2012 Louisville Preview – Offense
Louisville WR Michaelee Harris
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Louisville Cardinal Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: At long last there’s hope on offense in Louisville. Ever since QB Brian Brohm graduated at the end of the 2007 season, the Cards have been among the feeblest of the Big East attacks. QB Teddy Bridgewater was lured out of Miami to change the trend in the ‘Ville. After laying some groundwork as a rookie, he’s poised to begin building on it, with lots of help from an exciting collection of receivers. Louisville plans to start three sophomores in the passing game, DeVante Parker, Eli Rogers and Michaelee Harris, whose ceilings are all very high. The Cards are going to be more potent in 2012, but by how much will depend heavily on the ground game, a collaboration of the backs and the linemen. The staff has yet to anoint a feature runner, though Jeremy Wright might have the best set of skills. And the line, which returns four starters, needs to play with far more consistently than it did a year ago.
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater
Passing: Teddy Bridgewater
191-296, 2,129 yds, 14 TDs, 12 INTs
Rushing: Dominique Brown
140 carries, 533 yds, 4 TDs
Receiving: Eli Rogers
41 catches, 454 yds, 1 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Jeremy Wright
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR DeVante Parker
Best pro prospect: Senior C Mario Benavides
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Benavides, 2) Bridgewater, 3) Parker
Strength of the offense: Potential under center, depth and talent at wide receiver, interior of the O-line
Weakness of the offense: Running game, pass protection, finishing drives, time of possession
One season. That’s all it took for 6-3, 207-pound sophomore Teddy Bridgewater to show the nation why he was one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits of 2011. The Big East Rookie of the Year from Miami took over last September and never looked back, completing 191-of-296 passes for 2,129 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also showed nimble feet inside and outside the pocket by rushing for four scores. A picture of poise and composure under pressure, he the powerful and accurate arm to take a giant step forward in his development this fall.
The Cardinals have a luxury behind their prized franchise quarterback, a selfless veteran backup. Senior Will Stein is entrenched in the two-hole. In fact, he started the first three games of 2011, finishing with 620 yards, five touchdowns and only one pick, before succumbing to an injury. While only 5-10 and 176 pounds, he’s just heady and seasoned enough to be a perfect caddy for the younger Bridgewater.
Watch Out For .... Bridgewater to grow exponentially in his second year. The fact that he has talent is obvious to most anyone who watches his film. What makes him extra special compared to his peers at the same stage is that he’s mature beyond his age, and is willing to put in the time to become a more complete player.
Strength: The future. Bridgewater is in the infancy of his evolution as the franchise quarterback, meaning the best is yet to come over the next three seasons. He looks as if he’s capable of building a bridge to his predecessors at Louisville, which has a long history of producing prolific next-level passers.
Weakness: Consistency. Bridgewater may be on the tarmac, but he’s still just a year removed from Northwestern (Fla.) High School. Until the speed of the game completely slows down, he’ll still be susceptible to bird-dogging occasional throws and making the wrong read.
Outlook: The Cardinals have their best situation behind center since Brian Brohm graduated at the end of the 2007 season. Bridgewater is the face of what Charlie Strong is doing at Louisville, an up-and-coming playmaker about to become a big star in the Big East. And behind him is Stein, a veteran who has earned the faith of the staff. As Bridgewater grows, so grow the Cardinals.
The Cards will be without top rusher Vic Anderson, but he hardly lit it up beyond his rookie year, so he’s replaceable. As spring ended, though, the staff was staring at a backfield by committee and no clear-cut starter. Converted quarterback Dominique Brown is the team’s leading returning rusher, chugging for 533 yards and four scores on 140 carries. At 6-2 and 226 pounds, he’s the north-south power back in the stable who’s always churning his legs for additional yardage.
Junior Jeremy Wright brings a little more electricity to the running game, a better combination of speed and punch than Brown. Although he’s logged just one career start, he has earned plenty of snaps over the last two seasons, rushing for no fewer than 327 yards in each of those two years. If there’s a leader by a sliver at this point, it could be Wright.
Junior Senorise Perry is playing catch up on the competition since he spent the early stages of his career on defense. The 6-0, 198-pounder still has plenty to learn about the nuances of the position, but has caught the attention of the staff with his blazing speed and ability to bring defenders to their knees with one sharp cut into daylight.
The baby of the quartet 5-11, 216-pound sophomore Corvin Lamb who was able to impress the coaches from the scout team last fall. He runs with good pad level and notable power, using his thick level to grind through tacklers and pick up yards after contact.
Watch Out For .... more help for the ground game from the fullbacks. In coordinator Shawn Watson’s West Coast offense, the Cardinals plan to employ the services of 236-pound Nick Heuser and 240-pound Bo Eggers quite a bit more than recent coaches in Louisville might have.
Strength: Versatility. The Cardinals will have a different option for every situation they encounter this fall. For short yardage, the staff can dial up either Brown or Lamb. For a quick-hitter, Perry might get the call. And to keep the chains moving, Wright might be the best candidate to emulate a workhorse.
Weakness: Lack of a true feature back. Watson really wants a go-to back, that one Card he can lean on for 20 carries a game if necessary. Right now, no such individual has made his presence known. Louisville will spread the carries out if it has to, but such an approach is not an ideal situation for the staff.
Outlook: After averaging only 3.4 yards a carry, Louisville needs to become more effective on the ground, which is the responsibility of the backs and the offensive linemen. Coming out of spring, the backfield had yet to produce a budding star capable of becoming a true catalyst for the ground game. The hope around campus is that someone will evolve from the quartet and command the ball throughout the season the way Bilal Powell did two years ago.
