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2008 Louisville Preview - Offense
Louisville C Eric Wood
Louisville C Eric Wood
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 30, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Louisville Cardinal Offense

Louisville Cardinals

Preview 2008 - Offense

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

What you need to know: Louisville’s high-octane offense, unstoppable over the last decade, is about to turn the page and begin writing a new chapter. Not only is QB Brian Brohm gone, but so are all of his favorite weapons, including All-Big East WR Harry Douglas. Brohm’s graduation clears a path for senior and long-time backup Hunter Cantwell to show the nation—and NFL scouts—that he’s more than just a nice insurance policy. He’ll need a lot of help from a supporting cast that’ll show little resemblance to the one that roamed Papa John’s last season. Two players capable of filling the void are RB Bilal Powell and WR Scott Long, whose potential has been corked by the recent logjam on offense. 

Returning Leaders
Passing: Hunter Cantwell
8-14, 79 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Brock Bolen
88 carries, 456 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Scott Long
27 catches, 358 yds, 0 TD

 Star of the offense: Senior C Eric Wood
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Hunter Cantwell
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Scott Long
Best pro prospect: Wood
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wood  2) Senior LT George Bussey  3) Long
Strength of the offense: Athleticism at the skill positions
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: It’s never easy losing a player like Brian Brohm, one of the best quarterbacks in school history, but at least senior Hunter Cantwell is waiting in the wings. Brohm’s understudy for the last three years, he has a big arm, a good head, and 18 games of experience to fall back on.  At 6-5 and 236 pounds, Cantwell is built like a linebacker, yet shows good feet in the pocket and an ability to escape the heat of a pass rush. Despite throwing just 157 career passes and being a career backup, he’s in a high-stakes position to catapult into the first day of the 2009 NFL Draft with a strong final season as the Cardinal starter.  

Projected Top Reserves: Now that Cantwell has elevated to the top of the depth chart, the Cardinals no longer have a seasoned vet at the backup quarterback position. Instead, a couple of untested kids, sophomore Tyler Wolfe and redshirt freshman Matt Simms, will battle to fill the opening and get an early lead for the job in 2009. 

Simms was one of the prized catches of 2007, a fundamentally sound quarterback who hopes to follow father Phil and brother Chris into the NFL someday. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he stands tall in the pocket and plays with the poise and the leadership of a much older player. Simms is viewed as the quarterback of the future, and can be next in line for 2009 by winning the No. 2 job. 

At 6-5 and 216 pounds, Wolfe makes quite a presence in the pocket as well, peering above the linemen to find his receivers. Cardinal coaches believe he can make all the throws and they really like his ability to sidestep the rush and pick up yards with his feet.     

Watch Out For… Cantwell. Few outside of Louisville even know who he is, but pro scouts already believe he has a chance to be this year’s top quarterback prospect. Not only can Hunter dramatically upgrade his draft grade in his lone year as the triggerman, but he’ll also be counted on to help keep the Cards from slipping further in the Big East.
Strength: Downfield passing. Even without Brohm, Louisville boasts three well-sized hurlers with the arm strength to test opposing secondaries on the boundaries. Add incoming freshman Zack Stoudt, and the Cardinals have four bombers who are 6-3 or larger.               
Weakness: The wide receivers. The quarterbacks have the talent to move the ball downfield, but will they get any help from a receiving corps that loses its top four pass-catchers? Even if Cantwell does his job, the passing game might suffer from a group of wideouts that won’t make defensive backs shudder.
Outlook: For anyone else, it would be next to impossible to fill Brohm’s shoes. Cantwell, however, won’t shy away from the challenge or muff an opportunity in his only crack at the starting job. If the defense is as feeble as a year ago, he’ll also have plenty of chances to ring up Brohm-like numbers.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Last year’s leading rusher Anthony Allen has transferred and George Stripling was dismissed, creating an opportunity for a handful of backs, including one fullback. At 6-0 and 238 pounds, senior Brock Bolen isn’t your typical feature back, but that didn’t stop him from rushing for 456 yards and seven touchdowns, while adding 14 receptions for 121 yards and another score. More than just a lead blocker or a short yardage option, he’s capable of carrying the load, when given a chance.       

