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2007 Louisville Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 14, 2007


Preview 2007 Louisville Cardinals Offense Preview

 

Louisville Cardinals

Preview 2007 - Offense


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

What you 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.

Returning Leaders
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 offense: Senior QB Brian Brohm
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior RT Breno Giacomini
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

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter
: 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 time. 

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.
Rating: 9.5


Running Backs

Projected Starters: 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. 

Much more 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.
Rating: 8


Receivers

Projected Starters: 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 well-fortified. 

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 time.
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.
Rating: 9.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: 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 footwork. 

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 rotation. 

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.

Strength: 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.
Rating: 8

  

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2007 Louisville Preview - Depth Chart
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