#38 Louisville 2018 Football Preview

Louisville Cardinals
Overall Rank: #38
#6 ACC
 Louisville Logo
Louisville has won eight or nine games during each of the last four seasons under Coach Bobby Petrino. With the loss of Lamar Jackson and most of the starters on defense, the Cardinals will certainly take another eight or nine win season heading into 2018.
2017 Record: 8-5, 4-4
2017 Bowl: Taxslayer Bowl vs. Mississippi State (L 27-31)
Coach: Bobby Petrino (75-27 at Louisville, 117-48 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lonnie Galloway, Mike Summers
Defensive Coordinator: Brian VanGorder
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Dae Williams, RB, 235 yards
Passing: Jawon Pass, QB, 238 yards
Receiving: Jaylen Smith, WR, 980 yards
Tackles: Dorian Etheridge, LB, 83
Sacks: Jonathan Greenard, DE, 7.0
Interceptions: TreSean Smith, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: WR Dez Fitzpatrick, WR Seth Dawkins, S Dee Smith
Key Losses: QB Lamar Jackson, RB Malik Williams, RB Reggie Bonnafon, DE James Hearns, LB Stacy Thomas, S Chucky Williams, CB Trumaine Washington, DE Trevon Young, S Zykiesis Cannon
Louisville returns seven starters on offense, but without Jackson under center, this group will look a lot different. Jawon Pass will take over after throwing for 238 yards and two touchdowns as Jackson’s backup. Pass is not the running threat that Jackson was, so this offense will revert back to their pass first ways. With Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick and Seth Dawkins all back at wide receiver, Pass should be able to throw the ball all over the place. Those three receivers combined to catch 147 passes for 2,321 yards and 20 touchdowns. Running back Dae Williams did not play until the end of his freshman campaign last season, but he was very productive once given the opportunity. Other running backs like redshirt freshman Colin Wilson figure to be in the mix as well and the entire stable of backs will get more carries this year without a running quarterback.
Louisville has yet another defensive coordinator and returns just two starters to a unit that ranked tenth in the ACC in total defense and scoring defense. Brian VanGorder will take over as defensive coordinator after getting fired from Notre Dame four games into the 2016 season. The line does have some potential with Jonathan Greenard, who recorded 7.0 sacks last year. But it is at linebacker where Louisville has a proven playmaker. Dorian Etheridge recorded a team high 83 tackles as a freshman and is now the experienced leader of this group. Another sophomore, Russ Yeast, is back to man one corner spot and there is some experience at safety with Dee Smith and Kahne Pass. But this is still a group of most unproven players replacing more experienced players who were disappointing last season.
The Bottom Line:
This will be a very interesting season for Louisville and Coach Petrino. The post Jackson era leaves questions on offense and the turnover on defense will be an even bigger issue in 2018. The offense should be fine, but not nearly as dynamic as they were with Jackson. The program though should have enough talent to get to a bowl game. It just may take some time for all the pieces to come together.
Projected Bowl: Music City Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 245.1 (15th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 299.8 (15, 1)
Total Offense: 544.9 (3, 1)
Scoring Offense: 38.1 (11, 1)
Rushing Defense: 163.4 (63, 9)
Pass Defense: 224.7 (66, 10)
Total Defense: 388.1 (62, 10)
Scoring Defense: 27.4 (70, 10)
Turnover Margin: 0.15 (56, 7)
Sacks: 2.08 (62, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.54 (98, 12)

Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#192 Robert Hicks
#239 Trenell Troutman