Louisville Preview 2006 - Offense
Louisville Cardinals
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Louisville Cardinals Preview 2006 - Cardinal Offense

What you need to know ... Rev up the engine again as the nation's No. 9 offense and No. 3 scoring attack should be just as good again as long as star quarterback Brian Brohm is fully healthy after tearing his ACL late last year. Considering his mobility could be a problem early on, it's not a positive that the Cards have to break in two new tackles. Even so, the line should be fine with several good options and two great returning starters to work around in guard Kurt Quarterman and center Eric Wood. The backfield is one of the best in the nation going three deep with pounder Michael Bush coming back for his senior year and speedsters Kolby Smith and George Stripling as good as any backups in the country. Mario Urrutia leads a big, fast, and very talented receiving corps.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Brian Brohm
207-301, 2,883 yds, 19 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Michael Bush
205 carries, 1,143 yds, 23 TD
Receiving: Mario Urrutia
37 catches, 797 yds, 7 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Brian Brohm
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior OTs Marcel Benson and Breno Giacomini
Unsung star on the rise: Junior OT Marcus Gordon
Best pro prospect: Brohm
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brohm, 2) RB Michael Bush, 3) WR Mario Urrutia
Strength of the offense: Running backs, overall depth
Weakness of the offense: Tackle experience

How will Brian Brohm respond from his torn ACL? He'll be ready for the season opener, but rust might be an issue early on. Hunter Cantwell is a strong, tough, experienced backup who can keep the offense moving if anything happens to the franchise star, but there's not much to rely on after him with Bill Ashburn needing a little bit of experience and receiver/quarterback Patrick Carter more of a pass catcher than a passer. Thanks to the tremendous receiving corps and the great backfield to take the heat off, all the quarterbacks who play this year will thrive.
The key to the unit: Making sure Brian Brohm's knee is fine and creating more of a competition for the number two job.
Quarterback Rating: 9

Projected Starter
- Brian Brohm, Jr. - 207-301, 68.8%, 2,883 yds, 19 TD, 5 INT, 4 rushing TDs
Would Brohm have been a first round draft pick if he could’ve come out this year? Probably. The 6-4, 224-pound junior is coming off an torn ACL that cost him the last two games of the season, but that didn't stop him from being the Big East Offensive Player of the Year. He has the arm, the smarts, and the touch to be a next-level star. Now he has to prove he can be the type of quarterback who can carry his team to a conference title. He's not a runner, but he can move a little bit with good touch when on the move. The key to his game is accuracy. When he gets into a groove, it's over. Just ask Oregon State who got tagged for an 18 of 22, 368-yard, five touchdown game.

Top Backups
- Hunter Cantwell, Soph. - 39-73, 53%, 640 yds, 5 TD, 4 INT
Silver lining time. It wasn't a positive in any way to lose Brian Brohm to a knee injury late in the year, but it gave Cantwell a chance to show what he could do and get him some meaningful reps in two key games and all the time this spring. He's not Brohm and doesn't have nearly the same skills, but he has a live arm and good size at 6-4 and 223 pounds.

- Bill Ashburn, Soph.
The former Youngstown State transfer will spend another year learning. He's a bit more of a runner than Brian Brohm and Hunter Cantwell, but he'll only see time if disaster strikes or in mega-blowouts when Cantwell needs a break.

- Patrick Carter, Jr.
An interesting option, the lightning fast Carter will spend most of his time at receiver pushing for time on the outside. The former Georgia Tech transfer could be thrown into the mix to be a dangerous change-of-pace.

