Looking at the current roster for the 2020 version of the Louisville football team, there are five quarterbacks listed. The five listed are Micale Cunningham, Jawon Pass, Evan Conley, Tee Webb and Will Warren. Three of those QB’s threw at least 24 passes last season.
Most of you believe 100% that Micale Cunningham is the starter for next season. I’m not going to try and tell you he won’t be but I will tell you that Jawon Pass will compete for the job. Will he win the starting spot? Too early to tell but keep in mind, he won the starting job to start the season last year. Both quarterbacks still have accuracy issues to work on but hopefully the competition for that starting spots pushes them both to improve.
Going into last season, I felt that Jawon gave Louisville the best chance to win. His combined abilities to throw and run were superior to anyone else on the roster. I understand his 2018 was abysmal but you also have to take into consideration the many contributing factors to his play. He had to deal with a lack of a QB coach, his head coach berating him, benching him and then giving up on him, half of his team not giving full effort and trying to master a very complex offense. He was shook and it showed.
Also going into last year, I stated several times that Malik couldn’t throw the ball downfield. He was a one read and run type of guy. Meaning if the first guy he looked at wasn’t open, he would tuck and run. In Petrino’s system, there were multiple pre-snap and post-snap reads. Malik was an exceptional athlete but I didn’t feel he was more capable than Jawon to learn those progressions, therefore he would run too much. However, I did state that he was such a weapon and needed to be on the field getting multiple touches. Whether he got the ball or not, defenses had to respect his ability to take it the distance every time he touched the ball.
Jawon started the 2019 season in Satterfield’s more simplistic offense and played pretty good. Not exceptional but you could see a little more confidence and decisiveness. Little did we know that during the season opener against Notre Dame, he hurt his toe and played through the pain. He played the second game as well vs inferior EKU. He completed 63% of his passes and looked to be improving but with only 4 rushing attempts, you could tell he was hurting.
Jawon wouldn’t play again as he would have season ending surgery on his toe. Malik Cunningham would take over as starter. His first start of the season was in Nashville against WKU. Malik looked to tuck and run more than to throw as he ran 16 times to only 13 pass attempts. Malik took a hard hit that dislodged his helmet. He would leave the game and not return. After this game, I had doubts about this team winning 4 games due to quarterback play.
Next, Louisville traveled to Florida State. Although the Cards did not win, I felt Malik looked better and wasn’t looking to run as much as the week prior. He completed 59% of his passes but more importantly, he looked to be in control of the offense and played with great confidence in a tough environment.
Malik would continue to look better as the season progressed. You could tell that QB coach, Frank Ponce, was really working him and teaching him. That was something the team had missed the previous several years.
But Malik would be forced to leave several games due to injury. The worry about a quarterback that could run as well as Malik is his durability.
So to start the 2020 season, I suspect that Malik’s improvement will earn him the starting spot but due to his prone to injury, Louisville will need Jawon to be ready. No offense to Conley but he is not the caliber of player of Pass. He filled in admirably when Cunningham was injured last season but his best game was against Wake Forest who had the 145th ranked defense. When he played against better teams like Clemson and Miami, his lack of experience showed. In games like those for the 2020 season, Louisville would would have a much better chance of victory with Pass coming off the bench. He is a very solid insurance plan that allows Satterfield to open up the play book and let Malik (now Micale) have more designed QB runs. Imagine the Louisville offense being even more explosive.
In closing, I would like to say that I was very critical of Cunningham at the start of last season but I am very proud of him for how hard he worked to improve. His athleticism is truly amazing and I’m hoping for big things from him this season. I’m a fan and Louisville is in good hands with Cunningham and Pass. I also hope the friendly competition between the two pays off in a great 2020 – or whenever it gets played.
As Always, GO CARDS!