returning a touchdown against Bowling Green, and tackling one.
The defense looks… different
No unit changed as much as the defense in 2018. They switched defensive coordinators, and only return one starter from last year’s initial depth chart. That starter, MLB Dorian Etheridge, proved to be a stud for Sirmon last season.
Aside from him, there is some talent on the defense. Burns could be an interesting corner. Russ Yeast was a four-star when recruited. PJ Mbanasor was a four-star transfer from Oklahoma.
Only one freshman is projected to start. That is linebacker Nick Okeke. Aside from that, VanGorder’s first string is comprised of mainly sophomores and juniors. The senior leader in the secondary is Dee Smith; who is a senior. He also may compete with Cornelius Sturghill, who enters their last year of eligibility.
Only five Seniors are on the depth chart on defense. Even if they don’t come together this year, the defense will be a unit to keep an eye on in 2019.
The offensive line is stacked
Mike Summer’s unit is stacked up front. The sizes are 6-4, 301 lbs; 6-6, 328 lbs, 6-3,316; 6-6, 318; and 6-7, 355. All of the players listed are above 6-feet, and near or above 300 lbs. The right side, comprised of Lukayas McNeil and Mekhi Becton, looks like a brick wall on paper. Becton is 6-7, 355, while McNeil is 6-6, 318. McNeil is also a redshirt Senior, and brings experience to the unit.
Another noticeable fact, is that there are only two freshmen on the depth chart on the line. Three linemen are Seniors. With experience, hopefully comes results.
Louisville’s stacked line will hopefully keep the opposing team’s front seven off Jawon Pass, and keep the trenches clear.
Six Running backs?
Last year, Louisville had three listed on the first depth chart. This year, they have six. It’s the largest unit by one position, and includes two familiar faces (Trey Smith and Dae Williams), as well as three freshmen.
This, in addition to the stacked line and Jawon Pass’s rushing ability, should give Louisville no shortage of running options.
The legs are strong
Both players that will be using their legs on a football return from last year. Mason King proved to be a good punter, and Blanton Creque was one of the best placekickers Louisville has had. King can boot a ball over 40 yards. Creque is accurate, and doesn’t fold under pressure often. If a game comes down to the wire, and is within three, you can bet the kickers will have it under control.
What stuck out to you? Let us know in the comments. And make sure to like and follow River City Cards for more Louisville football news and insight
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Seth Spalding
The Louisville Cardinals football team lost a lot of pieces over the past off-season. Most of the national and regional media are down on the Cardinals, after the way the season ended.
But Louisville could have one of their best seasons yet. They bring a lot of pieces back on offense, and have plenty of players with experience starting on both sides of the ball. Louisville also brings an experienced coordinator to the defense.
One clear advantage Louisville has is on the offensive line. Louisville returns four starters from last year. One of the replacement players, Linwood Foy, still appeared in five games in 2017. Both projected starters are Seniors. Lukayas McNeil and Kenny Thomas were first-stringers on the line for the first depth chart of 2017. Both centers, Robbie Bell and Nate Scheler; both saw playing time last year, and shouldn’t jump as much under Mike Summers year two.
The improved offensive line should give QB Jawon Pass time to throw. Pass was a four-star dual threat when recruited, and showed promise under center in limited action last season. In five appearances, Puma completed 23 of 33 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, with no picks. He also rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown.
“I think his demeanor is calm.” Louisville quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino said. “Never seen him get too frustrated.”
His demeanor will be tested in week one. Louisville faces the toughest opponent on Earth in Orlando.
“I’m ready for it. I’m excited for it.” Pass said, when asked about facing Alabama. “I just focus on being the best player I can be.”
He’ll have teammates helping him on the way. Louisville only lost Traveon Samuel after last season. They return Seth Dawkins, Jaylen Smith, and Dez Fitzpatrick. All three, along with tight end Micky Crum, should give Pass plenty of targets.
On the other side of the ball, Louisville brings one of the most experienced defensive coordinators out there. Brian VanGorder brings a professional attitude to Louisville, after spending years in the NFL.
“His big key is attention to detail” Louisville CB Rodjay Burns said about VanGorder, “He’s got a lot of big factors that he lives by and will help us as a defense. His [VanGorder] presence is felt.”
While Louisville lost nine players on defense, their replacements had at least some game action in 2017. The linebackers are strong. Dorian Etheridge proved to be an asset last year, and should have another good defensive season. London Iakopo enters his redshirt Senior year. CJ Avery had 25 total tackles last season, and a half of a tackle for a loss. He also recovered a fumble.
Dee Smith and Khane Pass will provide some leadership in the secondary. Russ Yeast was a stud when recruited.
If the defense comes together as a unit, under VanGorder’s coordination, then they could be a strong unit. VanGorder is arguably a step up from Peter Sirmon. Louisville likely won’t give up 33 points a game.
If everything comes together, 9-3 could be the teams’ floor. Louisville could be one of the surprises this year in the ACC. Fans will find out this week.
Season starts Saturday
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Seth Spalding
Many people are down on the Louisville Cardinals Football team in 2018. Because of a new quarterback, and their third defensive coordinator in the past three years; many media outlets aren’t expecting much from Petrino and Co.
Despite this, Louisville is in a dangerous position. No one’s expecting Louisville to compete, or even contend for the ACC Atlantic title.
The Cardinals were picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic Division. Clemson, to no one’s surprise, received the most amount of votes to win the division, and the conference. Florida State, NC State, and Boston College were all projected ahead of Louisville in the division.
