2008 CFN Louisville Preview
Louisville QB Hunter Cantwell
Louisville QB Hunter Cantwell
Posted Apr 30, 2008

Was last year an aberration or was it a sign of Louisville's decline? With big changes on both sides of the ball, in the coaching staff, and at quarterback, where Hunter Cantwell takes over for Brian Brohm, there are several question marks for the Big East power. Check out the CFN UofL preview.

Louisville Cardinals

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 CFN Louisville Preview | 2008 Louisville Offense
- 2008 Louisville Defense | 2008 Louisville Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Louisville Preview | 2006 CFN Louisville Preview 

Head coach: Steve Kragthorpe
2nd year: 6-6
6th year overall: 35-28
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 27, Def. 21, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Cardinal Players
1. C Eric Wood, Sr.
2. OT George Bussey, Sr.
3. DT Earl Heyman, Sr.
4. QB Hunter Cantwell, Sr.
5. WR Scott Long, Jr.
6. DE Maurice Mitchell, Sr.
7. FB Brock Berlin, Sr.
8. S Latarrius Thomas, Jr.
9. LB James Bryant, Sr.
10. DT Adrian Grady, Sr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Kentucky
Sept. 6 Tennessee Tech
Sept. 13 OPEN DATE
Sept. 17 Kansas State
Sept. 27 Connecticut
Oct. 10 at Memphis
Oct. 18 Middle Tennessee
Oct. 25 South Florida
Nov. 1 at Syracuse
Nov. 8 at Pitt
Nov. 14 Cincinnati
Nov. 22 West Virginia
Dec. 4 at Rutgers

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 6-6

Aug. 30 Murray State W 73-10
Sept. 6 Middle Tenn W 58-42
Sept. 15 at Kentucky L 40-34
Sept. 22 Syracuse L 38-35
Sept. 29 at NC State W 29-10
Oct. 6 Utah L 44-35
Oct. 13 at Cincinnati W 28-24
Oct. 20 at Connecticut L 21-17
Oct. 27 Pitt W 24-17
Nov. 8 at West Virginia L 38-31
Nov. 17
at South Florida L 55-17
Nov. 29 Rutgers W 41-38

When Bobby Petrino left Louisville following the 2006 campaign, he apparently took more than his family and his personal belongings to Atlanta. He also took off with the Cardinals’ momentum and national image.

Louisville flopped in 2007, Steve Kragthorpe’s first year on the job, going from defending Big East champ to a 6-6 record and a bowl-less postseason for the first time in a decade. The blame for the debacle fell squarely on the coaching staff, some of whom are no longer with the program.  For Kragthorpe, a darling of athletic directors just one year ago, the honeymoon is already over.

If Kragthorpe is going to restore the order at Louisville and stabilize his own job security, he’ll have to do so with new troops everywhere. Gone from a year ago are star QB Brian Brohm, leading rusher Anthony Allen, the top four receivers, and all three starting linebackers. DE Peanut Whitehead, one of the most heralded recruits to ever attend the school, suffered a career-ending spinal injury in November. Starting CB Rod Council was booted from the team after being charged with armed robbery in February. And that’s just from the player personnel files. 

The defensive staff also got whacked in response to last year’s collapse, hiring four new assistants, including former Michigan coach Ron English to coordinate the defense. All English is being asked to do is energize a depleted group that couldn’t tackle or get to the quarterback, and was miserable against teams like Middle Tennessee and Syracuse. There’s a feeling that Louisville will always find a way to score, no matter who’s at the controls, but if the defense doesn’t improve by leaps and bounds, it’ll be another also ran year.  

Now the question is whether or not the Cardinals have gotten as low as they can go, or if thing can get worse in an improved Big East. With wholesale changes impacting every area of the program, the Cardinals are capable of another clunker. Winning the Big East and the Orange Bowl just two years ago raised the bar a few notches, and now the pressure is on Kragthorpe to stop the bleeding now before it becomes a hemorrhage.     

