It was a disappointing end to an otherwise successful season for Louisville Football as the Cards went (9-4) overall and (5-3) in their first season in the ACC. Coach Petrino matched his same feat he accomplished in 2003 at UofL – winning 9 games in his first season. His record stands at an impressive 50-13 in five seasons at Louisville. With the ugly bowl loss behind them, let’s take a look at what lies ahead for 2015 Cards….
*The offense loses a lot – most notably stud WR DeVante Parker, who hauled in 43 catches for 855 yards and 5 TDs in just 7 games. His receiving yardage total is 289 more than any other wideout. UofL losses four of its top five receivers: Rogers, Parker, Christian, and De La Cruz. They have combined for 146 receptions for 2,067 yards and 15 TDs. James Quick, who had 36 catches for 566 yards and 3 TDs (provided he can follow team rules in the offseason) will be the go-to wideout along with Michaelee Harris (9-113-1). JUCO transfer Paul Harris figures to get a shot to start as will Texas A&M transfer JaQuay Williams.
*The running game will suffer some significant losses as well. Dominque Brown somehow fell out of favor with the coaching staff and didn’t play a lot after starting four games. Brown, who graduated in December, ran for 378 yards and 4 TDs. Michael Dyer didn’t remain eligible and used up his two years of eligibility. He totaled 481 yards and 5 TDs. It’s worth repeating that Brown handled his business in the classroom and now calls himself a college graduate, while Dyer cannot. Brandon Radcliff enters next season as the Cards’ featured back after finishing a solid year running for 737 yards and and team-high 12 TDs.
*The offensive line took a big hit as well, losing three starters in Jamon Brown, John Miller, and Jake Smith. The Cards hit both the high school and JUCO ranks hard for immediate help and will look to Khalil Hunter, Chandler Jones, and Kenny Thomas for contributions. Also, keep your eye on Danny Burns, Jimmie Terry, and Lukayus McNeil to try to crack the two-deep.
*All three QBs who played this year return, but perhaps the one signal caller who didn’t get reps (because he had to sit out due to transfer rules) will be the starter. Tyler Ferguson drew a lot of praise from the coaches during fall camp, who he will certainly get a lot of looks. Gardner (1,669 yards, 58%, 12 TDs – 3 INTs) must rehab his knee for the third time, Bonnafon (864 yards, 51%, 5 TDs passing/5 TDs rushing – 4 INTs) needs more experience and has to get rid of the ball quicker. Bolin (716 yards, 58%, 4 TDs – 3 INTs) beat UK, but was average against a much better Georgia team.
*Defensively, UofL loses it’s best rusher and safety in Lorenzo Mauldin and Gerod Holliman. Mauldin finished the year with 51 tackles, 13 TFL, and 6.5 sacks. Of course we all know about Holliman’s historic 14-interception season. Also leaving is CB Charles Gaines, who some would argue wasn’t a good decision on his part. He tallied 36 tackles and 2 INTs. In fairness, many opposing QBs didn’t throw in his direction. Other notable players that won’t be here are B.J. Dubose, Terrell Floyd, and Deiontrez Mount. Some good news? The top four tacklers are returning. James Sample – 90 tackles and 4 INTs, Keith Kelsey – 87 tackles and 6 sacks, James Burgess 0 71 tackles and 10 TFL, and Sheldon Rankins – 76 tackles, 13.5 TFL, and 8 sacks.
There’s no doubt that Louisville will have to replace a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but Petrino and Co. are working on their best recruiting class in school history. Currently, it’s ranked 32nd nationally and 6th in the ACC. Look for the staff to close out the class with a couple of surprises and couple more JUCO immediate impact guys.