2007 Louisville Preview - Offense
Louisville Cardinals Offense Preview
Preview 2007 - Offense
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need to know:
The coaching staff is new, but the results won’t differ much
from last season when Louisville rung up 37 points and 475 yards
a game. The Cardinals will spread the field and ask future
first round draft choice Brian Brohm to distribute the ball to
his plethora of playmakers. Brohm’s embarrassment of riches at
receiver includes senior Harry Douglas, junior Mario Urrutia and
senior Gary Barnidge, who combined for 159 receptions and 16
touchdowns in 2006. Head coach Steve Kragthorpe and offensive
coordinator Charlie Stubbs love leaning on the tight end, so
Barnidge could be particularly busy this fall. Even without
Michael Bush the running game is in good shape with the returns
of Anthony Allen and George Stripling, a thunder and lightning
combo that had 20 touchdowns a year ago. If Kragthorpe was able
to supercharge the Tulsa offense, just imagine what he’ll do
with all the resources they have in Louisville.
Passing: Brian Brohm
199-313, 3,049 yds, 16 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: George Stripling
81 carries, 459 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Harry Douglas
70 catches, 1,265 yds, 6 TD
Star of the
Senior QB Brian Brohm
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior RT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Anthony Allen
Best pro prospect: Brohm
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Brohm 2) Senior WR
Harry Douglas 3) Junior WR Mario Urrutia
Strength of the offense: The passing attack
Weakness of the offense: The right side of the line
From the moment Brian Brohm announced he’d be back for
his senior year, Louisville instantly had one of the best
quarterback situations in America. He’s a certain first-day NFL
draft choice in 2008 and a heady veteran that can make all the
throws and manage a game like a coach in the huddle. Brohm will
once again be the catalyst of the combustible Cardinal offense,
distributing the ball like one of Rick Pitino’s point guards to
a bevy of gifted receivers. He’s a strong preseason contender
for the Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award provided he can
do the one thing that’s escaped him during his college
career—play an entire season without suffering an injury.
Projected Top Reserves: In many ways, junior
Hunter Cantwell is the prototypical backup quarterback.
He’s a veteran of the Louisville system with an NFL arm and a
pair of valuable starts in each of the last two seasons on his
resume. A fixture at No. 2 on the depth chart, Cantwell is a
major luxury in the event that Brohm is lost for any period of
If all hell breaks loose, junior Bill Ashburn will see
his first action since transferring from Youngstown State.
While he’s absolutely no threat to Cantwell, Ashburn could use
the upcoming season to get a leg up on true freshman Matt
Simms to be next year’s backup.
Watch Out For… Brohm. Yeah, he’s not going to
sneak up on anyone, however, Brohm still hasn’t had one of those
monster statistical years, never throwing more than 19 touchdown
passes in a season. All signs point to that changing in 2007.
Brohm didn’t pass up on a fat NFL signing bonus for a mediocre
finale, and his supporting cast and new coaching staff will make
sure he finishes with a flurry.
Strength: Downfield passing. In a sport that’s
becoming increasingly dominated by dink-and-dunk passers, both
Brohm and Cantwell have the arm strength to stretch defenses and
capitalize on the speed of the Cardinal receivers which opens
things up underneath for the backs and tight ends.
Weakness: Mobility. While neither Brohm nor
Cantwell is a statue, they also won’t remind anyone of former
Louisville scrambler Stefan LeFors. Both are big, lumbering
targets that are strictly pocket passers. In Brohm’s case, an
inability to avoid a pass rush could test his durability for a
third year in-a-row.
Outlook: Steve Kragthorpe’s debut as the
Louisville head coach has already been made smoother by the
presence of Brohm, an elite college quarterback who’s about to
enjoy the production to match his considerable passing skills.
In the event he misses any time, the Cards will be in good hands
with Cantwell calling signals.
Michael Bush and Kolby Smith are gone, but the running back
cupboard is not bare in Louisville. Sophomore Anthony Allen
and junior George Stripling give the Cards a thunder
and lightning combo at tailback while junior Brock Bolen
is a versatile fullback in the mold of West Virginia’s Owen
Schmitt. Allen was one of last year’s biggest surprises,
running for 406 yards and a team-high 13 touchdowns while
playing very well on special teams. A 6-1, 232-pound bulldozer
in short yardage, he’s a young player on the brink of stardom
now that the top of the depth chart has cleared out. Allen will
share carries with Stripling, the long-ball hitter of the
backs. In two seasons, he has more than 1,300 all-purpose yards
and has the best hands out of the backfield, making him
especially dangerous on third and long.
than just a hole opener, Bolen is an effective change-of-pace
taking handoffs and had a couple of touchdown receptions in
2006. After getting only 53 touches a year ago, his role in
this offense is likely to increase in 2007.
