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2018 Louisville Football Preview: Linebackers

Dorian Etheridge - Media Day

Last Season: Louisville’s defense was maligned with many issues last season, ranging from injuries and issues in pass coverage to an inability to get a push or make stops in the front seven.

Fortunately, though, there was some good with the linebackers unit. True freshman Dorian Etheridge led the team with 83 combined tackles in 2017, while seniors Stacy Thomas (69) and Trevon Young (62) also finished in the top five for Louisville. Jonathan Greenard finished with a team-high seven sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.

Projected starters: C.J. Avery, Dorian Etheridge, P.J. Blue

Assuming that new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will run the 4-3 as his “base” defense (VanGorder typically has run multiple sets such as a 4-3 or 3-4), then edge rushers like Jonathan Greenard and Boosie Whitlow would move down to the defensive line. That is also what I am basing these projected lineups on.

At outside linebacker, Louisville will likely start C.J. Avery and P.J. Blue. Avery was a true freshmen that played in all 13 games for the Cardinals last season, usually playing at safety. He’s shown an ability to play both inside the box and in coverage really well, which is why Avery will likely spend most of his time as a “STAR” (linebacker-safety hybrid) in VanGorder’s defense. It’s a role similar to what Josh Harvey-Clemons had when Todd Grantham was at Louisville, where Avery can roam the field and be able to blitz, play man coverage or deep zone.

Like Avery, P.J. Blue is also a safety converted to linebacker in VanGorder’s system. Blue hasn’t played a lot in his college career due to injuries, but has a skill set similar to Avery’s. Due to his and Avery’s size (Blue at 6’3″ and 217 pounds, Avery at 5’11” and 213 pounds), it’s likely to suggest that VanGorder wants a lot of speed at the position, coveting players that have a lot of versatility. With Avery and Etheridge as the only linebackers returning with experience, this spot will likely see a rotation between Blue, Robert Hicks and others to find a quality third starter.

One spot that is locked, however, is at middle linebacker, where sophomore Dorian Etheridge returns. Etheridge has bulked up to 233 pounds this season, making him one of Louisville’s biggest players at the position. Like Avery, Etheridge played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman, leading the team in tackles. He was tremendous last year in run support, but will need to improve on pass coverage to become a more complete player.

Key Reserves: Robert Hicks (Fr.), Quen Head (So.)

Robert Hicks comes to Louisville as a highly touted four-star linebacker out of Miami, Fl. Hicks brings massive size to the position at 6’1″ and 243 lbs., and is likely the odds-on favorite to have the most contribution among Louisville’s 2018 freshmen class. Hicks is a great run stopper, and with his impressive size, could see some reps at outside linebacker or middle linebacker in a 3-4 set. He showed an ability to shed blocks and make plays in the backfield, something that Louisville lacked in their front seven for most of 2017. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Hicks start at some point.

Quen Head received praise from head coach Bobby Petrino during Louisville’s media day Saturday for his effort on special teams, so don’t be surprised if he also sees reps at linebacker at some point. Players like freshman Yasir Abdullah and Nick Okeke could work their way into the rotation, as this is a wide open position battle.

Outlook: Like most of the defense this season, Louisville’s linebacker corps is young. The Cardinals do not have a senior linebacker on their 2018 roster, and unless some players like Greenard declare for the draft, nearly everyone should be back for 2019.

Dorian Etheridge figures to be one of, if not the best player on Louisville’s defense this season. He’s shown high football IQ on his tape and can play the run really well. They also have athletes like C.J. Avery and Robert Hicks that will add some much needed versatility with the linebacker group.

Overall, this group’s production will largely depend on how the defensive line performs. Louisville had a lot of issues last year getting pushes against opposing offensive lines, resulting in teams like Boston College and Clemson having their way with Louisville on the ground. The linebackers will need to be better at shooting gaps and getting open-field tackles in space, especially since they will be facing quality running backs like Damien Harris, A.J. Dillon, Cam Akers and Benny Snell. Pass coverage should also be a focal point this season, but might be okay considering Avery and Blue’s experience at safety.

