#54 Louisville Football Preview

Louisville Cardinals

Overall Rank: #54
#3 Big East

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2010 Record: (7-6, 3-4)
2010 Bowl: Beef O’Brady’s Bowl vs. Southern Miss (W 31-28)
Coach: Charlie Strong (7-6 at Louisville, 7-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sanford
Defensive Coordinator: Vance Bedford

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jeremy Wright, RB, 327 yards
Passing: Will Stein, QB, 72 yards
Receiving: Josh Bellamy, WR, 401 yards
Tackles: Hakeem Smith, S, 88
Sacks: Darius Ashley, CB, 3; Daniel Brown, LB, 3; Mike Evans, S, 3
Interceptions: Darius Ashley, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: C Mario Benavides, DE B.J. Butler, TE Josh Chichester, DT Brandon Dunn, LB Dexter Heyman, S Shenard Holton, K/P Chris Philpott, DE William Savoy, WR Andrell Smith

Key Losses: WR Doug Beaumont, QB Justin Burke, CB Bobby Burns, G Josh Byrom, QB Adam Froman, TE Cameron Graham, LB Brandon Heath, CB Johnny Patrick, RB Bilal Powell, OT Byron Stingily, DE Malcolm Tatum, OT Greg Tomczyk, G Mark Wetterer

Coach Charlie Strong quickly transferred his toughness to the Louisville football program. The Cardinals were picked by most to finish last in the Big East last season, but instead ended up with a 7-6 record and a bowl victory over Southern Miss. Year two under Coach Strong may not go quite as well, but there is talent here and Coach Strong has proven that he can tap into that talent and get the best out of his players.

The defense held back the Cardinals a little bit last year, but the coaching staff did a great job mixing up their blitz packages and sending pressure from everywhere on the field. However, the front four could do a better job on their own of getting into the backfield. B.J. Butler has a ton of potential after tallying 2.5 sacks as a freshman and Coach Strong is very high on redshirt freshman Jamaine Brooks. Louisville started two freshmen on the front line much of last season and that year in the system should boost their production. The linebackers lose Brandon Heath, but Daniel Brown and Dexter Hayman are back. Louisville hopes sophomores Deon Rogers, Marcus Smith and Tyon Dixon are ready to step into a major role on the weak side. The biggest issue is in the secondary. Johnny Patrick was a great corner who is now off in the NFL. Darius Ashley, a former running back, was expected to take over one of the starting roles, but he is currently suspended. Preston Pace, a junior college transfer who missed last season with an injury, is another quality option. In the meantime, strong safety Hakeem Smith will have to build off of his stellar freshman campaign and become a leader in the secondary as a sophomore.

The problems on offense start with the quarterback position. Will Stein, a former walk-on, is heading into the fall as the signal caller and it appears as though that will not change. The plan is for the highly touted Teddy Bridgewater to spend some time learning from Stein. How much time remains to be seen. The new quarterback will need some help from the people who can make plays after catching the ball. Leading wide receiver Doug Beaumont is gone and so is safety valve tight end Cameron Graham. However, Josh Bellamy and Andrell Smith are quality receivers and the expectations for tight end Josh Chichester are through the roof. Those three can get open, but Stein still has to get them the ball. And that may not be too easy with the departure of four starting linemen. The only returning starter is center Mario Benavides and he is coming off of a knee surgery. Louisville has a nice mixture of experience and youth to help take over the line, but this is not a group that will likely rank 26th in the nation in sacks allowed again this year.

The Bottom Line:
If the line cannot protect the quarterback, they at least need to pave the way for the dynamic running attack. Bilal Powell is gone, but Jeremy Wright and the oft-injured Victor Anderson are still around. Wright was Powell’s backup last season and rushed for 327 yards and four touchdowns in limited action. Anderson is a superb talent, but he just has not been able to stay healthy. Back in 2008 he rushed for 1,047 yards and eight scores, but since then he has not completed an entire season. With a couple quality rushers on the team, Coach Strong will have the luxury of limiting carries for both players and hopefully keep them healthy. The offense may struggle for a little while, but they have games against Murray State and Florida International to help get things moving, however FIU is no pushover. As long as the passing game can be a minor threat, the offense will be fine with Wright and Anderson leading the way and the defense is good enough to keep the Cardinals in just about every game.

Projected Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 175.00 (34th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 194.00 (79, 4)
Total Offense: 369.00 (71, 3)
Scoring Offense: 26.38 (63, 2)
Rushing Defense: 144.31 (52, 7)
Pass Defense: 167.38 (9, 2)
Total Defense: 311.69 (14, 4)
Scoring Defense: 19.38 (18, 4)
Turnover Margin: .23 (44, 3)
Sacks: 3.00 (6, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.38 (26, 2)

Madness 2011 Recruit Rankings
#105 Gerod Holliman
#128 Teddy Bridgewater

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