The 2018 spring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Louisville Cardinals.
No. 38: Louisville Cardinals
Spring Practice Starts: March 20
Spring Game: April 14
Louisville Cardinals Spring Status
Can Louisville find the magic of two years ago again?
There’s no Lamar Jackson around anymore to take over the offense when needed, and that means the team has to show up on both sides of the ball after being just okay last season.
The Cardinals went 8-5, and Jackson running Bobby Petrino’s offense cranked up the fun, but the defense was just okay, and it was too much of a struggle at times against mediocre teams. However, the regular season closed out strong before losing to a Mississippi State team without its head coach and star quarterback in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Again, there’s no replacing No. 8, but the offensive line returns four starters, the receiving corps looks great, and there’s enough talent in the backfield to keep the O rolling. Jackson was an all-timer of a star, but the overall numbers will still be there.
And then there’s the defense.
It wasn’t exactly a rock last season, and now it has to replace seven starters – more depending on the alignment – with the linebacking corps gutted, more safeties needed, and help needed up front.
Louisville Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Defensive back. Losing pickoff artist Jaire Alexander at one corner spots hurts, and not having Trumaine Washington around on the other isn’t good, either. But the safeties are the bigger concern, not having around Chucky Williams and Zykiesis Cannon anymore, the top two tacklers behind LB Dorian Etheridge.
Dee Smith is a good one who should step up into one of the safety jobs and be a statistical star, but overall, this is going to be a young secondary full of options fighting for depth chart space.
Louisville Biggest Issue
The return games need to be stronger. Of course, hoping for Jawon Pass to be a good enough quarterback to keep things going is a concern, and there are way too many defensive losses, but the Cardinals need to be stronger at returning kicks, too.
It was a struggle on punt return, averaging just over five yards per try on 24 returns – the second worst in the ACC – and they averaged just 19.3 yards per kickoff return.
Louisville Biggest Positive
Wide receiver. It’s the one area the Cardinals are absolutely loaded. Jaylen Smith is back after leading the team with 60 catches for 980 yards, and Dez Fitzpatrick returns after leading the way with nine scoring grabs.
Granted, not having Lamar Jackson around will take down the passing game a notch, but with the top four receivers back, and a lot of young talent waiting in the wings, the O will go through the air.
Really, Why Are The Louisville Cardinals Ranked Here?
You don’t get better after losing the defensive stars Louisville has to replace, and you certainly don’t get stronger by losing Lamar Jackson. However, the offense – as always under Petrino – will be terrific, and there’s a chance it could be a bit more effective without the reliance on the former Heisman winner.
But with the losses on D, get ready for plenty of shootouts. It’ll be a fun team that won’t get any preseason respect, but it could be an annoying pain for the rest of the league.