2010 Louisville Preview
Louisville RB Victor Anderson
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Louisville Cardinals
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By Richard Cirminiello
Patience. Charlie Strong displayed it in order to land this job. Cardinal fans will need to exercise it in the early stages of his tenure.
Head coach: Charlie Strong
First Year: 0-1
Off. 22, Def. 23, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Louisville Players
1. RB Victor Anderson, Jr.
2. CB Johnny Patrick, Sr.
3. WR Doug Beaumont, Sr.
4. TE Cameron Graham, Sr.
5. C Mario Benavides, Soph.
6. OT Greg Tomczyk, Sr.
7. LB Antwon Canady, Sr.
8. LB Brandon Heath, Sr.
9. DT Greg Scruggs, Jr.
10. DE William Savoy, Jr.
Sept. 4 Kentucky
Sept. 11 Eastern Kentucky
Sept. 18 at Oregon State
Sept. 25 OPEN DATE
Oct. 2 at Arkansas State
Oct. 9 Memphis
Oct. 15 Cincinnati
Oct. 23 Connecticut
Oct. 30 at Pitt
Nov. 6 at Syracuse
Nov. 13 USF
Nov. 20 West Virginia
Nov. 26 at Rutgers
After nearly three decades as an assistant, one of the game's better defensive coaches has finally landed a head job. Particular in his career path and at times passed over and, Strong inherits a program that was run into the ground for three seasons by Steve Kragthorpe. His job will be to build Louisville back up to a point where it perennially competes for Big East championships, which it did most recently in 2006. Remember, this is a school that between 1998 and that title year averaged nine wins a season and never missed the postseason. In other words, the right coach is more than capable of awakening this slumbering giant.
The Cardinals are not just down. They're also painfully short of talent on both sides of the ball. Kragthorpe made a habit out of mining the junior colleges in order to beef up a roster that has zero sure-thing all-stars or next-level performers. Earning a bowl game for the first time since that Orange Bowl trip four years ago will require some deft player development and more than a few breaks along the way. Hey, at least RB Victor Anderson, the program's most dangerous player, is expected to be back at 100% after missing half of 2009 with nagging shoulder problems.
Strong did not leave a top coordinator's job at Florida for instant gratification at Louisville. It's no longer that type of a job. It is, however, an opportunity with a very high ceiling for the coach willing to roll up his sleeves, clean up a mess, and begin building from the bottom up. If Strong winds up being that guy, the long road to a head coaching gig will have been well worth the wait.
What to watch for on offense: The quarterback derby. For the second straight year, Louisville will begin the season with uncertainty under center. Three different players started a game in 2009, which is code for a problem. The main contenders will be seniors Adam Froman and Justin Burke, who combined to throw just nine touchdown passes and 10 picks a year ago. Froman is an intriguing athlete, which could give him the upper hand in an offense that favors mobile quarterbacks.
What to watch for on defense: The development of former JUCO recruits. The Cardinals are flush with transfers from the Kragthorpe era, most of whom haven't quite panned out. If the defense has any hope of making a positive step, these imports, many seniors, need to earn those scholarships. Dotted throughout the two-deep will be players, such as NT Tim High, NT Joe Townsend, DE Malcolm Tatum, S Terence Simien, and corners Anthony Conner and Preston Pace, who must deliver in September.
The team will be far better if… it can run the ball more effectively. What's the best remedy for a team with issues at quarterback and on defense? Yup, a consistent running game that can keep the chains moving and that flimsy D on the sidelines for as long as possible. At some point, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford hopes to unleash his version of the spread, but for now he'd be wise to leverage Victor Anderson, Bilal Powell, and Darius Ashley, getting the Cards out of the Big East basement in rushing.
The Schedule: If new head coach Charlie Strong
can get the team to play just a wee bit more
consistently and be a lot more productive on both
sides of the ball, Louisville could be one of the
bigger success stories of the Big East season.
Consider it a great start if the Cardinals can split
with Kentucky and Oregon State early on, and with
relatively easy games against Eastern Kentucky, at
Arkansas State, and Memphis in non-conference play,
a 3-2 start needs to be expected and 4-1 isn't out
of the question. There's a nice three-game homestand
in the middle of the season playing Memphis,
Cincinnati and Connecticut, and there are only three
Big East road games going to Pitt, Syracuse, and
Rutgers. Playing the Panthers and the Orange in
back-to-back weeks is nothing to complain about
considering the rest of the slate.
Best offensive player: Junior RB Victor Anderson. As a freshman, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards, flashing an electrifying blend of burst and power in a compact package. As a sophomore, shoulder injuries limited him to just 89 carries, yet he still led the Cards in rushing. He's expected to be at full strength, the best news this offense has going for it entering the new season.
Best defensive player: Senior CB Johnny Patrick. A wide receiver when he arrived, Patrick has gradually developed into a solid cornerback and one of the team's most reliable defenders. At 6-0 and 186 pounds, he has good size and the speed to keep up with some of the league's faster receivers. He's also Louisville's leading returner tackler the player the shaky secondary will be built around. However, he's facing a misdemeanor assault charge from earlier in the summer, which could impact his final season on campus.
Key player to a successful season: The quarterback, either Justin Burke or Adam Froman. No one is expecting the reincarnation of Brian Brohm or Stefan LeFors, but the Cardinals do need a lot more production from the passing game. Both Burke and Froman have had a season in the program, and the supporting talent isn't without experience or upside. The defense is going to be pliable, so if Louisville wants to compete, it has to do a much better job of moving the ball through the air.
The season will be a success if ... Louisville gets to .500. It's not much, but even six wins might be a reach. The Cardinals will be favored to beat Eastern Kentucky, Memphis, and Arkansas State, but might be an underdog in the other nine games. A minor bowl game would be nice, but beyond the wins and losses, 2010 will be somewhat successful if Strong can begin to put his stamp on the program and change a culture that had become increasingly morose over the past three seasons.
Key game: Sept. 4 vs. Kentucky. For a team just hoping to break even, there's no single game that'll change the trajectory of the season. That makes this rivalry with the Wildcats even more important to the Cards. Three straight losses in this series have Louisville fading behind Kentucky, which certainly exacerbated Kragthorpe's ouster. What better way for Strong to make his debut than by knocking off a hated in-state rival at Papa John's?
2009 Fun Stats:
- Louisville had more first downs than its opponents, 173-164
- Louisville scored just 31 first-quarter points in 12 games
- Louisville had 17 takeaways, least among Big East teams
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