Louisville Football Spring Recap

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After taking a short post-basketball hiatus from my blogging duties, I recently concluded it was high time for me to dig back in and begin casting more irrelevant opinions and thoughts surrounding the University of Louisville Athletics program.  Let’s start this rejuvenated blog off by discussing Louisville Football and where things stand just a few weeks following an extremely well attended (23K+) 2015 Spring Game shall we?

OFFENSE APLENTY

So, if there was anything made more apparent during this year’s Spring Game it was the following: the 2015 Cards will have a lot of offensive arsenal in their bag of tricks this season. After ringing up 59 points, the only real question surrounding the offensive side of the ball was who will be the leader at quarterback. The signal calling situation has UofL fans pondering if Coach Bobby Petrino will go with sophomore-to-be Reggie Bonnofan or if he will turn the keys to the Cadillac over to fellow sophomore Kyle Bolin who capped off the Cards’ regular season finale in 2014 by playing Superman against in-state rival Kentucky. Aside from the two capable sophomores, Coach Petrino and staff also have to consider one time starter junior Will Gardner as well as Penn State transfer Tyler Ferguson who made great strides this past spring in picking up the offense and showing of his rifle arm. Enough confusing options for you? If not, then it should also be noted that the Cards will welcome in 4-star dual threat freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson once the fall semester begins who, although not likely to start, will most certainly push the other quarterbacks to continue getting better. One thing that IS clear regarding the QB situation is this: the Cards have a handful of options, all of which feature their own strengths.

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Lamar Jackson

Despite who does win the quarterback job this fall, this Louisville teams looks to be one that will lean heavily on it’s running game this season. Brandon Radcliff, who exploded in the second half of the 2014 season, will return as the primary ball carrier. Other running mates who look to fill the stable are L.J. Scott and junior college transfer Jeremy Smith who turned a lot of heads in the Spring Game with his play-making abilities. Add incoming freshman James Allen and the UofL running attack should be a highly durable and resilient group to contend with. My only concern regarding the ground attack, as in other recent years, will be the cohesiveness of the offensive. As with other groups, there are a lot of new faces and even more big booties on campus to block up front. Optimistically, I am pulling for OL Coach Chris Klenakis to work some magic this fall.

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Brandon Radcliff

Next up, the wide receiving corps. While many expected a likely drop off in talent and production at the wide receiver position this upcoming year, this group could be one that surprises Card fans the most abundantly. First and foremost, a seasoned and a more polished James Quick returns for his junior year looking to finally live up to the hype. And despite the departures of legend DeVante Parker and the uber reliable Eli Rogers, the Cards roster will still feature several guys who can make plays and stretch the field. The most notable newcomer at the WR slot is UAB transfer Jamari Staples who showed great promise throughout the spring. Others who look to make a names for themselves are sophomore Javonte Bagley and freshmen Traveon Samuel, Jaylen Smith (son of former Jacksonville Jaguar All-Pro Jimmy Smith) and Devante Peete. Just knowing that UofL will have yet another WR with the first name Devante is enough to make me all warm and fuzzy. But all jokes aside, I look for the Cards to put up big numbers at the receiver position. And although not technically a wide reciever, one last name to remember is GG Robinson, a 4 star studded freshmen recruit who spurned Auburn University at the last minute to sign with UofL. Although he was recruited as a defensive linemen, it will be interesting to see if Coach Petrino and Coach Lamar Thomas (wide receivers/tight ends coach) give Robinson a look or if they will forfeit his talents to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Regardless, the Cards are in good shape at TE with the experience and talent that Charles Standberry and Keith Towbridge bring to the table.

