2014 UofL Preview: What You Need To Know
Louisville RB Dominique Brown
Louisville RB Dominique Brown
Posted Jul 29, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Louisville (Getty Images)

2014 Louisville Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Louisville Preview  
What You Need To Know About The Offense: Yes, it’s possible for Louisville to be more potent in its first year without QB Teddy Bridgewater … and its first year in the ACC. No, you don’t get better by losing a player of Bridgewater’s caliber, but a decline in production is no sure-thing. To begin with, the Cards are led by Bobby Petrino, one of the most inventive and successful coaches in college football. Yeah, he inherits a team breaking in a young hurler, but that sophomore, Will Gardner, will be draped in talented veterans. Returning are last year’s leading rusher, Dominique Brown, most dynamic pass-catcher, DeVante Parker, and four physical O-line starters. Even better, Gardner flashed signs in the spring of being Petrino’s next star pupil behind center. He posted huge, which don’t matter, except for what it’ll do for the underclassmen’s confidence. There are no doubt challenges ahead. But Petrino has the acumen and the veteran roster to catch the rest of the ACC a little off guard in 2014.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: The changes taking place at Louisville are no more evident than on defense. Seven talented starters are now trying to make NFL rosters. Todd Grantham has been lured away from Georgia to coordinate the defense. And with him comes a 3-4 base D that’s going to shift around personnel to get bigger in the trenches and more athletic from the second level. The Cards have a lot of holes to fill, which will pressure the young and old alike to raise the level of their games this summer. The foundation will be built upon the backs of linebackers Lorenzo Mauldin and James Burgess, and cornerbacks Charles Gaines and Terell Floyd. Otherwise, Grantham is going to put his faith in a swath of players who’ve never been asked to do as much they will in 2014. It’s hard to imagine this unit not taking a step or two back this fall, especially with the step up in conference weight class. If the new man in charge can keep Louisville among the nation’s stingiest defenses, he’ll have earned his nearly seven-digit salary this year.

Player You Need To Know

1. WR DeVante Parker, Sr.
In 2013, Parker enhanced his reputation as one of the top big-play receivers in the country by catching 55 passes for 885 yards and a dozen touchdowns. The two-time first-team all-star has been a gamebreaker from the moment he arrived, averaging 16.9 yard per reception and a touchdown every four catches. A model of consistency, Parker had a scoring grab in 10 straight games before being shut out by Temple last Oct. 5. At 6-3 and 208 pounds, he’s big and physical, with the ball skills to turn questionable throws into six points.

2. LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Sr.
Mauldin took another giant forward step in his evolution as one of the nation’s scariest pass rushers, notching career-highs with 40 tackles, 12 stops for loss, 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. The 6-4, 244-pound native of Atlanta is a measurables guy, with the get-off, closing speed and upper body strength to torment most opposing tackles at this level. With NFL scouts watching him closer than ever this fall, Mauldin can parlay the tougher ACC competition into widespread recognition and a skyrocketing draft grade.

3. CB Charles Gaines, Jr.
If Gaines was named First Team All-AAC in his defensive debut, what can he do for an encore? The former wide receiver, with the world-class jets, scratched the surface of his potential in 2013 by making 22 tackles, five pass breakups and a team-high five interceptions. He also scored touchdowns three different ways, on a kick return, on a pick and on a blocked punt. Gaines promises to be one of the ACC’s most explosive all-around athletes and a nightmare for quarterbacks if he keeps sharpening his pass coverage skills.

4. OT Jamon Brown, Sr.
If Brown keeps honing his pass protection skills, he’s going to be cashing NFL paychecks at this time next year. The former defensive tackle has evolved nicely on the offensive side of the ball, starting 26 consecutive games at left tackle. He excelled at guarding the backside of Teddy Bridgewater a year ago, while being honored as an All-AAC first-teamer. Despite being 6-6 and 346 pounds, he has the unexpected balance needed to wall off smaller, quicker pass rushers.

5. C Jake Smith, Sr.
Louisville its quarterback to the NFL Draft. Its quarterback of the O-line, though, still has a year of eligibility remaining. The versatile interior lineman has started 38 career games, and made a successful shift from guard to center in 2013. So smooth was the relocation that he was named First Team All-AAC in his debut at the pivot. The rugged 6-4, 307-pounder brings a much-needed blue-collar demeanor to the front wall.

6.RB Dominique Brown, Sr.
The transformation is complete. Brown is officially a running back. The one-time quarterback recruit of the Cardinals returned from a season-long injury in 2012 to lead the team with 825 yards and eight touchdowns on 163 carries. He also went over 100 yards twice, against South Florida and Houston. Brown is a physical 6-2, 233-pounder, who amasses a head of steam once he gets going. If he improves his pad level by running with better leverage, he’ll be that much tougher to stop in short yardage.

7. OG John Miller, Sr.
Miller has been like bedrock at left guard for the Cardinals over the past two seasons. The 6-2, 321-pound immovable object started all 13 games last fall, and he’s now been in the opening lineup for 34 of his 35 college games. Surprisingly agile for such a big blocker, he’s one of Louisville’s most complete linemen, holding up in pass protection, while quickly getting to the second level. Miller was named to the All-AAC Second Team in 2013.

8. LB James Burgess, Jr.
Hits like a linebacker. Moves like a safety. Burgess operates like an old-school Miami Hurricane linebacker; while only 6-0 and 227 pounds, he can deliver the payload. Burgess covers a lot of ground, both in pass defense and against the run. In his first season as a full-timer, he finished third on the team with 71 tackles to go along with eight stops for loss, a sack, a pick and a forced fumble. He’s packed on muscle and hit the film room in anticipation of a move from weakside to inside in the new 3-4.

9. TE Gerald Christian, Sr.
The Cardinals are loaded in the receiving corps, and not just at wide receiver. Christian is an athletic tight end, with the speed and athleticism to exploit the seam on opposing defenses. The 6-3, 244-pounder enjoyed a successful debut in Louisville after transferring from Florida, catching 28 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns. Christian’s ability to create matchup problems for linebackers ought to entice the team’s quarterbacks to use him more in the passing game in 2014.

10. WR Eli Rogers, Sr.
Rogers is Mr. Reliable among the Cardinals pass-catchers. He’s not flashy or particularly imposing at 5-10 and 180 pounds, but he runs tight routes out of the slot and rarely drops passes in his direction. Despite starting just five games in three years, Rogers brings 131 career receptions for 1,495 yards and nine touchdowns into his final season of eligibility. Fearless in the middle of the field, he’s a clutch third-down option in the passing game.

11. CB Terell Floyd, Sr.
Floyd is the other half of a cornerback tandem that hopes to rank among the best in the ACC this season. The veteran of 26 career starts, including all 13 games in 2013, contributed 47 tackles, two stops for loss, three pass breakups and four interceptions as a junior. At 5-10 and 202 pounds, Floyd possesses the physicality to defend the run as well separate the receiver from the ball when he lowers his shoulders.

12. PK John Wallace, Jr.
At the halfway point of his college career, Wallace is already one of the most prolific placekickers in Louisville history. He’s connected on 36-of-45 field goal attempts, including 20-of-24 a year ago. Wallace has been automatic within 40 yards, though he needs work when dialing up from long distance. The junior must also do a better job of getting air beneath his kicks after having three blocked a season ago.

- 2013 Louisville Preview