After going with youth and using a slew of freshmen in 2011, Louisville is eager to start reaping the benefits in 2012. Leading the way at “X” receiver is 6-2, 204-pound DeVante Parker who might have the best combination of size, speed and hops at the position. Though he started only six games a year ago, and still needs to work on the finer points of becoming a complete receiver, he was able to turn heads by turning 18 catches into 291 yards and six touchdowns. Parker has added more muscle during the offseason to further support his physical style of play.
At “X”, Parker is being backed up by sophomore Matt Milton . He’s a 6-5, 208-pound transfer from Tennessee who was the nation’s 17th-rated wide receiver when he left Mascoutah (Ill.) High School two years ago.
Flanking Parker from “Z” will be 6-0, 192-pound Michaelee Harris , provided he can remain healthy. The sophomore, who played his high school ball with QB Teddy Bridgewater in Miami, tore his ACL prior to the bowl game, and missed his rookie year to an MCL injury. A versatile playmaker, who does a great job of finding the soft spot in a zone, he’s the most polished all-around receiver on the roster. In his debut, he was second on the team with 37 catches for 455 yards and two scores.
Behind Harris is the veteran of the corps, 6-4, 219-pound senior Andrell Smith . He’ll be looking to bounce back from an ineffective season in which he caught only 11 balls for 207 yards and one touchdown despite starting six balls. Improving his ball skills will earn Smith more looks this fall.
The starter at “H”, 5-10, 185-pound sophomore Eli Rogers led the Cards a year ago with 41 receptions for 454 yards and a touchdown. Like Harris, he, too, was a target of Bridegwater’s in high school, a speedy playmaker, with the sticky hands and route-running skills to exceed last season’s production. He’s at his best working from the slot, and getting open on quick slants.
As long as he can stay healthy, 6-5, 250-pound senior Nate Nord figures to be Louisville’s best option in the passing game from tight end. After starting four games in 2011, and making four catches for 24 yards and a score, he’s looking to up his output this fall.
Watch Out For .... Parker to make a quantum leap in his development. While he’s still somewhat raw, he possesses the total package to become the program’s most dangerous downfield receiver. Once he gains the confidence of his quarterbacks, it’s going to be fun to watch him blossom as a weapon.
Strength: The measurables. Thanks to the recruiting of Charlie Strong and his staff, the Cardinals boast their most athletic collection of wide receivers in years. They’re quick and fast, and can operate well above the heads of defensive backs by leveraging the length of Milton, Smith and Parker.
Weakness: Consistency. This will be an area of concern for at least the next year. The receivers have a very high ceiling, but they’re also young and still inexperienced at this level, resulting in the kinds of mistakes that result in a few too many dropped balls and miscommunications with the quarterbacks.
Outlook: The receiving corps has become a microcosm for the Louisville program, which is rebuilding through a strong farm system. There’s burgeoning talent at each of the three positions, and quality backups looking to push for more reps. This group will be markedly better than a year ago, but still needs to elevate in the areas of the game that won’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet.
A big concern at this time last year, the offensive line is hoping to be a team strength in 2012. The Cardinals bring back four starters from last season, led by the rock at the pivot, 6-4, 300-pound senior Mario Benavides . A durable leader, who has played through pain, he has earned 34 starts over the course of his career. Having sat out the spring to rehab a shoulder injury, he’ll be ready to assume his role as the physical and emotional leader of this group in the summer.
The staff has growing confidence in 6-3, 296-pound senior LT Alex Kupper , a versatile blocker who was one of just three Cardinals linemen to start all 13 games in 2011. Testament to his intelligence and flexibility, the former walk-on played both left tackle and center when Benavides was dinged.
The situation at right tackle, though, is quite a bit less stable. Sophomore Jamon Brown is on the verge of becoming the lone newcomer to the starting unit following a solid spring. He arrived as a defensive tackle, but was moved last fall, eventually starting two games. While the 6-4, 340-pounder has the upper body strength to move a pile, he’s also surprisingly nimble for such an imposing individual.
The future is bright at guard in Louisville. Sophomore Jake Smith is about to become a fixture at right guard after being the school’s first player to be named FWAA Freshman All-American. A 6-3, 314-pound powerful run blocker, with surprisingly good footwork, he gets out of his stance and into the second level very quickly.
Over at left guard will be 6-2, 313-pound sophomore John Miller , who was named to the Freshman All-Big East team in his debut. Like his partner, Smith, he’s very strong when run blocking at the point of attack, but needs to step up his game in pass protection. He’s a raw player who’ll continue to improve with more action.
Behind Miller, 6-3, 282-pound junior Kamran Joyer is the most versatile, valuable and experienced member of the second team. He returned from a foot injury that sidelined him for all of 2010 to provide quality depth on the inside from off the bench.
Watch Out For .... the health of Benavides. He’s the glue that keeps this unit together. He’s also one of the nation’s premier centers, and a veteran of three seasons in the lineup. However, the senior has endured a lot of bumps and bruises over the years, and sat out the spring. Teddy Bridgewater aside, No. 55 is the most valuable member of the Cardinals offense.
Strength: Strength on the interior. Louisville should be able to move the ball successfully on the ground, particularly between the tackles. The trio of Benavides, Smith and Miller all do their best work in a phone booth, using good leverage and upper body strength to move opposing linemen off their base.
Weakness: Pass protection. This was a problem area in 2011, and could be again in 2012. Last fall, the Cardinals ranked 110th nationally in sacks allowed. While the line figures to benefit from a more aware Bridgewater behind center, the tackle duo of Kupper and Brown still has a few leaks that need to be plugged before opening day.
Outlook: While the O-line is heading in the direction, it still has a long way to go before reaching its destination. The interior of the line figures to make the biggest progress behind the play of Benavides and the improving guards. However, the Cards will once again be vulnerable on the flanks to speed rushers, and is perilously thin and young on the B team.
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2012 Louisville Defense |
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