Louisville Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Louisville Cardinals
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Louisville Cardinals Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – A Diamond from the Rough – It was easy for linebacker Nate Harris to fly under the radar for the Louisville Cardinals last season.  At the beginning of the season, Harris struggled while getting accustomed to Mike Cassity’s defense.  In that time, last year’s All-American DE Elvis Dumervil garnered the nation’s attention by sacking more QBs than seemed humanly possible.  Then, the Cardinals went down to South Florida and got whacked in a major upset by Jim Leavitt’s USF Bulls, so the most people tuned out and turned off Louisville.  What they missed was a solid junior campaign by the young man off the mean streets of Miami.  Harris finished the year with 67 tackles, but also added 11.5 tackles for a loss and 7 sacks.  Consequently, now that he’s become the leader of the defense, expect triple digits in tackles and potential All Big East and even All-American honors.  Harris must take over in the middle and help get the ball back to the offense, and the speed, power and hitting ability should help him do just that.  In recent years, the Cardinal defense has had some ‘nice’ components, like Dumervil or even former safety Kerry Rhodes, but with Harris, the Cardinal defense has a physical, intimidating presence they’ve not had in a good long time.  Regardless, the pressure of performance of this defense will fall on Harris’s broad shoulders, but now that he’s settled in as the leader of this crew, he’ll should be able to handle the stress of bringing a championship home to Louisville.

2nd and Seven – Can The Chosen One Lead Them? – As you watched Brian Brohm as a first year starter last year, you couldn’t help but think how easy the game looked to Brohm.  Sure, he had some struggles, but when he had to get the offense moving, he just put the keys in the ignition and let fire.  But, after tearing his knee ligaments near the end of the season, the question of how effective he can be returning to the starting lineup is a prevalent one.  Now, Brohm isn’t a versatile, dual threat type QB who has to rely on his legs to be effective, but can he get comfortable back in the pocket once he returns?  Can he get the power out of his legs when he plants and has to make a tough throw?  Does he have the confidence to stay in the pocket when rushers are all around his legs?  Tough questions for the one kid seemingly destined to play QB at Louisville.

3rd and Three – Quarter Pounders – When a team returns a number of talented skill players, most aficionados of the game will often hype that team as a contender for a conference championship.  However, when a team loses offensive linemen, especially an underrated star like Jason Spitz and a tremendous tackle like Travis Leffew, that’s when you start worrying.  With only two starters returning, Kurt Quarterman and Eric Wood, there’s going to be a huge amount of pressure on this offensive line to make sure that Brohm has time to throw and that Heisman candidate RB Michael Bush has room to punish defenders in the running game.  Keep your eye on how well this quintet jells early in the season – if they do early, this offense could be one of the best in the nation.  If not, 10 wins might be a pipe dream.

4th and One – September 16th, 2006 – Maybe it was Ric Flair, the Nature Boy (Whooo!), who once said “To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best”.  If there’s any chink in the Louisville armor, it’s been that they’ve not knocked off one of the nation’s ‘big boys’.  Although Miami won’t be the Miami of the early 2000s, a victory over the Hurricanes on September 16th, 2006 will turn a lot of heads in the direction of Petrino’s Cardinals.  A win of this magnitude, in Papa John’s stadium, where the Cardinals are nearly invincible, could be the major domino in a special season.  A conference championship won’t be on the line.  It’s more important than that.

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