Projected Top Reserves: Lightly recruited coming out of high school, sophomore Bilal Powell is going to make plenty of Florida schools sorry they didn’t go after him. He only rushed 24 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns, but he showed flashes on special teams and gave hints of his upside in the finale with Rutgers. At 6-0 and 208 pounds, Powell is a downhill runner who can make tacklers miss, a strong candidate to be the every down back. 

The Cardinals had the luxury of redshirting Victor Anderson, who’s ready to begin contributing.  Just 5-9 and 182 pounds, he’s an electrifying open field runner with breakaway speed and enough wiggle to dance out of traffic.                   

Watch Out For… Anderson. Allen and Stripling’s departures and Sergio Spencer move to safety creates space for Anderson to scale the depth chart. He’s a Noel Devine-type homerun hitter which the Louisville offense has been missing.
Strength: Versatility.  Just like a year ago, the Cardinals have a nice mix of complimentary backs who all do something a little different. For the tough yards, there’s Bolen and Powell. For the long ball and swing passes out of the backfield, Louisville has Anderson.
Weakness: Lack of a feature back. For now, the Cards have a bunch of role players, but no go-to guy with a proven track record of handling 20-25 carries a game. Someone needs to step up and assume the lead role in the backfield.
Outlook: No one in this group will command 250 carries, with the touches being spread out over a diverse group of backs. Powell, however, is loaded with enough potential for him to steal playing time from the others, making a late run for 1,000 yards in an offense that plans to run more this season.
Rating: 7
 
Receivers

Projected Starters: Last year’s top four receivers are gone, forcing the Cardinals to rebuild the receiving corps from the bottom up. The biggest beneficiary of the make-over is junior Scott Long, a budding star who’ll set career highs after catching 27 passes for 358 yards and starting seven games in a complimentary role. A physical, 6-2 and 211-pound receiver, he’s next in line to become Hunter Cantwell’s favorite target. 

Juniors Trent Guy and JaJuan Spillman are a pair of undersized playmakers in the Harry Douglas mold who can take a slant and zip through the secondary. The 5-9, 165-pound Guy caught 11 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, doing most of his damage as a kick returner. 

Spillman is expected back after being suspended for the second half of last season. An absolute blur, the 5-10, 160-pounder needs to get more touches in the open field. Like Guy, Spillman is a dangerous returner who was No. 11 nationally in kickoff returns two years ago.

The graduations of Gary Barnidge and Scott Kuhn have Louisville scrambling to find a reliable tight end who can block and catch passes. Unfortunately, the three main candidates, sophomore Pete Nochta, redshirt freshman Michael Fennerty, and redshirt freshman Zach Meagher, have no career catches and just one letter among them. Nochta has good size at 6-5 and 246 pounds, and rates a slight edge by virtue of his extra year of experience on special teams. 

Meagher is only 6-4 and 240 pounds, but plays with a nasty streak and shows the potential in practice to be the best blocker of the group. The 6-4, 229-pound Fennerty will exclusively be a receiving threat until he can add more bulk to his frame. Of the trio, Meagher is most likely to be the team’s tight end of the future.   

Louisville is also banking on little-used senior Johnnie Burns to contribute at tight end after flip-flopping between offense and defense.  A 6-3, 245-pounder, he’s mostly played on special teams throughout his career. 

Projected Top Reserves: The staff gets giddy when the topic is Troy Pascley, a quick, athletically-gifted sophomore who missed the season with pneumonia. A fluid 6-2 and 190-pounder, he’s one of the untapped Cardinal receivers capable of making a big statement in 2008. 

Senior Chris Vaughn has some of the best measurables of the group, but has been limited throughout his career by injuries. A 6-3, 220-pound gazelle, he’s only caught six passes since transferring from Note Dame in 2005, but has the size-speed combination that shouldn’t be ignored. 

Sophomore Doug Beaumont lettered a year ago, playing in all 12 games on special teams.  Named Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 2006, the 5-9, 176-pound jackrabbit is quicker than he is fast and dangerous as a receiver or taking handoffs. 

Redshirt freshman Josh Chichester is a little raw, but at 6-8 and 224 pounds, he’s a worthwhile project for the Louisville coaching staff. His ball skills continue to improve, and at that size, there’s not a defensive back in the country who can match up on jump balls. 