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Jamari Staples

CRUNCH ZONE CARDS

Last season proved to be an oddity as a Bobby Petrino lead football team actually leaned on it’s defense as it’s ace in the hole. Despite the departures of program changers such as Lorenzo Mauldin and Gerald Holliman, the 2015 UofL defense looks primed and ready for another banner year. There will be a lot of new faces on the field but certainly no shortage of talent. Transfers Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins look to stabilize the defensive backfield and the return of LBs Keith Kelsey and James Burgess as well as DE Sheldon Rankins should anchor a squad that gives opposing team’s offensive schemes fits. Todd Grantham will continue to lean on other experienced returnees like Johnny Richardson, Pio Vatuvei, Keith Brown and Jermaine Reve.

But in my opinion, the biggest story surrounding the 2015 Louisville defense isn’t the Georgia transfers or returnees with a proven track record. Instead, the biggest potential difference maker will be Devonte Fields. Fields, a former 5 star high school All-American recruit who was tabbed as the Big 12’s preseason defensive player of the year in 2014, left his former school (TCU) before last season began as a result of a misdemeanor assault charge. After doing it’s homework, UofL was comfortable offering Fields a full scholarship giving him a second chance and in return providing itself with one helluva playmaker.

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Devonte Fields

In a nutshell, Bobby Petrino has got a new wave of momentum surging forward with the Louisville Football program. As solid of a job former coach Charlie Strong performed, Petrino looks to take the Cards to even higher heights. A second season competing in the ACC will prove to be a challenge but with the returning players having received a year of tutoring under their belts it looks to be a promising one. A potential 5th straight win in the UofL/UK series looms ahead as well as another shot at the Seminoles of Florida State. Additionally, UofL will aim it’s sights on the loftiest of goals – a potential BCS Bowl bid.

A lot of Louisville Football blogging remains before we get into the heat of summer. But for now, I will vacate the premises and catch some uninspiring NBA Playoffs. For anyone looking for a comprehensive visual of the new faces that will be on the sidelines in 2015, look no further than this direct link……

http://louisville.247sports.com/Season/2015-Football/Commits

Enjoy your week Card fans, and of course…….Happy Derby!

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Orange You Glad: Famous 44’s that (thankfully) never were

There has been a lot of chatter over the past few weeks about the grass roots efforts by Syracuse fans to “Restore 44” with the hope that a new AD may turn around what they view as the terrible decision to retire the famous jersey number.

Growing-up in Syracuse during the 80’s and 90’s, the son (and grandson) of die-hard Syracuse fans, I have a deep understanding and appreciation for what Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little did for the football program, and in the case of Brown and Davis, what they did to advance Civil Rights in this country. I also vividly recall the excitement over the local radio programs when NY product, Rob Konrad, chose Syracuse over Notre Dame, in large part because of his ability to wear #44. I also remember when Konrad’s bar, (44’s) opened on Marshall Street and quickly became infamous for underage drinking and rowdy crowds. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to associate with the legendary #44.

So, I had no issues when Dr. Gross became the new Athletic Director at Syracuse and decided to honor the history and legacy of the jersey, and those who wore it, by retiring it in perpetuity. In fact, I applaud the decision because of how much more respect players have for the number, and the preservation of its iconic status.

I’ve been on record many, many times over at the various blogs and message boards saying that the idea to unretire #44 is a very dangerous one, especially since they see it as a recruiting gimmick to land one player in particular.

However I am very much on board with the idea re-popularized by Brent Axe to return the number to the playing field only if there is a player that is absolutely worthy of wearing it, that has earned the respect of the coaches, administration, community, and has transcended college football. These are incredibly high expectations and large shoes to fill, but that would only make it that much more meaningful if/when a day comes that a player can earn the right to wear the number.

I have nothing against Robert Washington, a high profile recruit that has Syracuse as one of his top schools, and appreciate that he holds the Syracuse’s football history in such high regards (courtesy of the movie the Express). I hope that he comes to Syracuse, I hope that he is the player we all expect him to be, and I hope that one day he’ll be able to earn the number 44. But with all due respect to those who want to use this jersey number as a recruiting gimmick, we’ve seen this act before and the idea of handing over what has become an iconic number to an untested and (as of yet) undeserving recruit/player seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

Imagine how the legacy of the #44 and those that wore it, could have been irreparably damaged if some of these former Syracuse athletes had worn the number 44: Continue reading

The Smoke has Cleared: Looking Back at UofL’s NCAA Run & The Future

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Two inches on the rim….