Projected Top Reserves: When Allen is in the
backfield, Stripling will be his backup, and vice versa.
Regardless of who’s named the official starter, both backs will
get at least 100 carries this season. Beyond those two,
however, things thin out in a hurry. Junior Sergio Spencer
has been a good soldier on special teams, but only has 28
carries in his first two seasons, a number that could double in
2007. A terrific all-around athlete, he’s a solid No. 3 on the
depth chart depending on how quickly true freshmen Victor
Anderson and Dale Martin adapt to the speed of the
college game. Bolen’s backup at fullback will be sophomore
Joe Tronzo, a former walk-on who throws the shot on the
track team and is strictly a pile-mover at 5-11 and 245 pounds.
Watch Out For… Allen. Although he was lost in the
crowd a year ago, it quickly became obvious that Allen’s
anonymity wouldn’t last very long. A big back with slashing
moves, he’s the type of runner that can handle 25 or 30 carries
if the gameplan calls for it. Allen’s not Bush, but his hard
running and penchant for crossing the goal line will make it a
lot easier to move forward without the program’s star back.
Strength: Versatility. Allen, Stripling and Bolen
each offer something a little different which will keep defenses
guessing and Kragthorpe from roping off any sections of his
playbook. After Allen and Bolen wear down a defense with their
230-pound frames, Stripling can run circles around it with his
speed and darting moves, a devastating one-two punch.
Weakness: Depth. The Cards had their backfield
depth tested in 2006, and lived to tell about it. If a crisis
strikes in 2007, however, they may not be so fortunate. Allen
and Stripling are a nice duo, but who has their backs? Spencer
is unproven and there’s no telling if the incoming freshmen will
be ready to contribute right away. If Allen, in particular, is
lost for an extended period of time, the rest of the offense is
going to feel his pain.
Outlook: Either of the top two backs is capable of
eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing this season if he gets at least
150 carries. Pencil in both backs for career highs on the
ground, while Allen challenges for the nation’s scoring title
with a Bush-like push for 20 or more touchdowns.
The same three receivers that led the Cardinals a year ago are
back in 2007 which is why they’ll have one of the most potent
and deep receiving corps in the country. Junior X receiver
Mario Urrutia and senior Z receiver Harry Douglas are
an eclectic pair built on size and speed, respectively. The
6-6, 228-pound Urrutia is flat-out too big and too explosive for
the amateur defensive back to handle. In two seasons, he’s
already caught 95 passes for 1,770 yards, a wicked 18.6 average,
and 13 touchdowns. Cardinal fans ought to take plenty of
pictures of Urrutia this fall because he’s a prime candidate to
jump to the NFL following his junior season.
Douglas may be one of Louisville’s smallest receivers, but he’s
also its fastest and most combustible. He erupted last season
for 70 catches for a school-record 1,265 yards and six
touchdowns, en route to a spot on the all-Big East first team.
Douglas is fearless going over the middle and most dangerous
after the catch when he’s prone to take a short pass and turn it
into a long sideline gallop.
When Brian Brohm wants to pick apart the middle of the field,
he’ll look for tight end Gary Barnidge, a sure-handed
senior with 55 career catches and ten touchdown receptions.
Although he offers little in the area of downfield blocking, at
6-6, he’s a big-play target that’s impossible to miss.
Projected Top Reserves: There’ll be plenty of depth
behind the starters with the competition for playing time
expected to be ferocious. Senior Patrick Carter and
junior Chris Vaughn have made limited contributions since
transferring from Georgia Tech and Notre Dame, respectively,
however, that’ll change this fall. Carter’s a 6-3, 200-pound
all-around athlete who battled through an ankle injury in 2006.
Vaughn is even bigger at 6-3 and 223 pounds and can run like a
gazelle. The nine catches these two combined for last fall is
well below their capabilities.
Yet another import, junior Corey Thompson, has his sights
set on the No. 2 job at Z receiver. The one-time starter at
Duke is a Douglas clone with track speed and a very similar
frame. The Cardinals have recruited well at receiver in recent
years so the future is bright and the present is
Among the underclassmen, the brightest future belongs to
sophomore Scott Long. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, he runs and
leaps well, putting him first in line back up Urrutia outside.
After emerging as one of the most dangerous kick returners in
the country as a freshman, JaJuan Spillman is poised to
parlay his blazing speed and sharp cuts into big plays on
offense as well this season.
No. 2 tight end Scott Kuhn won’t be called upon to catch
very many passes, but at 6-6 and 255 pounds, he’s grown into a
very physical blocker and a valuable senior reserve.
Watch Out For… freshman Josh Chichester.