Running Backs
That holler of excitement you heard a few months ago was the Louisville coaching staff when Michael Bush announced he was returning for his senior season. The big, bruising touchdown maker will be among the nation's leading scorers, but he won't be in the Heisman hunt with Kolby Smith and George Stripling taking away too many carries and too many yards. Speed isn't an issue for this group with home-run hitting ability down the line. A little more production in the passing game would be nice, but that's nitpicking.
The key to the unit: Keeping Michael Bush fresh. There's no reason he needs to get more than 15-17 carries a game with backups like Kolby Smith and George Stripling around, but it'll be tempting to keep pounding the ball with the big man to wear down defenses.
Running Back Rating: 10

Projected Starters
- Michael Bush, Sr. - 205 carries, 1,143 yds, 5.6 ypc, 23 TD, 21 catches, 253 yds, 1 TD
Back for what seems like his 13th year in a Cardinal uniform, Bush passed up the chance to be a mid-round NFL draft pick to be on the short list of the nation's top college running backs. He's a freak of nature with good speed and phenomenal power in a 6-3, 250-pound frame. A scoring machine with 38 career touchdowns including 24 last season, he can even play a little quarterback on a halfback option using his skills honed as one of the nation's best high school passers. He also has good hands as a receiver out of the backfield. Staying healthy will be his key thanks to a pounding style that opens him up for some huge shots.

- Fullback Deriontae Taylor, Sr. - 2 catches, 6 yards
The 5-8, 244-pound Taylor will have one of the least glamorous jobs in college football as the lead blocker for a bigger tailback. He won't get any carries and he'll only catch a pass as a gift for all his hard work, but he can block.

Top Backups
- Kolby Smith, Sr. - 107 carries, 523 yds, 4.9 ypc, 6 TD, 18 catches, 196 yds, 1 TD
Injuries are all that's holding Smith back. He's a dangerous home-run hitter averaging 6.1 yards per run over the last three years and has a few starts under his belt. Adding that speed burst when he comes in for Michael Bush will be exactly what defenses don't want to see. He can even occasionally line up at fullback just to get him into the backfield.
- George Stripling, Soph. - 79 carries, 621 yds,  7.9 ypc, 7 TD, 1 catches, 14 yds
Speed, speed, speed, Stripling is a home run threat every time he touches the ball evidenced by a breathtaking 89-yard touchdown dash against Syracuse. He has to be used more in the passing game to get him the ball in space, but he might have a hard time getting touches with Michael Bush and Kolby Smith certain to get most of the work.
- Brock Bolen, Soph.
Bolen will be the jack-of-all-trades. The 237-pound Illinois transfer can handle himself as a tailback, but his future might be as a fullback adding more athleticism than Deriontae Taylor. He has good hands and excellent power.

Most teams would have major problems after losing receivers like Joshua Tinch and Montrell Jones, who combined to make 110 catches last year, but Louisville will be more than fine as long as Mario Urrutia can turn into a consistent target. Harry Douglas is good enough to pick up the extra work that will come his way, and reserves Patrick Carter, Scott Long and Chris Vaughn would form one of the Big East's best receiving trios for just about any other team in the league. The tight end situation is solid with Gary Barnidge good enough to make a big leap in overall production as a receiver.
The key to the unit: Establishing a consistent number one receiver and quickly figuring out just how good the backups are.
Receiver Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- Mario Urrutia, Soph. - 37 catches, 797 yds, 21.5 ypc, 7 TD
There was no questioning Urrutia's raw talent, but there was some question whether or not he was ready to be a major playmaker. No the question is whether or not he can go from being a freakishly good number three receiver and top deep threat to an All-America caliber, uncoverable force. He's 6-6 and 228 pounds with good deep speed averaging 21.5 yards per catch along with a team-leading seven scores. He cooled off a bit over the second half of the season after a torrid start catching 17 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns over an early three game stretch, so now he has to be a consistent number one target.

- Harry Douglas, Jr. - 27 catches, 457 yds, 16.9 ypc, 2 TD
A solid reserve last year finishing fourth on the team in catches, Douglas is a steady enough playmaker to take the heat off Mario Urrutia and grow into the Z receiver role. He's not all that big, but he has good hands, quickness, and speed to be a big-play target.

- Jimmy Riley, Sr.
A special teamer so far, Riley will get a long look at finally getting some meaningful playing time at the W position. He has the size at 6-1 and 212 pounds and isn't slow by any stretch, so now he has to put it all together and be a factor.