But if Louisville can get quality production out of their interior linemen and get some disruption going, that will free up opportunities for the linebackers to have a much better season.

New Era Of UofL Football Breakdown With ACC Digital Network (Video)

Jaylen Smith

Our friends at the ACC Digital Network sat down with Bobby Petrino and Jaylen Smith to  talk about what the newest era of UofL football will look like. Take a look below to see what he has to say!

Nunnsense: 2018 Louisville Football Game By Game Predictions

Dez Fitzpatrick

I have been doing theses predictions for several years and this if by far the hardest one that I have done. There are so many questions that I need answered before I can be give you a true and accurate prediction.

Here is what I know… Louisville is going to lose to both Alabama and Clemson and they are going to beat Indiana State and WKU.

(Nunns opinion, not CSZ’s)

Other than that, all 8 remaining games are winnable. Those remaining 8 games are all possible losses too. Do I really think Louisville will lose all 8 of those games? Of course not, but I do believe all of those games could be decided by 10 points or less.

I also know that the wise-guys in Las Vegas do not believe that Louisville is going to have a great year. They set the projected win total at 6.5 games. Most major publications predict Louisville to win 7 games. A few predict 8 games. Personally, I could see as many as 10 wins and as few as 6.

Traditionally the Vegas guys are very accurate. However, this year I believe they are factoring in the loss of Lamar Jackson a bit to heavy into their formula. I believe Louisville will have a top 5-10 offense. The question I have is on defense. Mainly the defensive line. I worry about teams with strong running games. My fear is that a team can control the clock with a slow methodical running game and keep the high powered Louisville offense off the field. I also believe the defense will be better than last year.

So, by my calculations, Louisville won’t lose much, if anything, on offense and should be better on defense. If I am correct, then Louisville should win 9 games. Yes, my prediction is 9 wins. But 8 would not shock me in the least.

Here are my game by game predictions,  Read the rest of this entry

Jaylen Smith Requires Emergency Appendectomy

Jaylen Smith

First and foremost – we here at Cardinal Sports Zone, wish Jaylen a speedy and successful recovery.

It was reported early Friday morning that Jaylen had undergone surgery to remove his appendix. According to WDRB, head trainer Matt Summers says he is expected to make a full recovery. At this time, there is no time table for his return.

UofL Football To Host A Season Preview Day On August 11th

pactice 7-13-2018

Press release from the University of Louisville athletic department:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Louisville football will give fans their first glance of the team at the Louisville Football Season Preview at 7 p.m. on Aug. 11 in Cardinal Stadium.

Fans activities on the field are scheduled from 6-7 p.m. before the team begins its open workout.

The skills showcase, which lasts until 8:15 p.m., will feature a position-by-position look at the Cardinals, who open the season in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando against preseason No. 1 and defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 1 at 8 p.m.

Following practice, head coach Bobby Petrino and the Cardinals will be available to sign autographs on the field for approximately 45 minutes. Schedule posters will be distributed at the entrances.

Gates to the preview will open at 6 p.m., and fans should enter the stadium through gates 4-8.

Bobby Petrino, Dee Smith And Juwan Pass Talk About Start Of Fall Camp (Video)

PressConferenceFB

Bobby Petrino sat down with the media earlier this week to discuss the start of the 2018 fall camp. He also addresses taking on Alabama in a few weeks, how well conditioned this year’s team is. You can also hear from Dee Smith and Juwan Pass on what they are feeling heading into the season.

