2019 College Football Preview: Louisville Cardinals

(Photo: Devante Parker, Louisville Football 2013)

Louisville Cardinals

Head Coach: Scott Satterfield

2018 Record: 2-10, 0-8 Conference

Bowl: N/A

O/U 3.5 wins (O -135, U +105)

Make 4 Team Playoff: +90000

Louisville football took a precipitous downswing in 2018, with not a single conference win, five straight losses to end the season in which it surrendered 52 points or more, and a good head coach (Bobby Petrino) sent firmly to pasture. Scott Satterfield replaces him, coming from Appalachian State, and he has a terrible disaster to clean up. He did not get much time to recruit at all, either. With the team having a -25 point differential last year, there is really precious little positive to take from last season on either end of the ball.

Quarterback is a disaster in progress, as is running back. The offensive line has not even been decent for several seasons, ranking last in both points allowed and yards allowed last year in the ACC. Satterfield is a proven coach, but anyone would be daunted with the whirlwind of bull crap he has left to clean up in the wake of Petrino’s departure.

Offense

Everyone knew Lamar Jackson was something of a one-man team, but the decline of Louisville following his exodus to the NFL may have caught even their most optimistic fans off guard. Satterfield is big on run offenses, and given that his App State QB ran 92 times for 10 TD dashes last year, it can be expected he installs a lot more running in this offense. Malik Cunningham might be his preferred QB if just for that reason. Jawon Pass is a better throwing QB, but he completed just 54 percent of his passes last year, so maybe that is overstating matter somewhat. Cunningham is just 6’1” and 190 pounds, but he averaged 6.3 yards-per-carry. Evan Conley is the third-stringer.

Cunningham was the leading rusher a year ago, and Hassan Hall is the top halfback. Hall is quick, and Satterfield will have to find a way to get him on the outside to avoid tackles. Pass will probably still see snaps due to his throwing ability. The Cardinals will need someone to get the most out of super receiver Des Fitzpatrick, even though he fell from 45 receptions to 31 in the wake of Jackson’s departure. Seth Dawkins also experienced the same decline, going from 42 catches in 2017 to just 25  last year (with only one touchdown). Neither can take much of the blame for those declines, really.

The offensive line ranked No. 13 in the ACC in rushing and allowed 43 QB sacks (worst in the ACC). Mekhi Becton and Cole Bentley will be the best two of the line at offensive tackle and center, respectively.

Defense

Bryan Brown takes over as defensive coordinator, the fourth in four seasons. Louisville ranked No. 3 in the ACC in total defense under Todd Grantham in 2016, but it fell to No. 10 in 2017, and then it was dead-last a year ago. The unit was lethargic and looked embarrassing at many moments, not even showing the fortitude to chase offensive players downfield.

While it returns as many as 10 starters, there was little good to draw off last season’s effort so the experience may be something more like “mis-experience,” to poorly coin a term.

Brown’s co-defensive coordinator Cort Dennison is going to try to impart some life to the unit, and he is a holdover from better days having worked in the program from 2014 to 2017. Linebackers Dorian Etheridge and CJ Avery are the best of the defensive unit. Tabarius Peterson is a quick playmaker, as well. The secondary could be better than expected, too. Rodjay is a solid coverage guy coming from a big program (Ohio State) and Russ Yeast is expected to come back better this year. Yeast was a four-star receipt who nearly left the program at the end of last year, but he stayed around after Petrino was axed. Khane Pass is Jawon’s brother and he is a good safety to add further stability to the secondary.

Special Teams

Mason King returns for his final year as a punter, and he averaged 40.6 yards per punt last year, but that was down from 43.9 the previous season. Blanton Creque attempted just 12 field goals all year, and he hit 10, but he also missed three PATs. Burns ranked No. 2 in the ACC in punt return average, including taking one for a TD. Hassan Hall handles punt returns and he had a 93-yard kickoff return last year.

Final Word

Satterfield will have to be patient in remaking this mess. This program was a top-5 college football program just three seasons ago but is nothing but a shadow of what it was under Lamar Jackson, who is now shining the NFL. With so many questions at the most important skill positions and a defense that showed no life last year, it is tough to see the Cardinals turning that all around after hiring a coach in February who really had no time to even prepare for this season. He has yet to even recruit.

Prediction: 3 wins (under)

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