Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna cover Big East football for ESPN.com. Here are some notes from recent posts from these two about UofL football.
*One constant in the Big East remained throughout the spring: Louisville looks as good as advertised, as the majority of its starters and nearly every member of its coaching staff return.
*Louisville, of course, has no such quarterback concerns, as Teddy Bridgewater is back. He and his Cardinals will deal with expectations this program has not had since perhaps 2007. That season, Louisville began the year ranked No. 10 in the preseason AP poll.
It’s a good bet that Louisville will be a top-10 team when the preseason begins again. Bridgewater did nothing to change that this spring, going 16 of 20 for 214 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. He’s already in midseason form.
That’s good news for the Cardinals. And bad for everybody else’s hopes this season.
This is still Louisville’s conference. The Cardinals earned the Big East’s BCS bowl bid last season, upset (and routed) heavily favored Florida in the Sugar Bowl and should only be better in Year 4 of the Charlie Strong era. (Or, perhaps more appropriately, Year 3 of the Teddy Bridgewater era.) The mild-mannered quarterback has appeared near the top of virtually every preseason Heisman Trophy list and early 2014 mock drafts, but first things first: Closing the Cardinals’ run in the soon-to-be American Athletic Conference on a strong note. To the program, it may mean perfect season or bust, as little stands in the way on the 2013 slate.
Best spring comeback: Dominique Brown missed all of the 2012 season with an MCL tear, but he received No. 1 reps at running back this spring for Louisville. With Senorise Perry recovering from an ACL tear from the 2012 season and Jeremy Wright no longer enrolled in classes, Brown made the most of the opportunity, as the converted quarterback received a majority of the work in the backfield and starred in the spring game, rushing for 79 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. He scored four times in a scrimmage one week earlier, too.
1. Bridgewater. The reigning conference player of the year has only improved. Bridgewater, who has already been showered in preseason Heisman hype and declarations that he’s the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, was nearly flawless in the spring game and is primed for another standout campaign.
2. Running back. Wright is not enrolled in classes and Perry is still recovering from an ACL tear suffered late last season, but Dominique Brown shouldered the load and impressed. After sitting out last year with an MCL tear, the converted quarterback rushed for 79 yards and two scores on just nine carries in the spring game. He had four touchdowns in a scrimmage one week earlier, too.
3. Receiving corps. The Cardinals led the league in passing offense last season and should only improve this season, as Bridgewater gets his three favorite receivers back in Copeland, Parker and Eli Rogers. If Perry comes back at full strength, the combination of him and Brown as threats in the backfield should allow the Cardinals to become even more efficient through the air after a season in which they finished 24th nationally in passing offense.
1. Key holes on O-line. Replacing Kupper and Benavides is no easy task, especially given their positions. Shoring up Bridgewater’s blind side was the No. 1 goal this spring. Abraham Garcia looks to have the inside track at left tackle but has zero career starts, while Kamran Joyer has moved from guard to center.
2. Pass rushing. The Cardinals had trouble getting to the quarterback last season, ranking 78th nationally in sacks. Returning 10 starters on defense and, more importantly, the entire two-deep of its front seven, should be enough to turn that weakness into a strength heading into 2013.
3. Managing expectations. Louisville will be favored in every game in 2013, barring anything unforeseen. The program has never received this kind of attention before, and it has a schedule that will seemingly make anything but a 12-0 regular-season record a disappointment. Head coach Charlie Strong’s challenge is keeping this team focused and away from the outside noise that has trailed it ever since its rout of Florida in the Sugar Bowl.