#15 Louisville Football 2016 Preview

Louisville Cardinals
Overall Rank: #15
#3 ACC
Louisville finished the 2015 season strong after getting off to a 2-4 start as it took a little bit time to finally settle on Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Expectations are high around this program as the defense did not have as many players depart for the NFL as expected. This is great news for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who has done a very nice job directing the Cardinals defense.
2015 Record: 8-5, 5-3
2015 Bowl: Music City Bowl vs. Texas A&M (W 27-21)
Coach: Bobby Petrino (58-18 at Louisville, 100-39 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lonnie Galloway, Chris Klenakis
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Grantham
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Lamar Jackson, QB, 960 yards
Passing: Lamar Jackson, QB, 1,840 yards
Receiving: Jamari Staples, WR, 638 yards
Tackles: Keith Kelsey, LB, 107
Sacks: Devonte Fields, LB, 10.5
Interceptions: Trumaine Washington, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Brandon Radcliff, QB Kyle Bolin, WR James Quick, TE Cole Hikutini, LB Josh Harvey-Clemons, S Chucky Williams, DT DeAngelo Brown
Key Losses: LB James Burgess, LB Keith Brown, DE Sheldon Rankins, P Josh Appleby
Lamar Jackson will give Louisville a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who will keep defenses on their toes all season long. The key for Jackson will be for him to take a significant step forward in his accuracy in the passing game as that was an issue last season. The running game should be very solid as well with Brandon Radcliff leading a trio of running backs that should take some of the running game pressure off of Jackson. Defensively, the linebacking core led by Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields, should cause plenty of matchup issues for opposing offenses this season. Kelsey has an excellent nose for the football as he had 107 tackles in 2015. Fields will basically live in opposing teams backfields as he had 10.5 sacks last season as well. Turnovers are another strength of this defense.  The secondary, led by guys like free safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, do a tremendous job of causing turnovers and playing with a great level of speed and physicality all game long.
Protecting the quarterback was a big time problem in 2015 for the Cardinals. Opposing teams racked up 3.38 sacks per game against Louisville which ranked 124th in the nation. Jamari Staples and James Quick are going to have to continue to evolve with Jackson in the passing game in order to keep opposing defenses honest. Staples had 638 receiving yards and Quick had five touchdown receptions last season. At least one of these two guys will need to break 1,000 yards receiving for this passing game to go up to the next level. The kicking game may also have issues that need to be addressed right away.  The Cardinals will be breaking in a new placekicker and punter as both John Wallace and Josh Appleby are not back this season. So the pressure will be on new punter, Mason King, and whoever wins the kickers job to step in right away to control field position
The Bottom Line:
A fast 2-0 start should help Louisville’s confidence heading into the September 17 showdown with Florida State at Papa John’s Stadium. If the Cardinals can somehow upset the Seminoles it would set up a gigantic game at Clemson on October 1. A great goal for this program would be a split of these two games which would really shake up the ACC Atlantic Division race if that happened. Some tricky road trips to Virginia on October 29 and a rematch with Houston on the road on November 17 are some other potential landmines for Louisville if they aren’t careful. If Lamar Jackson can stay healthy all season long, then the Cardinals are going to be a top 15 team. That is basically the key to the season as, for the most part, the rest of the team is in position to compete with the best of the ACC as long as Jackson is on the field. In the end, look for about a nine-win regular season in 2016 as Louisville will continue to close the gap on Clemson and Florida State.
Projected Bowl: Russell Athletic Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 171.0 (64th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 245.1 (46, 6)
Total Offense: 416.1 (54, 5)
Scoring Offense: 28.7 (65, 8)
Rushing Defense: 120.2 (14, 2)
Pass Defense: 212.5 (51, 10)
Total Defense: 332.8 (18, 3)
Scoring Defense: 24.1 (39, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.08 (75, 9)
Sacks: 2.92 (9, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 3.38 (124, 14)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#73 Josh Harvey-Clemons
#78 Devonte Fields



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