It’s getting to be that time where the national publications release their preseason college football polls. There will be many different ones of course. This one is from Lindy’s, who have the Cards at #31 on their countdown. I would expect this to be about where most magazines and other media outlets have the Cards, somewhere around that #25 mark. Many factors will contribute to that. Yes there is a lot of talent back, but the uncertainty of a new QB, replacing 3 first round NFL Draft picks, and everything you already know about.
Here is what Lindy’s says about the Cards in 2014…(They mention Robert Clark, but of course he has transferred to Samford.)
CARDINALS at a GLANCE
LOCATION: Louisville, Ky.
COACH: Bobby Petrino — At Louisville: 41-9, 4 years; overall:
83-30, 9 years
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Garrick McGee
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Todd Grantham
LAST LEAGUE TITLE: 2013
LAST TIME DIDN’T GO BOWLING: 2009
RETURNING STARTERS: 11; 6 offense, 4 defense, kicker
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Will Gardner, RB Dominique Brown, RB Michael Dyer, WR DeVante Parker, TE Gerald Christian, WR James Quick, LB Lorenzo Mauldin, CB Charles Gaines, CB Terell Floyd
PRIMARY STRENGTHS: The return of Petrino after eight years away from Louisville has the Cardinals looking again like an offensive powerhouse. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is gone, but Gardner takes over an offense that returns three starting linemen, the explosive DeVante Parker and a host of other explosive weapons.
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: As good as the offense should be, the right side of the offensive line might be an issue, with former starting center Jake Smith forced to slide over to right guard to solidify that side. The secondary, especially the safeties, will have its problems this season after the departures of NFL-bound starters Calvin Pryor and Hakeem Smith.
Will Gardner moved ahead this spring in a three- man race to replace Teddy Bridgewater. He was inconsistent at times, but in the team’s final exhibition, his chemistry and timing with star receiver DeVante Parker and the rest of Louisville’s talented receiving corps was clear.
Parker toyed with entering the NFL Draft early. He had nine catches for 142 yards and an acrobatic 26-yard touchdown grab in Louisville’s bowl win over Miami, and his late-season surge made it obvious how important Parker’s return would be to the 2014 Cardinals.
Tight end Gerald Christian showed signs of his potential during his junior season, but the hulking Florida native really broke through in the spring. Speedsters Eli Rogers, Kai De La Cruz, Robert Clark and Michaelee Harris give Gardner a wealth of options underneath, and senior Matt Milton and sophomore James Quick will be major threats downfield.
As long as Louisville’s offensive line holds up, run- ning backs Dominique Brown, Michael Dyer and L.J. Scott should do well in complementing the passing game that’s made Petrino so well known. Brown, a bullying, downhill back, is the returning starter.
The Cardinals cultivated enough talent on the defensive line and at linebacker to make up for some huge losses up front.
Sheldon Rankins, DeAngelo Brown and B.J. DuBose should make up for Marcus Smith’s depar- ture for the NFL, and Lorenzo Mauldin’s move to outside linebacker will help him come close to his 9.5 sacks last season.
Once linebacker Keith Brown returns from a knee injury that kept him out of the 2013 season and this spring. He’s expected to step into a start- ing middle spot alongside James Burgess.
After starting cornerbacks Terell Floyd and Charles Gaines, Louisville’s secondary is a trouble spot. Jermaine Reve, a junior who was expected to move from slot corner to starting safety, hurt his knee in spring and is out “for some time,” Petrino said.
Junior college transfer James Sample, who spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons at Washington, moves to safety and could start right away.
Junior John Wallace is back after hitting 20 of 24 field goal attempts last fall. Senior punter Ryan Johnson averaged 41.2 yards per attempt and helped Louisville rank first in the country in punt return defense.
Gaines is a dynamic kick returner with blazing speed — “I run with animals,” he once said. He aver- aged 30.1 yards a return last fall and took a 93-yard kick return back for a touchdown.
Expectations are high for Petrino’s first year back at the helm. Louisville has the weapons to score a lot of points and win at least eight games in its new conference, the ACC. The Cards may also benefit from a somewhat down year in the league, and they’ll compete with the best of the rest in the chase of Florida State.
FS James Sample: The former Washington Husky, who played last season at junior college, joined the team in April. The former four-star recruit immediately eased coach Bobby Petrino’s concern at safety. Sample (6-2, 200) has two years of eligibility left.