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The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Louisville 2013 Football Preview

The Louisville Cardinals come into the 2013 football season with a top 10 ranking and lofty expectations after their stunning upset of #3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Being the favorite in all of their games has the fans dreaming of an undefeated season and a possible shot at the national championship. Perhaps their biggest challenge will be overcoming complacency. To help keep the team focus they will wear wristbands that say “earn it”. Earn it has been often mentioned during August camp and the players seem to be buying in, some even turning away from the social media. To give them more drive and focus is the lingering memory of their two upset loses last season to Syracuse and UConn. With only a few starters missing from last year team the 2013 Cardinals should be even better. The biggest pieces missing from last season will be starting center Mario Benavides, OL Alex Kupper, CB Adrian Bushell and backup QB Will Stein. Altogether Louisville is returning 16 starters (6 offense 10 defense) but return 19 of who had started at least one game last season. They brought in a small but solid recruiting class and picked up two key additions late, 4 star MLB James Hearns and transfer RB Michael Dyer.

Starting at QB will be junior Teddy Bridgewater who is a preseason Heisman candidate. The story of how Teddy was homesick during his freshman season and how he considered transferring was reported over the summer. Luckily he got his chance to play during his freshman season and all was well. He is the anti-Manziel as he prefers to stay out of the spotlight and helps his teammates shine. Touchdown Teddy is considered to be a top pick in the upcoming NFL draft so if the season goes well you can look for him to toss his name in. Will Gardiner should back up Teddy this season as the Cards look for their QB of the future and to lead them into the ACC next year.

Under Bobby Petrino the Cards WR dubbed themselves the AFROS, Americas finest receivers on Saturday. The AFROS looks to be making another appearance this season. Junior DeVante Parker (40 rec. 744 yds. 10 TD) will lead this deep and talented group. Joining him are senior Damian Copeland (50 for 628), junior Eli Rogers (46 for 505) a high school teammate of Teddy, and Michaelee Harris who is making another comeback after his fourth knee surgery. Adding to their depth are SEC transfers Robert Clark and Matt Milton and 5 star recruit James Quick who was a top 20 WR in this years class. TE will feature Ryan Hubbell (14 for 239), Florida transfer Gerald Christian and Zeke Pike.

Starter Jeremy Wright is gone from the back field as he chose to take his talent to the NFL after his junior year but junior Dominique Brown (533 yds in 2011) will make his return after missing all of last season with an injury. Joining him will be senior speedster Senorise Perry (705 yds in 2012). Also returning are sophomore Corvin Lamb and stocky redshirt freshman Brandon Radcliff. This is a solid group together but the Cards added Dyer a few weeks ago to add to the depth. Dyer has rushed for over 2000 yards in his career and helped lead Auburn to the national championship in his freshman year. Since running into some off the field trouble he has gotten a degree and will try to make a return to big time football. He has two years of eligibility remaining and adds an elite threat to the Cards backfield and should complement Teddy well. The dual elite threats should keep the defenses guessing.

The Cards OL is the only position in question with their key losses although they do return 3 starters and a majority of their two deep are still intact. Junior Jake Smith will move to center and Kupper will be replaced by junior Jamon Brown, a former defensive linemen. Abraham Garcia (348 ibs sophomore) will get the start at tackle and senior Kamran Joyer will start on the left side. Benavides and Kupper were the leaders of this young group last season.

The defense returns 10 starters from last season with CB Bushell as their only departing starter. Junior Charles Johnson (26 tackles) and sophomore Charles Gaines will battle for this starting spot. Gaines is a converted WR with the speed and agility along with his WR knowledge while Johnson has 15 career starts. Returning to the secondary are SS Hakeem Smith (73 tackles) and FS Calvin Pryor (100 tackles). The Cards only gave up nine passing plays of 30 or more yards last season which was third-fewest in the FBS. Junior Terell Floyd (34 tackles 3 int) returns at the other cornerback position. Other players to watch will be sophomore Jermaine Reve (32 tackles) and sophomore safety Gerald Holliman.

The Cards DL will be a strength this year with its quality depth. Among their six options for the DE position are senior Marcus Smith (29 tackles 4.0 sacks), junior Deiontrez Mount (26 tackles), junior Lorenzo Mauldin (22 tackles 4.5 sacks) and junior B.J. Dubose. Dubose will also be used on the inside with senior Brandon Dunn (28 tackles), senior Roy Philon (27 tackles 2.5 sacks) among others. Coach Strong has added depth that was lacking upon his arrival and turned the Cards DL from a weakness and into a strength.

Senior George Durant will move to MLB with upcoming sophomores Keith Brown (57 tackles) and James Burgess playing the strong and weak sides. Preston Brown (109 tackles) will return as the starter at MLB. With the quality depth throughout the defense this will be the Americans best defense.

Special teams is the other question for this team as they will have to improve their coverage and kicking game. Look to see if experience from last season will help to improve here or this may be what costs the Cards a close game during the season. The return game should improve here with the additions and experience. Look to see if the Cards use speedy freshman Quick here, I see him as a threat to break a return open anytime.

If the Cards do go undefeated and miss out on a national title shot it will be due to their soft schedule. Their talent and depth make them the best team in the American with their primary threat coming from the Tommy Tuberville lead Cincinnati Bearcats. They open the season at home versus Ohio on September 1. I can see this years Cardinals team as the best in their history, its a sham it will be wasted in the AAC and not the ACC. With Clemson and Florida St also with high rankings this would’ve been a fun season for Cards fans.

Here is the Cards schedule.

Sept 1 Ohio                 Don’t look for Ohio to pull an upset like it did versus Penn St here last here.

7 Eastern Ky.      Look for the Cards to be a heavy favorite.

14 @Kentucky    Stoops looks to have the Cats on the rise but he will need more time. As announced this week this will be a future ACC vs SEC challenge game and move to the last game of the year. I have mix feelings on this.

21 Fla Int            Look for the Cards to be heavy favorites.

Oct    5 @Temple       The Cards open AAC play with a W.

10 Rutgers        Home field gives the Cards the advantage in their final meeting.

18 UCF               Home field gives the Cards the advantage against a conf. title contender.

26 @USF            The Cards will need to be ready for the Taggert lead Bulls.

Nov    8 @UConn       Will the AAC refs let UConn return a fair catch for a TD to? Hard fought game here.

16 Houston      Home field and talent advantage to the Cards.

23 Memphis     The Cards should be heavy favorites here.

Dec    5 @Cincinnati  This should be for the conference title and for a BCS bowl. NC title shot could be earned here.

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