The man who helped build Louisville into a respectable program is back at the helm.
After Charlie Strong bolted for Texas, Louisville decided to bring back Bobby Petrino who won 41 games as the Cardinals head coach from 2003-2006.
Petrino leads the Cardinals into their first year as a member of the new-look ACC. Louisville lost four players to the NFL draft, including three first round picks (Safety Calvin Pryor, LB Marcus Smith, QB Teddy Bridgewater).
However, you can count on Bobby Petrino to find the right replacements.
In five out of nine seasons as a college head coach, four different quarterbacks have thrown for more than 3,000 yards under Petrino. That’s an impressive stat.
Louisville will lean on redshirt sophomore Will Gardner to take over for Teddy Bridgewater. The 6-5, 225 pound sophomore threw for 542 yards and four touchdowns in the spring game.
Gardner will be surrounded by plenty of playmakers on offense. The Cardinals return senior wide receiver DeVante Parker who tied a school record with 12 touchdown receptions last year. Parker will be joined by seniors Eli Rodgers and Robert Clark on the outside. Louisville also returns tight end Gerald Christian who hauled in four touchdowns last season.
At tailback, seniors Domnique Brown and Michael Dyer return which is a formidable one-two punch. Both combined for 1,048 yards and ten touchdowns.
On the offensive line, the Cards return a plethora of experience. Five players return with a combined 115 career starts. At times last season, the line did struggle but there should be a consistency for the unit this season.
Outside of quarterback, there really are no huge questions marks surrounding the offense.
The 2013 Cardinals defense played with speed and aggression with the stats to back it up.
-Led the nation with 43 sacks.
-No.1 ranked total defense
-No.1 ranked rush defense, allowing only 80.7 yards per game.
-No.2 ranked scoring defense (12.2 points per game).
-No.5 ranked pass defense.
Charlie Strong built his Louisville teams around the defense even though it took some time. Will there be the same production as last season? Very unlikely due to key losses.
The defensive line will basically be brand new. Defensive end Marcus Smith, who led the team with 14.5 sacks is gone, as is defensive tackles Roy Philon and Brandon Dunn.
First year Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is installing his version of the 3-4 defense so it was going to look different regardless. Safeties Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith took their talents to the NFL, leaving a void at the position. Six returning linebackers saw action in ten or more games last season. Cornerbacks Tarell Floyd and Charles Gaines return, who combined for nine interception last season.
In the last five seasons, Louisville is 2-2 against ACC opponents, not including new members Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
The Cardinals beat down the Miami Hurricanes in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, 36-9.
Louisville’s first opponent this season?
The Miami Hurricanes on September 1.
We know under the tutelage of Petrino, the Cardinals will be able to put points on the board. If Louisville can re-identify a consistent pass rush, 7-8 wins shouldn’t be out of the question.
However, the Cardinals face a much tougher schedule then previous years in the Big East and American Athletic Conference.