Analyzed Sports | S.K. Patrick
Louisville Cardinals: Life without Lamar Jackson
In 2014 the Cardinals joined the ACC and the football program has experienced some legitimate success. But this success is not the same they had under Bobby Petrino’s first run or under Charlie Strong. They’ve finished 9-4 twice, 8-5 twice, hosted their first ESPN’s College Football Gameday and had a Heisman trophy winner. Louisville has been exciting to watch but the time has come for UofL to take the next step and truly contend for a conference title. But there wasn’t a lot of love given to the Cardinals in the ACC preseason picks, as the Cards were picked to finish seventh by ESPN in the conference. This comes after being picked third in their division since entering the league. If Lamar couldn’t bring Louisville a conference crown, can a puma?
The Cardinals have had great quarterbacks over the years besides Jackson (Teddy Bridgewater, Brian Brohm, Chris Redman, David Ragone, and Stefan Lefors). Jawon Pass, who goes by the nickname of “Puma,” now steps into Louisville’s prolific offense with a cool, focused approach that has both surprised and impressed his coaches and teammates. No quarterback in college football has bigger shoes to fill than Jawon Pass. A former 4-star quarterback out of Georgia, Pass has sat and studied behind the 1st round NFL draft pick Lamar Jackson’s. Things took a turn for the worst last week in the efforts to win big this season.
The wide receiver on Louisville’s roster in Jaylen Smith underwent an emergency appendectomy Friday, August 3rd. As Pass takes over Louisville need things to move as smoothly as possible. Smith is expected to play a huge role in the offense. He was the team’s leading receiver last year, hauling in 60 catches for 980 yards and seven touchdowns. He was named an All ACC player coming into the season.
It’s not clear when Smith will be able to return to action. It couldn’t come at the worst time as Louisville takes on Alabama Labor day weekend. The senior is a top-notch route runner with size and speed. He has steadily improved and has added 200-plus yards to his total with each passing season. The 6’4″, 223-pound wideout has shown big-play ability while averaging 22.2 yards per reception as a sophomore in 2016.
The Cardinals do have depth in their receiving corps. Redshirt sophomore Dez Fitzpatrick (a team-leading nine touchdowns in 2017) and junior Seth Dawkins return after posting more than 600 yards each last year. With Smith hurt usually a young QB’s best friend is the running game and tight end. Kemari Averett will have his chances, at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, He will be a big target for Pass. Louisville hopes to have everything worked in 3 weeks because the Crimson Tide and National Champions awaits them in Orlando.
Alabama still hasn’t given a clue who will start at QB between Jayle Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa. Either QB will have Damien Harris to hand the ball to, Harris cleared 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons. Also, the offensive line returns virtually the whole starting lineup. Left tackle Jonah Williams and Ross Pierschbacher, who moves from guard to center are the best linemen on the team.
On the defensive side, the Crimson Tide return only three starters. This is the side of the ball where Saban has made his name. Defensive End Raekwon Davis lead Alabama with 8.5 sacks and had an interception in the title game. He has the looks like of an All-SEC player. Davis will receive help off the edge from linebackers Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller, who return after missing 2017 with injuries. Returning starter inside linebacker Mack Wilson is a playmaker with a team-high four interceptions. Alabama looks to feast on the young QB from Louisville.