This is the first of three outlooks that I will provide regarding the next step for Louisville Football. As we prepare for 2018 L.A.L (Life After Lamar) let us take a look at who is leaving and who the likely replacements are. This is strictly an opinion piece and is in no way accurate meaning things are subject to change. Let’s begin:
**Disclaimer** There could be more moves on this roster in the next week. The deadline to enter the NFL draft is January 15th and there are few players on Louisville’s roster that could test the waters. Some may also decide to transfer.
Lamar Jackson. The heart of the Louisville offense and quite possibly the greatest player in Louisville football history. Lamar opted to pass up his senior year and enter his name in the NFL draft. His leaves Louisville with numerous awards, most notably the two-time P.O.T.Y in the ACC and of course the Heisman trophy. He is the first player to pass for 3000 yards and rush for 1000 yards in consecutive seasons.
- Jawon “Puma” Pass (R. Soph.)
- Malik Cunningham (R. Fr)
- Jordan Travis (Fr.)
- Sean McCormack (R. Soph.)
One would think Puma Pass is the clear cut favorite for QB job next season. Having sat behind Lamar for two seasons while being groomed to take the reigns in 2018 would have many assuming so. He saw action in a few games this year and did well in limited action. BUT….., there is a good chance we see an intense QB battle betweem Pass, Malik Cunningham, and Jordan Travis an incoming freshman for the #1 spot. While Pass has sat and learned for two seasons, Cunningham has sat behind Pass and Jackson for one season and had the chance to learn. Petrino will have the luxury of three dual threat QB’s on his roster which is something plenty of FBS teams wish they could say. While I expect Pass to win the job I am not so sure he does it without having to fight off some competition from Cunningham and Travis. Regardless of who wins the starting spot, your prize is facing Bama’s defense in Week 1. Congrats
Starter: Jawon Pass
QB2: Malik Cunningham
QB3: Jordan Travis
QB4: Sean McCormack
Reggie Bonnafon, Malik Williams, and Jeremy Smith. Malik Williams really turned it on the past few games of the 2017 including a career high 180 yards against Syracuse on Senior Day. Reggie Bonnafon, who was basically a nomad on offense departs after a illustrious career at Louisville where he saw time at QB, WR, and finally RB. Jeremy Smith was coming back but announced on Dec. 11th that he would transfer for his final year of eligibility which was sort of expected.
- Dae Williams (R. Soph)
- Colin Wilson (Soph.)
- Trey Smith (R. Junior)
- Harry Trotter ( Junior)
- Hassan Hall (Freshman)
- Javian Hawkins (Hard Commit, yet to sign)
One could argue Colin Wilson could return from a season ending injury to become the starting tailback in 2018 but honestly Dae Williams is going to be hard to move out of that spot. He came back from an ACL tear after only 6 months and was a load to bring down when on the field. I could see both him and Wilson splitting first team reps. Williams is like Michael Bush reincarnated and once his knee is 100% I expect his speed to increase. Colin Wilson is also someone I expect a lot from in 2018. The true freshmen Hassan Hall is a speed demons so he may be the home-run threat the Cards have lacked at RB ever since George Stripling left. Do not sleep on Trey Smith. The limited time he has seen at RB has not been anything to overlook. Smith runs hard and with a purpose as does Harry Trotter. If Javian Hawkins ultimately signs with the Cards it will add a huge boost to the running game.
Starter: Dae Williams
RB2: Colin Wilson
RB3: Trey Smith/Hassan Hall
RB:4 Harry Trotter
Charles Standberry. He has been here for what seems like 10 years but Standberry is on to try his luck in the NFL. Seems like yesterday he was catching the first Louisville TD in ACC history. While he didn’t have a huge year offensively, his senior leadership and blocking down the field will be missed.
- Mickey Crum (R. Senior)
- Jordan Davis (R. Junior)
- Kemari Averett (Soph.)
- Nigel Kilby (Soph. Juco)
There is a reason Petrino was giddy about Kemari Averett. Not only is the guy 6’6 tight end who could easily pass as a defensive lineman, he also saw significant playing time this year gaining some 1st team reps. I expect Averett to be your starter when the 2018 season kicks off. Look, I have always been a fan of Micky Crum and I was really excited to see him make a impact this season but for some reason that did not happen . Not sure if it was an undisclosed injury or if he is in Petrino’s doghouse or what. It is very strange and reminds me of Dominique Brown a few seasons ago. Either way, Crum will be counted on to back up Averett assuming he beats out Jordan Davis for the 2 spot. Lets also not sleep on Nigel Kilby who committed late and will join the team soon. The 6’8 Kilby could also compete for playing time in 2018. Davis got things rolling in 2017 when he caught Lamar’s first TD pass against Purdue. I can see him being the starter as well, the Spring battle should be a good one.
