2007 Louisville Preview

Posted Jul 31, 2007

Louisville has grown into a big-time superpower, with a win in the Orange Bowl showing how far the program has come. Now Harry Douglas and the Cardinals have their sights set on the big prize.

Louisville Cardinals

Preview 2007

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 Louisville Offense Preview | 2007 Louisville Defense Preview
2007 Louisville Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Louisville Preview 

Former head coach Bobby Petrino is now with the Atlanta Falcons and one-time star Michael Bush has not expectedly left early, but  the lofty expectations for the reigning Big East champs not only haven’t changed, they’ve been cranked up a little more. 

Louisville is thinking big again largely because of the return of quarterback Brian Brohm and his top receivers. It also helped to snag Steve Kragthorpe from Tulsa, one of the hottest young coaching stars, to quickly respond to Petrino’s sudden departure to keep the machine rolling.  It’s easy to forget the concern when John L. Smith left and Petrino stepped in. Now there’s a possibility Kragthorpe can take the program to yet another level. 

Head coach: Steve Kragthorpe
1st year at Louisville
5th year overall: 29-22
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 26, Def. 27, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Cardinal Players
1. QB Brian Brohm, Sr.
 2. WR Harry Douglas, Sr.
 3. WR Mario Urrutia, Jr.
 4. LB Malik Jackson, Sr.
 5. OT George Bussey, Jr.
 6. C Eric Wood, Jr.
 7. PK Art Carmody, Sr.
 8. DE Peanut Whitehead, Soph.
 9. TE Gary Barnidge, Sr.
 10. RB Anthony Allen, Soph.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 11-1

Aug. 30

Murray State

Sept. 8

Middle Tennessee

Sept. 15

at Kentucky

Sept. 22


Sept. 29

at NC State

Oct. 6


Oct. 13

at Cincinnati

Oct. 20

at Connecticut

Oct. 27


Nov. 8

at West Virginia

Nov. 17

at South Florida

Nov. 29


2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 11-1

2006 Record: 12-1

Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 Kentucky W 59-28
9/9 at Temple W 62-0
9/16 Miami W 31-7
9/23 at Kansas State W 24-6
10/6 at MTSU W 44-17
10/14 Cincinnati W 23-17
10/21 at Syracuse W 28-13
11/2 West Virginia W 44-34
11/9 at Rutgers L 28-25
11/18 South Florida W 31-8
11/25 at Pitt W 48-24
12/2 Connecticut W 48-17
1/2 Orange Bowl
Wake Forest W 24-13

Kragthorpe’s teams are always smart, tough, and keep mistakes to a minimum. In other words, they’re well coached, and with more talent he’s ever had to work with, it’ll be an interesting study to see just how solid the program is to undergo a second major coaching change.    

Of course, the coaching can look a whole bunch better with someone like Brohm to rely on. One of the nation’s best offenses will keep cranking out yards and points in chunks, and they’ll all be needed to get through the brutal Big East.  The defense, which played so well last fall, has returning talent, but has to replace six starters including three all-league performers. Fortunately, the schedule allows for a little bit of time to get everyone in the right spots.

The biggest concern will be the secondary which loses three key players, and it’s asking a lot to get the same consistent offensive production, but even if the Cardinals have a few new wrinkles and aren’t quite as explosive, the overall results should be the same, if not better. Even so, just keeping things rolling might be good enough for now.

What to watch to watch for on offense:
It might be a little less inventive and a tad more conservative, but no less combustible under a coach that cites the BYU teams of the 1970s as the genesis of his offensive philosophy.  With Brohm at the controls and Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas flanked to either side, the Louisville passing game will be humming once again.  The balance will be there with the lightning and thunder combination of George Stripling and Anthony Allen, who should blow up under the new coaching staff.  Kragthorpe, who loves using his tight ends, inherits a good one in Gary Barnidge and will likely get him more involved than Petrino did.       

What to watch for on defense: If Brohm’s healthy all year and the Cardinals don’t win the Big East, it’ll have something to do with the play of a defense that has plenty of holes to plug.  Gone are premier run-stuffer, Amobi Okoye, top two defensive backs, William Gay and Brandon Sharp, and last year’s emotional leader, linebacker Nate Harris.  How quickly fresh faces, such as corner Woodny Turenne, end Peanut Whitehead and tackle Earl Heyman emerge as playmakers will dictate whether Louisville can contend for more than just the Big East.   

The team will be far better if … the defense regroups on the fly.  Petrino’s recruiting has ensured that plenty of talent waits in the wings, and Kragthorpe has had a lot less to work with, but it’s still asking a lot to improve on a porous pass defense that has to replace three starters. Granted, most of the yards came in comeback mode, but there’s still a concern with high-octane offenses like Kentucky’s and Utah’s early on.

The Schedule: Kragthorpe's first season should be easy early and brutal late. Outside of a near-certain shootout at Kentucky, the nastier-than-it-looks home game against Utah, and a road date at Cincinnati, it should be relatively smooth sailing through the first two months of the year on the way to an 8-0 record before the season really kicks in. Pitt, at West Virginia, at South Florida and Rutgers will make or break Big East title hopes needing to win three of the final four to likely get back to the BCS. Win all four and the national title shot might be in view.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Brian Brohm.  When Brohm opted to return for his senior season rather than test NFL waters, Louisville instantly had one of best players in America and a viable Heisman candidate.  He’s a franchise player, who makes all the throws and has the head and leadership qualities usually reserved for professional quarterbacks.   

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Malik Jackson.  In his first year as a starter at outside linebacker, Jackson showcased why he’s the defense’s most versatile all-around athlete leading the Cards with 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks and three fumble recoveries.  A disruptive force with a knack for making the big play, he’s also been used as a rush end and is the team’s top linebacker in pass coverage.                

Key player to a successful season: Senior OT Breno Giacomini. Or redshirt freshman Jeff Adams. George Bussey will be an All-America candidate on the left side, but it’ll take a huge season for either Giacomini or Adams to replace all-star Renardo Foster on the right. Adams is a 6-8, 300-pound mountain who can play defense if needed, while Giacomini is a 6-7, 300-pound athlete who moves extremely well.

The season will be a success if ... Louisville goes back to the BCS. 11-1 is also a good goal to shoot for with an upset to prevent a 9-0 start before dealing with West Virginia, South Florida and Rutgers. As long as Brohm is healthy and winging, the offense will be among the best in America. The defense won’t miss a beat under Kragthorpe and should be among the best in the Big East. It’s all there for another Big East title, and maybe more.

Key game: Sept. 15 at Kentucky. Of course the last month of the Big East season is all huge, but for Louisville to have the season it thinks it can have beating an improved Kentucky is a must. After winning four straight over its in-state rival, a loss could be disastrous to Kragthorpe and the new coaching staff.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Third quarter scoring: Louisville 112 – Opponents 29
- Third down conversions: Louisville 74 of 160 (46%) – Opponents 55 of 180 (31%)
- Average yards per pass: Louisville 9.8 – Opponents 6.8


Related Stories
2007 Louisville Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 14, 2007
2007 Louisville Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 14, 2007
2007 Louisville Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 14, 2007

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