University of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong has begun the process of molding his second group of Football Cardinals into cohesive unit. This process began last Thursday and continued with a couple of opportunities for the Louisville fans to come out to practice both Friday and Saturday to get a sneak peek of this season’s edition of the team. While the first open practice was met with some nice downfield catches by some of the Cardinal receivers the real treat was when the pads went on Saturday morning.
This is a two part look at what was seen in the first three days of practice and who will be the guys that could possibly make the biggest impact this fall. We will first take a look at the Louisville offensive groups and both the current projected starters as well as young guys that could make an impact early.
(Photos courtesy of: Insidetheville.com)
Projected starter: #4 Will Stein 5’10” 176 lbs. Junior Louisville, KY (Trinity)
While he struggled to find the arm strength and accuracy that he had shown in the past during the Friday practice Stein rebounded to have a very strong showing on Saturday highlighted by hitting WR Josh Bellamy on a deep post route for a long touchdown. Stein has both the experience and consistent ability to make all the reads and throws necessary to make the Louisville offense go under second year offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. Of course super freshman Teddy Bridgewater (6’2” 205 lbs.) showed glimpses of his great ability, but also made some bad decisions and throws as well during the open sessions. Bridgewater will likely take the same path of former Cardinal great Brian Brohm and get a couple of series a game to get his feet wet until he gets more comfortable under center at the collegiate level. Sophomore Dominique Brown will continue to run third string as well as contribute on special teams as well as WR and possibly RB.
Projected starter: #20 Victor Anderson 5’10” 188 lbs. Senior Louisville, KY (St. Xavier)
After resurrecting Bilal Powell’s career and turning him into one of the top backs in the nation last year it looks like Charlie Strong may be looking like he will be two for two as Anderson has looked as good or better than he ever has as a Cardinal. Anderson runs with a combination of power, grace, and balance that is almost unfair in one on one open field situations. Yet while Anderson is the leader of this group he is far from the only star on the team. Most feel that that wide receivers are the deepest unit on the offense and maybe the Big East but the stable of runningbacks this year will give them a run for their money. Once the pads went on Saturday there was plenty of good to see from several of the young up and coming rushers for the Cardinals. Jeremy Wright (5’11” 199 lbs. So.) again looks like he will be the #2 to start the season and his vision and explosiveness are there with an added bit of toughness not seen last year. Also Corvin Lamb (5’9” 206 lbs. Fr.) who sat out last year after failing to qualify looks like he was well worth the wait as he has a low center of gravity, power, elusiveness, and explosiveness to be a future star in the Louisville backfield. Good things were also seen from Kamal Hogan (5’11” 209 lbs. r-Fr.) and Senorise Perry (6’0” 192 lbs. So.). Both could see time and hold their own if needed.
X – Wide Receiver: #1 Josh Bellamy 6’0” 207 lbs. Senior St. Petersburg, FL (Butte)
H – Wide Receiver: #88 Jarrett Davis 5’10” 173 lbs. Sophomore College Park, GA (Sandy Creek)
Z – Wide Receiver: #14 Andrell Smith 6’4” 209 lbs. Junior Miami, FL (Palmetto)
Tight End: #11 Josh Chichester 6’8” 258 lbs. Senior West Chester, OH (Lakota West)
The depth of the skill positions at Louisville are undeniable and almost unfair. The amount of resources available to whoever is running the Cardinal offense will be boundless. This year’s version of the A.F.R.O.S. is a group that could be the best in the Big East as well as one of the best in the nation. Starting with three physical freaks in Bellamy, Smith, and a more determined and focused Chichester are as imposing as any group in the nation. During the two day session I could probably count on one hand the number of drops between the three and they all were focused on dominating their opponents. Bellamy as always was the vocal leader with his usual bravado and aggressive style he made plays on short, intermediate, and deep routes. Smith looks to have made another jump heading into his junior season and may have the most reliable hands on the team as I only saw him drop one pass during the two day period highlighted by a great one handed stab on a deep fly pattern from Bridgewater. Davis is the speedster inside and looks to fill the Harry Douglas/Doug Beaumont role on this year’s team and he has a ton of talent as he continues to solidify his spot in the rotation. Josh Chichester has probably made the most impressive transition from last year to now as his maturity and focus are night and day from the player he was last season. Understanding this is his last go around Big Josh looks like he is ready to take hold of his immense potential that had everyone clamoring about his ability as a prep superstar. Former Ballard Bruin Devante Parker (6’2” 180 lbs. Fr.) leads a very talented young group of receivers that will make a big impact on this year’s team as well as for many seasons to come. Parker has a ton of athletic ability as well as very sticky hands and a natural awareness for the position that is rare for a player so young. Michaelee Harris (6’0” 198 lbs. r-Fr.) is back and healthy and looks to finally get out on the field and show why he was one of the most heralded receivers to sign with Louisville. Sophomores Damien Copeland (6’0” 182 lbs.), Kai Dominguez (6’1” 175 lbs.), and Scott Radcliff (5’10” 179 lbs.) as well as Freshmen Eli Rogers (5’10” 184 lbs.) and Jerrell Moore (5’11” 177 lbs.) provide depth and talent to the wide receiver corps. Bouncing back from knee surgery Stephon Ball (6’4” 228 lbs. Jr.) as well as Nate Nord (6’5” 254 lbs. Jr.) will look to challenge for the spot behind Chichester in the rotation at tight end.
Left Tackle: #66 Alex Kupper 6’3” 296 lbs. Junior Louisville, KY (Trinity)
Left Guard: #68 Kamran Joyer 6’3” 283 lbs. Sophomore Tampa, FL (Wesley Chapel)
Center: #55 Mario Benavides 6’4” 295 lbs. Junior Los Fresnos, TX (Los Fresnos)
Right Guard: #53 Jake Smith 6’3” 314 lbs. RS-Freshman Jacksonville, AL (Jacksonville)
Right Tackle: #75 Ryan Kessling 6’5” 305 lbs. Senior Tallahassee, FL (Chiles)
The most talked about and criticized group on the whole roster is this year’s offensive line. And though they are replacing four of five starters it is anchored by Mario Benavides at center and having a guy who starts the season on the Remington Watch List is not a bad thing. While the group as a whole is green it was able to make some holes and hold its own versus maybe the toughest defensive line they may face all season in the Cardinal defensive front. While the left side of the line is built more for agility and athletic ability to protect the quarterback’s blind side it is the right side of the line that impressed me the most. The combination of Benavides, Smith, and Kessling as a group has the potential to be a devastating run blocking unit. Smith as a young lineman has great feet, quickness, and power to get to the second level and seal off the linebacker and break open holes for the Cardinal runners. While it may take a few games to bring the cohesiveness needed to excel in the Big East this group definitely has the talent and potential to be a more than adequate unit this upcoming season. Behind the starters there are some very good looking young prospects in freshmen Ryan Mack (6’4” 306 lbs.), John Miller (6’2” 308 lbs.), Aaron Epps (6’5” 252 lbs.), and Mike Romano (6’4” 281 lbs.).