Urrutia is 6-6, and he’ll be looking up to Chichester, a 6-8
wunderkind who spent last season at Harmony Community School in
Cincinnati preparing for his first year at Louisville. More
than just a big body, he’s the complete package with great
hand-eye coordination and ball skills. In other words,
Chichester has the tools to make an instant impact in his debut
with the Cardinals.
Strength: Long-ball potential. The trio of
Douglas, Urrutia and Barnidge each averaged more than 16 yards a
reception in 2006, a testament to not just their speed, but also
their ability to pick up huge chunks of real estate after the
catch. Even the backups have big-play potential which spells
big trouble for opposing defenses that won’t be able to contain
this group and pay attention to the running game at the same
Weakness: Proven depth. The reserves have a ton
of upside, but up until now they’ve largely been untested
bystanders and special teams performers. The top returning
backup had just seven catches last year, so it’s incumbent on
the likes of Carter, Vaughn and Thompson to step up and
contribute when the offense goes to four and five wides.
Outlook: As if Brohm needs an extra advantage,
he’ll be surrounded by one of the most lethal group of receivers
in the country in 2007. While Douglas, Urrutia and Barnidge
will all finish the season on the all-Big East team, at least
one of the young backups will enjoy a 30-catch breakout year in
a complimentary role.
The final piece of the offensive juggernaut is set with three
starters back on the offensive line and enough upperclassmen
available to fill the voids left by graduating seniors Kurt
Quarterman and Renardo Foster. Leading the way will be a pair
of all-league juniors, center Eric Wood and left tackle
George Bussey. Now entering his third season as a
starter, Wood is well on his way to becoming one of the nation’s top
centers. He’s a rock in the middle, having started each of
Louisville’s last 25 games, with impeccable technique, speed and
Bussey came virtually out of nowhere last season to fill the
gaping hole at left tackle that had been manned by four-year
starter Travis Leffew. Slated to compete for time at guard, the
former walk-on wound up winning the tackle job and earning the
respect of voters that placed him on the all-Big East first
team. Once his run blocking catches up with his pass blocking,
he’ll be a dominant force on the left side of the line.
Senior left guard Danny Barlowe is the third returning
starter from last season’s squad. A veteran of 25 games and 11
starts, he’s a blue-collar worker who needs to limit his mental
mistakes this fall.
On the right side opposite Barlowe will be Marcel Benson,
a 6-6, 310-pound senior who has one final shot to realize the
potential that made him one of the hottest junior college
transfers of 2005. A terrific athlete with nimble feet, he
still needs to improve his upper body strength and become a more
physical blocker at the point of attack.
After subbing at tight end and tackle for the last three years,
senior Breno Giacomini is prepared to take over the spot
at right tackle that was vacated by Foster. At 6-7 and 300
pounds, he has the long arms to wall off edge rushers, but can
get overmatched by stronger ends that’ll move him off his base.
Projected Top Reserves: Before Bussey grew into a
top left tackle, sophomore Brian Roche was believed to be
the future at the position. A top 2005 recruit that turned down
Notre Dame and Florida to play at Louisville, he’s just now
beginning to gain a foothold after being slowed by a broken leg
two years ago.
Senior Marcus Gordon hasn’t quite panned out since being
a hotshot JuCo transfer two years ago, but he’s a massive
presence that’ll provide veteran depth at left guard for the
second straight year.
Jeff Adams is just a redshirt freshman, however, he’s
going to be a nuisance to Giacomini all year long. Despite
being 6-8 and 300 pounds, he moves extremely well, needing to
show now that he’s ready to handle an assignment in the line
Fellow redshirt freshman Conrad Thomas is going to remind
some people of Kurt Quarterman at right guard. A 6-6, 320-pound
load, he slides better than his size might indicate and is
physical enough to handle the 300-pound tackles that are likely
to be across the line of scrimmage.
Watch Out For… Roche. It wasn’t that long ago
that Roche was one of the nation’s top prep tackles and a major
win on the recruiting trail for the Cardinal program. A blip on
the radar since 2005, he’s now ready to begin competing for
playing. A terrific technician that pass and run blocks equally
well, Roche is about to re-introduce himself to the public.
The left side of the line. With Bussey and Barlowe back for a
second season as starters, Brian Brohm’s backside will once
again be well-protected. Even the second unit, consisting of
Roche and Gordon, is strongest to the left of center.
Weakness: Physicality. The Cardinal line won’t
get manhandled this season, but it’s clearly built more on
finesse than brute strength and physical toughness. The right
side has question marks, and all but Wood will be vulnerable to
defensive fronts that are big, strong and nasty.
Outlook: The offensive line has been an area of
strength at Louisville for years so don’t expect a change in
trend, particularly with two all-conference pillars back for
another season. While pass protection will be a strength for
this athletic group, it still needs to prove that it can
occasionally sucker punch an opponent in the running game.