What to watch for on offense: Sophomore RB Bilal Powell. The veteran line can run block. The backfield has been depleted by transfers, suspensions, and relocations. In other words, Powell is about to see a dramatic spike in his production. Sure, he’ll share touches with Brock Bolen, but there’ll be enough work to keep everyone happy. When the season was spinning out of control last November, Powell provided an unexpected spark, running with intensity and a blend of speed and power that gave a glimmer of hope about the future.The future is now for one of Louisville’s most exciting offensive weapons.  

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. On a defense filled with concerns, this is Kragthorpe’s biggest heading into the season. Not only have last year’s three starters left the program, but many of this year’s key replacements spent the spring sidelined with an injury. A lot will be expected from senior James Bryant, a hard-hitting import from Miami, and Chris Campa, a junior college transfer who’s trying to get right after undergoing surgery on a torn labrum in his shoulder.          

The team will be far better if… new coordinator Ron English can get the defense to overachieve. Louisville has never wanted for quality athletes, but it’ll be up to English and his rookie assistants to get this group to play with better overall fundamentals. There were too many blown assignments and missed tackles last season, which will be unacceptable on a unit that has so many holes to fill at linebacker and in the secondary. Players, such as CB Woodny Turenne and LB James Bryant, a Miami transfer, have upside. English’s objective is to be sure they reach it.         

The Schedule: You want a bounce-back season Cardinal fans? You have the schedule to do it. There are only four road games and two are against Memphis and Syracuse. The other two will be tough, but playing at Pitt and Rutgers isn't like going to West Virginia or South Florida. Non-conference games against Kentucky and Kansas State might be tough, but those both come at home. If things weren't easy enough, there's a week off at the end of November before facing the Scarlet Knights. It would've been nice to get the break before facing West Virginia, but there's an extra day off before facing the Mountaineers.

Best offensive player: Senior C Eric Wood. Now that all of the skill position talent is seeking jobs in the NFL, Wood may actually start getting more of the national recognition he deserves. The reigning First Team All-Big East center has started 37 consecutive games dating back to his freshman year and is the leader of the Cardinal offensive line. Lightning quick on the snap and strong enough to move defensive tackles off the ball, he’ll be on the Rimington Trophy short list for the third straight year.    

Best defensive player: Senior DT Earl Heyman. It would be easy to lump every Cardinal into last year’s defensive mess, but that would do a disservice to Heyman, a tackle with next-level skills.  At 6-3 and 285 pounds, he has got the quickness of an end, a major concern for most guards and centers. Heyman laid the foundation for a breakthrough senior year notching 40 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, and three fumble recoveries.        

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Hunter Cantwell. While the defense won’t be transformed overnight, the offense still has a chance to keep Louisville competitive in most games. Cantwell has been well hidden in Brian Brohm’s shadow, but he’s a 6-5, 236-pound veteran with a rocket arm and 18 games of experience. If the senior is able to keep his own defense off the field while elevating the play of the young kids around him, the Cardinals won’t be out of many games.            

The season will be a success if ... Louisville wins seven games. Although the Cards might appear shockingly far from being back in the Big East title hunt, they schedule is conducive to a winning season. Eight games are at Papa John’s, and the first troubling road trip doesn’t happen until a Nov. 8 visit to Pittsburgh. The keys for Kragthorpe are to get beyond last season and create something positive early on. Seven wins and a December bowl game will accomplish both of those modest goals.   

Key game
: Aug. 31 vs. Kentucky. After last season’s meltdown in Lexington, the Cardinals and Kragthorpe can ill-afford a second straight loss to rival Kentucky. As much as any program in the country, Louisville needs a fast start, and a win in the opener could be the spark needed to get to 6-0 before South Florida visits on Oct. 25.  The only first half game away from Papa John’s is a trip to Memphis after two weeks rest.     

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Fumbles: Opponents 32 (lost 17) – Louisville 13 (lost 10)
- Opponent 1st quarter scoring: 131 – Opponent 3rd quarter scoring: 62
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 8 of 13 (62%) – Louisville (9 of 17 (53%)