ACC Coaches Talk About Conference Competition – Anonymously

acc

Have you ever wondered what the coaches of the ACC truly think about one another’s teams? Here is your closest chance to ever finding out. Athlon Sports recently sat down with all 14 coaches and you can read below what they had to say about UofL and everyone else.

https://athlonsports.com/college-football/acc-coaches-talk-anonymously-about-conference-foes-2018?amp&__twitter_impression=true

Cardinal Football Takes Field In First Practice Of Fall 2018

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Photo Credit: Fansided

Press release from the University of Louisville athletic department:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville football team held its first practice of the 2018 season Friday afternoon, wrapping up a two-hour practice session in shorts and helmets at the Howard Schnellenberger Football Complex.

The veterans, coming out in the afternoon, set the pace with an intense practice under sunny skies and high humidity.

Despite the difficult conditions, the Cardinals got through the first day without a hitch.

“It was a good first day,” defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. “We are trying to develop good work habits and we have high expectations for this football team. We are looking for guys who have good instincts and have a comfort for the game. It was good to be out there today.”

VanGorder, in his first season leading the defense, is adjusting to his new personnel and used this first practice to see what exactly he has to work with this season.

“We are still evaluating our talent,” VanGorder said. “We will keep looking for guys to step in. We are going to be in pads very soon and we will get a better idea of the direction we are headed in.”

One player who is anxious to get out on the field to impress his new coach is sophomore Rodjay Burns, who sat out last season after transferring from Ohio State. The former Trinity High product is excited to play and thinks this defense can show major improvement.

“I think we can be a lot better,” Burns said. “I feel like we are closer. We are more as a family. We are able to take coaching better. I think the sky is the limit. We just have to keep practicing and getting better.”

Read the rest of this entry

Nunnsense | Louisville Football Has Plenty Of Motivation And Talent

Jawon Pass

It’s no secret that there are plenty of questions about this years Louisville football team. All you have to do is pick up any college football magazine or google ACC college football and you read all about how Louisville doesn’t have Lamar Jackson. If you keep reading, you will be reminded of how Louisville lost so many starters on the defensive side of the ball and how they will have their 3rd defensive coordinator in 3 years.

They were kind enough to point out that the Louisville receivers, led by Jaylen Smith, are very good. They also point out that Jawon Pass is a highly touted quarterback that should thrive under Bobby Petrino.

However, besides the receivers, most of the talent that Louisville will run out onto the field is unproven. At least unproven as a unit.

There is plenty of talent on both sides of the ball but without seeing them produce as a team, these national publications will not predict Louisville to be anything more than a middle of the pack ACC team.  Read the rest of this entry

Blanton Creque Named To Lou Groza Award Watch List

Blanton Creque

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Louisville placekicker Blanton Creque was one of 30 kickers named to the Lou Groza Award watch list, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission announced Tuesday.

The honor, presented to the nation’s top placekicker, is named for National Football League Hall of Fame kicker Lou “The Toe” Groza, who played 21 seasons with the Cleveland Browns

Creque, a semifinalist for the award a year ago, had a breakthrough season as a sophomore. He connected on 17-of-20 field goal attempts and 58-of-59 extra points, capping the season with 109 points. Creque’s 17 field goals were the third most in school history.

The Shelbyville, Ky., native converted 85.0 percent of his attempts last season – the third-highest mark in school history – and was good on 13-of-16 attempts beyond 30 yards, including a career-long 48-yarder against NC State.

A redshirt junior, Creque is one of three kickers from the Atlantic Coast Conference on the watch list, joining Florida State’s Ricky Aguayo and Clemson’s Greg Huegel.

For his career, Creque has made 33-of-39 field goals, an 84.6 percent conversion rate, which stands as the top mark in school history. His 33 made field goals are the sixth most in school history, and he stands fifth in points by a kicker with 196.

The 27th Annual Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award, presented by the Orange Bowl, recognizes the three finalists during a celebration in Palm Beach County, Florida. It culminates with a gala awards banquet at West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 3.

Groza won four NFL championships with Cleveland and was named NFL Player of the Year in 1954. Although an All-Pro offensive lineman as well, Groza ushered in the notion that there should be a place on an NFL roster for a kicker.