One made free throw….

If either, among many other things, had gone the Cards’ way a few weeks back they would have prepped for an exciting rematch with ACC foe Duke while showcasing the school’s 11th Final Four. But that’s precisely why basketball is indeed a game of bounces and inches. After one of the more improbable NCAA Tournament runs in two decades, the 2014-15 Cardinals gave their fans a reason to again be proud in late March and to never forget just how deadly Rick Pitino can be when the games count the most. The overtime loss to Michigan State was certainly bittersweet following a decisive win over NC State. To be so close at reaching Indianapolis was super tantalizing and seeing Montrezl Harrell, Terry Rozier & senior Wayne Blackshear finish their careers at UofL only added to the agony. On the flip side, numerous college basketball “experts” had the Cards getting bounced in the 1st round but UofL proved the naysayers wrong and laid a solid foundation of momentum for next year’s team.

So let’s take a loser look at that foundation of momentum for a moment, shall we? A LOT has transpired within the Louisville basketball program since the loss to Michigan State: Rozier/Trez have entered the NBA draft, Shaqquan Aaron & Anton Gill have left for greener pastures (or so they hope), and 5th year graduate transfer standout Trey Lewis, a proficient scorer from Cleveland State, has decided to finish his playing career at UofL. With the inevitable departure of Rozier, it was a MUST for Coach Pitino to go out and find another scorer, preferably a guard with some experience who could step right in and help lead next year’s squad.

Mission accomplished…….

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Lewis dropped 24 points on the Cards back in December. His late addition to next year’s lineup solidifies the likelihood that the Cards will continue to remain highly competitive both in the ACC and the NCAA Tournanent, something all UofL fans wish for and expect annually. But Lewis will not be the only addition to the 2015-16 Cards. Add to the mix a top 5 nationally ranked recruiting class featuring freshmen Donavon Mitchell, Deng Adel, hometown star Ray Spaulding and Ryan McMahon and you essentially have a brand new team, a total makeover that even Bruce Jenner could appreciate. As of this moment, there is also lots of scuttlebutt about a few other individuals who may join the Cardinals fray: Maverick Rowan, a 6’7″ HS junior who is attempting to reclassify and graduate early; Damion Lee, a 6’6″ versatile small forward who is a fifth year transfer from Drexel University (Lee led the Colonial Athletic Association in scoring this past season); and 6’2″ Derryck Thornton, another HS junior looking to reclassify. Thornton is ranked by some recruiting analysts as the #1 point guard in the class of 2016 so if he does indeed reclassify it would be a major get for the Cards. It won’t be easy however as Duke is heavily involved with Thornton as well. Rowan is ranked among the nation’s top 40 juniors and is listed as the top overall player in the state of Florida. Other top tier schools like Wisconsin are also battling for Rowan’s services.

Maverick Rowan

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NOT Maverick Rowan

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Tonight the annual Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic event takes place in Freedom Hall (oh how I miss thee!). Ryan McMahon, who last night broke the all-time Derby Classic record with a single round score of 26 points in the 3 pt shoot out, will be in the finals. Donavon Mitchell, the Cards top ranked incoming freshman, dazzled folks last night with his dunking prowess and God-given athletic skills, will be in the finals of the slam dunk contest. All four of UofL’s incoming recruits will be playing on the same team and the game will feature several other top recruits, three of which who will be attending Indiana next fall. Interested in checking out the talent? Head on out to Freedom Hall or simply click this this website for ticket information………. http://www.ticketmaster.com/Kentucky-Derby-Festival-Basketball-Classic-tickets/artist/1682177