Starter: Kemari Averett
TE2 Jordan Travis
TE3: Mickey Crum
TE3: Nigel Kilby
Javonte Bagley was a guy who we heard a ton about in the Spring game as well as off-season but for whatever reason it never translated to the regular season. He got a lot of reps with the second team and played well but we never got to see the player the coaches raved about in the off-season and that is both puzzling and unfortunate. Traveon Samuel announced he would be transferring. I really wish we could have got the ball to him more, he was a huge asset.
Jaylen Smith (Senior)
Seth Dawkins (Junior)
Dez Fitzpatrick (R. Soph.)
Corey Reed (Soph.)
Justin Marshall (R. Freshman)
Keion Wakefield (R. Soph.)
Josh Johnson (Soph.)
Devante Peete (Senior)
Emonee Spence (R. Junior)
Christ Taylor-Yamanoha (R. Soph.)
Tutu Atwell (Freshman)
There is deep, and then there is Louisville’s wide receiver group next year. Barring Jaylen Smith turning pro early or anyone transferring they will be one of the most talented and experienced groups in the ACC next season. Led by Jaylen Smith, Dez 6-patrick, and Seth Dawkins fans can expect more of the same next season. If Puma Pass and these guys develop a nice chemistry the Louisville offense shouldn’t skip a beat. Louisville returns Corey Reed who saw playing time this season and will also have the services of Justin Marshall who the fanbase was extremely excited to see. Let’s not forget about Josh Johnson and here’s to hoping Bobby gets him more touches. A healthy Devante Peete who will return from a knee injury and Emonee Spence who has battled injuries as well should provide some depth. Hopefully Taylor-Yamanoha will see their roles increase in 2018. Tutu Atwell is going to be a beast but I expect him to redshirt with all the depth in front of him. Tutu Atwell and Marcus Riley could also see time in Samuel’s old spot in the slot receiver.
WR1: Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick, Justin Marshall, Chris Taylor-Yamanoha
WR2: Seth Dawkins, Corey Reed, Devante Peete, Emonee Spence
WR3: Josh Johnson, Tutu Atwell, Keion Wakefield
Geron Christian opted to skip his Senior year and enter his name in the 2018 NFL Draft. Barring any surprises Louisville should not lose any more offensive lineman and should return everyone else in 2018.
Caleb Chandler (Soph.)
Nate Scheler (Sr.)
Ronald Rudd (Sr.)
Cole Bentley (Soph.)
Thomas Nauert (Senior)
Kenny Thomas (Sr. )
Linwood Foy (R. Sr.)
Robbie Bell (R. Soph.)
Toryque Bateman (R. Fr)
Tyler Haycraft (Senior)
Danny Burns (R. Sr.)
Toriano Roundtree (R. Sr.)
Lukayas McNeil (R-Sr.)
Mekhi Becton (Sophomore
You can set Bentley, McNeil and Becton names in stone next year. Those three are solidified starters. Thomas is going to start, and if he doesn’t Caleb Chandler is more than capable to fill in on the line. Throw in Robbie Bell and we got have perhaps the best offensive line in the ACC and one of the top lines in the country in 2018. For a group that showed significant improvement under the O-line whisperer Mike Simmers, you have to think they are even more dominant next season. I would be shocked, absolutely shocked if McNeil is not drafted next year. If Mekhi Becton can continue to dominate I can see him being an extremely high draft pick when the time comes. No matter the QB, this line will be full of vets with valuable experience. You also have some capable backups in Nate Scheler, Toryque Bateman, and Toriano Roundtree. I expect to see more out of them as well as Ronald Rudd next season.
Left Tackle: Lukayas McNeil, Linwood Foy
Left Guard: Kenny Thomas, Caleb Chandler
Center: Cole Bentley, Robbie Bell, Nate Scheler
Right Guard: Toryque Bateman, Ronald Rudd
Right Tackle: Mecki Becton, Toriano Roundtree
All but one of the guys standing up behind Lamar are back next year. Expect more pics like this.
I want to get this pic blown up and framed. pic.twitter.com/eoXdXyHglQ
— 🏁👑LJ tha King👑🏁 (@LJthaFiasc0) December 13, 2017