Jaylen Smith Named To All-ACC Preseason Team

Jaylen Smith

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Louisville senior wide receiver Jaylen Smith has been named on the 2018 All-Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Football Team by a panel of 148 voters at last week’s ACC Football Kickoff, the league announced on Tuesday.

Three-time defending conference champion Clemson led all schools with eight selections, while Boston College sophomore running back AJ Dillon received the nod as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year.

Smith, a senior, is one of three wide receivers on the team, joining NC State’s Kelvin Harmon and Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow.

A first team all-ACC selection in 2017, Smith paced the Cardinals with 60 receptions for 980 yards and seven scores. He finished 32nd nationally in yards, while placing second in the league with an average of 98.0 yards receiving per game.

Despite missing three games with an injury, he finished third in the league in receiving yards and was ninth in receptions. His 16.3 yards per reception was the fifth-best mark in the conference.

Named last to the 2018 Biletnikoff Award Watch List, Smith registered a career-best four 100-yard receiving contests, establishing career highs with nine receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown in a 47-35 win over North Carolina. He caught a pair of touchdowns in a win over Virginia and closed the season with seven catches for 107 yards and a touchdown against Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl.

Heading into his final season, Smith has totaled 116 career receptions for 1,955 yards and is tied for 11th in school history with 14 touchdowns.

The Cardinals open the 2018 campaign on Sept. 1 versus Alabama in the Camping World Kickoff Game in Orlando, Florida. The nationally televised game will kick off on ABC at 8 p.m.

2018 LOUISVILLE FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS
It’s the 100th season Louisville Football, and you don’t want to miss any of the action this year. The Cardinals’ exciting seven-game schedule at Cardinal Stadium includes Florida State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, and Kentucky.

Click here for season tickets and secure your seats today.

2018 LOUISVILLE FOOTBALL MINI PLAN
Can’t make it to all seven Louisville football home games this season? Take advantage of the three-game mini-plans on sale now.

Fans select their choice of attending either the Florida State game on Sept. 29 or the regular-season finale versus Kentucky on Nov. 29 along with two of the remaining five home games.

Click here to secure your plan now.

UofL Football Picked To Finish 5th In ACC

Jawon Pass

What do you think about this prediction?

Press release from the University of Louisville athletic department:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The University of Louisville football team was picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference football preseason poll, the league announced on Monday afternoon.

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Kemari Averett And Micky Crum Named To John Mackey Award Preseason Watch

Louisville Football

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Louisville tight ends Kemari Averett and Micky Crum were named to the 2018 John Mackey Award preseason watch list Friday.

The John Mackey Award has been given annually to the most outstanding collegiate tight end since 2000.

Averett and Crum were one of 63 players on this year’s watch list.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Averett played in 10 games as a true freshman in 2017. Making one start, Averett finished his rookie campaign with seven receptions for 79 yards and one touchdown. He caught a pair of passes in games versus Murray State and Wake Forest, while scoring his first career touchdown on a 22-yard catch against Boston College.

Hampered by injuries last season, Crum recorded eight catches for 99 yards, while averaging 12.4 yards a reception. The Columbus, Ohio native caught a season-high three passes for 30 yards in a win over Murray State.

Throughout his career, Crum has appeared in 28 games, recording 23 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns.

Given annually to the most outstanding collegiate tight end, the award recipient is selected by vote of the John Mackey Award Selection Committee and the 2018 Mackey Award recipient will be announced on Dec. 5 and then presented live on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Red Carpet Show on ESPNU. All future announcements can be found at www.johnmackeyaward.com.

NFL Hall of Fame member John Mackey is considered to be the best to have played the tight end position. A tight end by whom all others are measured, Mackey was a role model on and off the field as demonstrated by his Super Bowl Championship, his commitment to community and his place in history as the first President of the NFLPA.

