--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.