- Tight end Gary Barnidge, Jr. - 17 catches, 240 yds, 14.1 ypc, 2 TD
Barnidge had a good first year as a starter, but not a spectacular one. He has the size, the athleticism and the hands to be a top target, and now he should be used more to open things up in the middle of the field. He's not a dominant blocker and will likely be used mostly for his pass catching skills.

Top Backups
- Scott Long, RFr.
Long has the potential to be the team's next star receiver. He's 6-2 and 210 pounds with next-level speed. Look for him to be a factor on the outside playing behind Mario Urrutia, and occasionally on the other side of him.
- Chris Vaughn, Soph.
The Notre Dame transfer provides a huge backup target at 6-3 and 220 pounds. He'll start out behind Harry Douglas at the Z position, but don't be surprised if he quickly works his way into the starting rotation. With his size, he should be a killer around the goal line.
- Patrick Carter, Jr.
A backup quarterback as well as a reserve receiver, the 6-3, 215-pound junior has too much talent to not be used somewhere on the field. He transferred from Georgia Tech where he was a great punt returner, and now he'll push for time at the W position. Look for him to knock Jimmy Riley out of a starting spot at some point this season.
- Trent Guy, RFr.
At 5-9 and 165 pounds, he's not all that big compared to the giants in the UL receiving corps, but he can really, really move. With some of the best wheels on the team, he'll be used as a deep threat all season long.
- Tight end Scott Kuhn, Jr. - 2 catches, 9 yards, 1 TD

Kuhn can be used a little bit as a receiver, but his job will be to block. At 251 pounds, he's a bigger tight end option than the 236-pound Gary Barnidge, and he's more physical.

Offensive Linemen
The line is one of the few areas that needs some attending to after losing three starters including all-star tackle Travis Leffew. There are some great players to build around in center Eric Wood and guard Kurt Quarterman, and there's even a little bit of depth all the way around. The tackles have to play consistently from the start, and Danny Barlow and George Bussey have to combine to play well at weak guard. Even with all the early concerns, don't expect much of a drop-off from last year's solid group.

The key to the unit: Pass protection from the tackles and enough developed depth at guard to provide a good rotation.
Offensive Line Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- OT Marcel Benson, Jr.
Benson will battle with Breno Giacomini for the tough task of replacing four-year starter Travis Leffew at left tackle. At 318 pounds, Benson, a JUCO transfer, is a bigger option than the 290 pound Giacomini. After spending last year learning the system, he should be ready to hit the ground running this year.
- OG Danny Barlowe, Jr.
Barlow saw a little time as a reserve last season, but not enough to consider him experienced. He has a good motor and is great in the classroom, but he's not going to be an all-star. He'll end up rotating with George Bussey at weak guard.
- C Eric Wood, Soph.
Expect Wood to be one of the Big East's best linemen. The 296-pound sophomore earned freshman All-America honors growing into a rock solid anchor in the middle. He's versatile enough to play guard if needed, but he'll be the main man in the middle for the next three years.
- OG Kurt Quarterman, Sr.
The star of the line, Quarterman is a mauling 6-5 and 336 pounds who is in better shape than last year and should make the All-Big East team. He's fantastic on the move and will be the main blocker for the ground game.
- OT Marcus Gordon, Jr.
Gordon has the potential to be special at strong tackle. He redshirted last year after transferring over from the JUCO ranks, and now he appears ready to be a top all-around blocker helped by playing alongside Kurt Quarterman. He'll combine with Renardo Foster for the job.

Top Backups
- T Renardo Foster, Sr.
At 6-7 and 322 pounds, Foster has the size to be a good backup behind Marcus Gordon. Now he has to prove he can be back to 100% after back surgery and coming off a torn ACL a few years ago.
- G George Bussey, Soph.
Bussey will be neck-and-neck with Danny Barlowe for the starting weak guard job all year. He's a former walk-on with good strength and enough size at 295 pounds to be a key part of the rotation.
- T Breno Giacomini, Jr. -
A solid reserve for the last two seasons at tight end, Giacomini will battle with Marcel Benson to replace Travis Leffew at left tackle. He has long arms and is a good pass blocker using his 6-7 frame well.

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