The John Mackey Award recognizes fifteen alumni that have played in the NFL: two-time Super Bowl Champion Daniel Graham (’01), 2006 Super Bowl Champion Dallas Clark (’02), Kellen Winslow II (’03), two-time Super Bowl Champion Heath Miller (’04), Marcedes Lewis (’05) of the Green Bay Packers, 2008 Super Bowl Champion Matt Spaeth (’06), Fred Davis (’07), Chase Coffman (’08), D.J. Williams (’10), Dwayne Allen (’11) of the New England Patriots, Tyler Eifert (’12) of the Cincinnati Bengals, Austin Seferian-Jenkins (’13) of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Nick O’Leary (’14) of the Buffalo Bills, Hunter Henry (’15) of the Los Angeles Chargers, Jake Butt (16′) of the Denver Broncos and 2017 John Mackey Award recipient Mark Andrews of the Baltimore Ravens.

Jaylen Smith And Dez Fitzpatrick Named To 2018 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

Dez Fitzpatrick - Jaylen Smith

Press release from the University of Louisville athletic department:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – University of Louisville football wide receivers Jaylen Smith and Dez Fitzpatrick were named to the 2018 Biletnikoff Award Watch List, the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation announced Thursday.

The Biletnikoff Award annually recognizes the outstanding receiver in college football. Any player, regardless of position (wide receiver, tight end, slot back and running back) who catches a pass is eligible for the award.

Smith, a senior from Pascagoula, Miss., earned first team all-ACC honors last season after leading the Cardinals with 60 receptions for 980 yards and seven scores. Despite missing three games with an injury, he finished third in the league in receiving yards and was ninth in receptions, while averaging 16.3 yards a reception.

A starter in 10 games, Smith registered a career-best four 100-yard receiving contests, establishing career highs with nine receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown in a 47-35 win over North Carolina.

Read the rest of this entry

Bobby Petrino’s Statement On Removal Of “Papa Johns” From Cardinal Stadium

 

Bobby Petrino

Here is what Head Coach, Bobby Petrino, has to say about the football stadium now being called “Cardinal Stadium”

Web Site Makes Annual Comparison Of Each ACC Football Team To Cars

Louisville Football

Each year CJ Pony Parts makes comparisons of NCAA football teams to different types of cars that fit the style of said teams. They do this by conference and started this year with ACC teams.

Last year, they compared UofL Football to a 2017 Chevy Volt. Odd choice for a team led by Lamar Jackson, but I digress.

This year, CJ Pony Parts chose the Falcon F7 to represent the 2018 version of Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals (click on story in tweet below to see pictures of the vehicle compared to UofL and for all other ACC teams).

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Lamar Jackson Collects Another ACC Accolade As He’s Named ACC Male Athlete Of The Year

Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson may now be a NFL QB after being selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round, but he just received another college accolade; this time from the ACC.

Lamar was bestowed with the Anthony J. McKevlin award for Male Athlete of the Year. He was given the honor after having a junior year in which he had nearly identical statistics to his sophomore, Heisman winning season.

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UofL Expands Deal With ANC For Video Boards At PJCS

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A farther look at the new expansion. At the top of the two towers (behind the seating area), two 40′ x 80′ LED videoboards will be installed, replacing the old video board from the 2006 season.

It was announced on Monday that UofL will use ANC for the video boards for the newly expanded Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. This is the same company that installed and operates the video boards at Jim Patterson, Lynn Stadium and Ulmer Stadium. You can see the full details of the agreement below.

http://anc.com/detail.html?sub_id=c50416160f

UofL Football Away Tickets Now On Sale

Louisville Football

Follow the Cards on the road by purchasing your tickets today!

What game are you heading to this fall?

TweetCap and Video of Bobby Petrino And Football Staff’s Summer Press Conference

PressConferenceFB

Bobby Petrino, Nick Petrino, Kolby Smith, Chris Klenakis, Lonnie Galloway and Mike Summers all sat down with the media today to give a summer update on the UofL football team. You can catch Bobby’s full interview in a video format at the end!

Read the rest of this entry