Ryan McMahon would love to feel the love from Card fans

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What once looked to be a complete year of rebuilding for UofL Basketball now suddenly looks more like a year of probable reloading. While many fans continue to criticize Rick Pitino for not be able to land, or in many instances even recruit, the nation’s top prima donnas, Louisville continues to build teams that can compete for a run at a Final Four. This year’s incoming recruiting class looks to be populated with high character kids who will be willing to put in the time and effort to be successful on and of the basketball court. If Wisconsin, a football school, can push for a title with zero McDonald’s All-Americans and no one-and-dones then other schools can as well, Louisville most certainly included. The future remains bright for Card Nation. Here’s to hoping the guys get in the gym and weight room this summer and prepare themselves for another season of winning at the highest level.

In the spirit of supporting our ACC brethren, congratulations to Duke University on their 5th National Championship. It’s hard to argue against the greatness the Blue Devils have exuded over the past 20+ seasons. Plus, I enjoy sending them kudos because I know that 99.9% of Kentucky fans despise them.

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Three Divisions for ACC Football?

With the likely elimination of the strict championship game rules, the table is set for the ACC to go way out of its way to make football more competitive.  In fact, one option is to go to three divisions.  From there, the two best teams could play for the ACC Championship.  The  Confidential loves this idea.  First, it paves the way for ND football to be more intertwined with ACC football.  Second, it increases the likelihood that the two best ACC teams play for the right to move on to the playoffs.  Here are the Confidential’s other thoughts…

Continue reading

Syracuse’s Chris McCullough Declares for the NBA: Twitter Reacts – UPDATED

Syracuse freshman Chris McCullough has announced his decision to declare for the draft. Five months ago that would not have surprised anyone, but given his season-ending ACL tear, many optimistic ‘Cuse fans thought that he would return for some Unfinished Business and help to anchor a formidable front-court.
McCullough certainly has the size/skillset that NBA teams value, but because of his injury and shortened-season at Syracuse (plus his limitations for when he could return in December) many see this decision as risky at best. His draft stock is projected anywhere in the late 1st round to early 2nd round, whereas staying in college for another year and improving his game could have him finish in the Lottery next year. Unfortunately for McCullough, the NCAA’s rules are prohibitive for allowing 18/19-year olds to make life-changing decisions, but that is an argument for another day.
There was much ado on the interwebs as people used this opportunity to voice their displeasure on Twitter, causing a mini-debate on whether this is acceptable behavior.

Continue reading

Confidential Tourney Bracket Contest Update: Final Four!

1
44
130
17
147
2
44
127
12
139
3
45
135
3
138
4
42
124
12
136
5
43
132
3
135
6
41
119
15
134
6
43
122
12
134
8
40
118
12
130
9
36
119
10
129
10
40
122
6
128
11
40
121
6
127
12
40
113
13
126
13
37
119
6
125
14
39
111
12
123
15
38
111
6
117
16
36
103
12
115
16
41
112
3
115
16
38
112
3
115
19
36
107
6
113
20
35
108
3
111
21
35
103
6
109
21
37
106
3
109
21
36
106
3
109
24
36
101
3
104
25
35
100
3
103
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Confidential Tourney Bracket Contest Standings–Elite 8!

Standings

Rank
Owner
Bracket
Correct Picks
Points
Bonus Pts
Total Pts
1
42
114
17
131
2
42
114
12
126
3
42
111
12
123
4
39
103
15
118
5
38
103
12
115
6
42
111
3
114
6
38
102
12
114
8
39
100
12
112
9
40
108
3
111
9
38
105
6
111
11
38
97
11
108
12
40
104
3
107
13
37
98
6
104
14
36
95
6
101
14
34
95
6
101
16
34
87
12
99
16
36
96
3
99
18
34
91
6
97
19
35
93
3
96
20
32
87
8
95
20
33
92
3
95
22
36
87
6
93
22
33
87
6
93
22
35
90
3
93
22
34
90
3
93

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Posted in ACC only | Comments Off on Confidential Tourney Bracket Contest Standings–Elite 8!