It would be a miracle if Louisville won the division. Clemson returns the strongest team in the conference, and has a lot of depth at the quarterback position. Trevor Lawrence is a stud under center, and will compete with Kelly Bryant for the starting position. They lost a lot of receivers, but are known for pumping wideouts out. They also have a stellar defense.
The game is also in Death Valley. And Louisville has a first-year starting quarterback.
Behind the Tigers, Louisville could compete with Florida State. The Cardinals have beaten the Tigers the past two seasons, and FSU has a new coach, and returns QB Deondre Francois from an early season-ending injury last year. While Francois has been said to be healthy, it’ll be interesting to see if there is any rust during his return.
Louisville more than likely has a 45% chance of beating the ‘Noles. If they beat them, and the Cardinals don’t lose to a surprise ACC opponent, then they could finish second, and in a higher bowl game.
One of the many reasons Louisville hasn’t been projected to win against NC State and Boston College is because of last year. The Cards lost to the Wolfpack 39-25 in Raleigh, and to the Eagles 45-42 on a late defensive collapse.
The two games will be decided on whether Brian VanGorder’s defense is significantly better than Peter Sirmon’s. Ryan Finley is one of the better QBs in the ACC, and the Wolfpack return his top three receivers, and three starters on the offensive line. Additionally, AJ Dillon is a stellar running back for BC, and the Eagles have a big line with experience.
If Louisville takes advantage of the new starts on the line, and Boston College’s questions at quarterback, then the Cardinals could beat both teams.
One advantage Louisville has in 2018 as opposed to 2017, is an experienced offensive line. All of the starters saw action at some point last season. Lukayas McNeil and Mekhi Becton are huge, and should lock down the right side. Kenny Thomas and Linwood Foy bring a lot of experience on the left. And Cole Bentley was a stud last year.
The line should give Jawon Pass time to throw, or roll out of the pocket. Jaylen Smith should be ready by the start of the season, giving Pass a great No. 1 target. Dez Fitzpatrick is also lining up for another stellar season.
If they mesh early, then Louisville could finish second in the ACC Atlantic. Or, if last year’s woes magnify without Lamar Jackson, the Cardinals could finish sixth.
More than likely, Louisville would finish third in the Atlantic. Clemson will probably win the division, and Florida State will come second.
Projected Standings: 1. Clemson 2. FSU 3. Louisville 4. NC State 5. Boston College 6. Wake Forest 7. Syracuse
--By Mike Gilpatrick
--File photo by Seth Spalding
The Louisville Cardinals Football team kicks off in less than two weeks.
They play perhaps the biggest opponent in the nation, taking on seemingly-perennial national champion Alabama in the Camping World Kickoff Game. While all national attention will be on the game, especially after Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino said “I believe we’re going to go beat” Alabama; the rest of the schedule isn’t too bad.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Louisville has the 49th toughest schedule in the nation. The Cards play ACC powers Clemson and Florida State, as well as NC State and a Boston College team that found offensive production.
Also according to the four-letter network, Louisville is projected to go 7-5. That seems a little low to some. Here’s how the schedule may shake down:
Week One: Louisville vs. Alabama, neutral site game
While Petrino believes Louisville will win, and Dez Fitzpatrick thinks the Louisville receivers have an edge against Alabama defensive backs, it will be tough for Louisville to pull off the upset. The line is at 25.5 points in favor of Alabama, which is a hefty consensus. The game will be closer than 25, but the Cards will open 0-1, more than likely. Louisville 30, Alabama 35
Week Two: Louisville vs. Indiana State
The Cards enter their first game at Cardinal Stadium with a much easier opponent. The Sycamores play in the FCS, and finished 0-11 last year. The Cleveland Browns of the Missouri Valley Football Conference won’t likely put up much of a fight. Louisville 65, Indiana State 3
Week Three: Louisville vs. Western Kentucky
WKU finished 6-7 in Mike Sanford Jr’s inaugural season in Bowling Green, and the Hilltoppers finished 4-4 in Conference USA. They were tied with Marshall for third in the East Division. They dropped off after losing Jeff Brohm to Purdue, and did not live up to expectations. They were picked to finish 4-8 this season by Athlon, 2-6 in the conference. They will likely put up more of a fight than Indiana State. Louisville 42, Western Kentucky 20
Week Four: Louisville at Virginia
The Cards face the Cavaliers in their first taste of ACC action in 2018. They surprised everyone by making a bowl game last season, and former Arizona State QB Bryce Perkins should give them more mobility in the trenches. The Cavs lost some players in key positions, and both lines are being rebuilt. The dual threat QB should be a test for Brian VanGorder’s linebackers. Louisville 35, Virginia 21
Week Five: Louisville vs. Florida State
The Seminoles lost a coach, but return a QB in 2018. Jimbo Fisher left town for Texas A&M, and was replaced by Willie Taggart. Taggart is a run-heavy coach, and the Seminoles have plenty in the backfield. Deondre Francois is coming off a knee-injury, and may need some time to return to the swing of things. The Seminoles should improve from their dismal 7-6 season last year. While Louisville won two consecutive, a third is challenging. Louisville 35, Florida State 42
Week Six: Louisville vs. Georgia Tech
Like the Cardinals, the defense disappointed in 2017, leading to a change on the sidelines. They switched around their defensive coordinator. They return most on offense, and bring in a coordinator that best suits their personnel. If they play better at QB and on special teams, this can be a tough game. Louisville 38, Georgia Tech 31
Week Seven: Louisville at Boston College
The defense let up last season, leading to an upset on homecoming. AJ Dillon is one of the most explosive running backs in the nation, and their line has another year of experience. Their defensive front is a question mark. While most media outlets are predicting a Boston College victory, Petrino and Co. will exact their revenge. Louisville 42, Boston College 35
--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.