We started doing this post last season during the week of the Spring Football game. We give you five offensive and five defensive players to watch at this Friday’s spring game. These are guys that you may have heard of, but they are not the obvious names that you surely know. For example, I did not put DeVante Parker on the list last year. Pretty sure you already knew who he was and that he was going to be a decent player for the Cards. Right?
So this is just to bring your attention to a few guys that may be under the radar, but that we expect that you will need to know by the time the season starts in September. Just as a reference, the five guys we highlighted last year on offense were:
1) Will Gardner – Was an obvious choice, but he was following Teddy. It couldn’t be ignored to watch him.
2) L.J. Scott – Had a phenomenal spring game. Didn’t see too much action during the season, but fans still knew who he was after that spring game and he should be in for a big sophomore campaign.
3) Matt Milton – Never did pan out as a big wide receiver threat in games, but I do remember him catching a touchdown in the spring game, so that made me feel good about including him.
4) Tobijah Hughley – I had never heard of him leading up to the spring game, but we included him anyway. He ended up starting 12 games at Center last season.
5) Keith Towbridge – Was only a backup in 2013, but played in all 13 games last season. Expected to be a big playmaker at tight end this season.
So what does all of that mean? Probably not much, unless you like to learn about players and then see them probably pan out as contributors during the season. You can be sitting there Friday at the game and tell your friends about these players that they don’t know about, and then you sound smart. And if these players don’t play well, then I will take the blame. Just tell them about that idiot on CardinalSportsZone.com.
So here are the five guys to watch for this Friday on offense. And the biggest one besides these five will be obvious: the Quarterback race between Reggie Bonnafon, Kyle Bolin, and Tyler Ferguson.
WR #2 Jamari Staples (JR)
DeVante Parker isn’t going to be replaced by just one person. But these wide receivers could end up being a very good group. One of those guys is newcomer Jamari Staples, who transferred to Louisville from UAB. The football program was shut down at UAB, and Staples decided to come play for his former head coach, UofL Offensive Coordinator Garrick McGee.
Staples is 6’4 and will be a big target for whoever is throwing the passes for the Cards. As a sophomore at UAB, he caught 9 passes for 190 yards, an average of 21.1 yards per catch. He had one touchdown on the season. His best game was against Middle Tennessee State, where he had 4 catches for 83 yards and his one touchdown.
Here are UAB’s highlights from that Middle Tennessee State game. The last two plays are Staples.
WR #15 Traveon Samuel (FR)
Rather than gearing up for his senior prom, Samuel is getting ready for major college football. He graduated high school early and enrolled early at UofL, so he has been on campus and gotten a head start on his college football career. He is only listed at 5’7 and 178 pounds, but Samuel could be a big-time playmaker for the Cards this season. When he gets the ball out in the open field, look out. I would expect them to run some screen plays for him to see what he can do.
As a senior at Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama, Samuel racked up 1,764 all-purpose yards. He had 861 rushing yards and 553 receiving yards. A broken leg ended his senior season early, but he is healthy now and could turn some heads on Friday night.
RB #34 Jeremy Smith (SO)
You already know about Brandon Radcliff and L.J. Scott. Now you can add Jeremy Smith to the stable of running backs for this season. Smith comes to UofL after playing one season at Fresno City Community College. While there, he rushed for 1,735 yards and 17 touchdowns.
After the first full scrimmage this spring, the majority of the talk seemed to be about how well Smith ran the ball. He is listed at 6’2 and 223 pounds, so he can certainly punish defenders on his way up the field.
TE #83 Micky Crum (RS FR)
This is an example of one of those players that we are taking a chance on and have a good feeling about. Crum is a redshirt freshman, meaning he did not play at all last season. Yet we are expecting him to be well-known at some point during the 2015 season. We know how much Bobby Petrino likes to utilize the tight ends in his offense, and at 6’4 and 257 pounds, Crum could see plenty of action this year.
And if the whole football thing doesn’t work out for Crum, well there is this…
WR #82 Dontez Byrd (RS SO)
Byrd is a local kid from here in Louisville. He played at Ballard High School. He played last season in 12 games, seeing action at receiver and on special teams. We feel like he could have a sudden breakout season like a Tiger Jones, Kai De La Cruz (Junior year), or Damian Copeland. He has had a solid spring and made some big plays in the scrimmages.
With a pretty deep group at wide receiver, Byrd could still be a year away from being one of the main targets. But it is worth keeping an eye on him now, just in case.