Watch Out For… a shorter passing game. Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia were skilled route runners on post patterns, but the next wave of Cardinals needs work on fundamentals. While Long can test a secondary deep, Guy and Spillman will be used more on slants in the hope they can break free for big chunks of real estate.
Strength: Athleticism. Bobby Petrino recruited the position well when he was in Louisville, attracting a slew of young thoroughbreds capable of turning short hitches into big gainers.  Across the board, the Cards have speedy athletes who just need to hone their receiving skills.
Weakness: Experience. When you lose both starting receivers, a starting tight end, and your top reserve, a lack of experience is an unavoidable issue. Louisville needs a number of players to raise the level of their games, especially at tight end.
Outlook: While there’s enough talent for the Cardinals to piece together a quality starting unit, the days of spooking opposing secondaries are over for now.  Long is this group’s Derby horse, an All-Big East candidate if he can avoid getting doubled constantly. 
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The bad news is that Louisville must replace three of last year’s starters. The good news is that the two senior holdovers, C Eric Wood and LT George Bussey, have been All-Big East the last two years. Wood is one of the nation’s premier centers, the heady quarterback of the line and a fourth-year starter. An immovable object with a great work ethic at the pivot, the 6-4, 310-pounder has started 37 consecutive games for the Cardinals. 

Bussey is entering his third season as the starter after starting his career as a walk-on. A better pass protector than run blocker, even though he’s a big 6-4 and 306 pounds, he keeps sharpening his technique and has continued to improve, which hasn’t been lost on NFL scouts. 

The favorite to bookend Bussey is RT Jeff Adams, a massive sophomore who backed up starter Breno Giacomini last season. Still a bit unrefined with just four games of experience, his potential resides in a massive 6-8, 316-pound frame and the long arms needed to effectively wall off edge rushers.         

The Cardinals will have two new regulars at guard, courtesy of the graduations of Danny Barlowe and Mike Donoghue. The leader on the right side is sophomore Mark Wetterer, who climbed to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Barlowe as a rookie. He’s up to 6-5 and 315 pounds, but plays even bigger using his hands and upper body strength to control opposing defensive linemen. In Wetterer, the coaches feel they’ve got a young cornerstone for the next three years. 

Left guard figures to be the scene of a tight battle between juniors Abdul Kuyateh and Brian Roche, who both started games in 2007. The early part of Roche’s career was hindered by an injury, but he’s still hoping to approach the weighty expectations that accompanied his signing in 2005.  After slipping all the way to No. 4 on the depth chart, the 6-4, 303-pounder got his chance to play in November after a spate of bad breaks crippled the position. 

The 6-2, 295-pound Kuyateh arrived from Reedley (Calif.) College a year ago, quickly rising up the ladder.  Both powerful and light on his feet, he started the Connecticut game ahead of Roche before an injury put him on the shelf and had the edge coming out of spring.  

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore T Greg Tomczyk will spend another season as Bussey’s caddy at left tackle, preparing to take over the job in 2009. A surprise letterwinner in his first season out of high school, he’s 6-6 and 297 pounds with the footwork to be a solid contributor in the second half of his career.  One more year learning behind Bussey will serve Tomczyk well when his time comes to start. 

Adams’ stiffest challenge at right tackle will come from RT Ryan Kessling, a 6-5, 314-pound redshirt freshman who was a late bloomer in high school.  For a player his size, the coaches have been pleased with his athletic ability and maturity. 

Adding depth at guard is 6-5, 289-pound Josh Byrom, a sophomore who lettered for his work on special teams. A probable backup to Wetterer, he can also chip in at tackle if the need arises. 

Watch Out For… Roche.  A broken leg stunted his development, but that was three years ago.  With all the problems they had last season, the Cardinals need some stability at guard, and it’s high time Roche started fulfilling all of his potential.
Strength: The left side of the line. With Bussey anchoring Hunter Cantwell’s backside and both Roche and Kuyateh getting starts in 2007, Louisville is in fine shape to the left of Wood, one of the game’s best all-around centers. 
Weakness: Experience on the second unit. Once you get past the starting five, the Cards are going to be green at every position. Not only did the unit lose three starters, but it also parted ways with a few reliable reserves.
Outlook: Wood and Bussey make the offensive line solid, but to get to another level it’ll need players like Adams and Roche to turn the corner and dominate on a consistent basis. The group needs to step it up in pass protection, especially since Cantwell won’t conjure up images of Stefan LeFors. 
Rating: 7.5