With the Cards starting games just NINE days away we wanted to share 4 bold predictions for the offense prior to the 2015 season & our best guess depth chart. It doesn’t appear that the staff is going to release a depth chart for fans and media (and Auburn) to consume prior to next Saturday’s kickoff, and that’s perfectly fine with us. But we still wanted to give it an effort based on what we’ve heard coming out of camp, what we were able to see in the open practices, and just from inference in listening to what the coaches & players are saying.
Bold Prediction #1: Reggie Bonnafon Starts At Quarterback
This one is going out on a limb, especially with Auburn being susceptible in the deep passing game and Reggie Bonnafon having just 11 passing plays longer than 20 yards last season vs. FBS schools (4 vs. Wake, 4 vs. ND, 2 vs. Syracuse, and 1 vs. Clemson). Knowing that, it would seem that Will Gardner is the better fit vs. the Tigers and Gardner looked really good in the limited action the media was welcome to witness.
However, at the ACC Kickoff & during Petrino’s comments during the ESPN Car Wash prior to camp it seemed like the entire offseason Reggie Bonnafon was the plan. Gardner’s experience and surprise condition may have thrown a wrench in the staff’s plan’s, but Petrino also stated that he wanted to really push Reggie with a legitimate QB competition and the staff was able to do that during Fall Camp. Also, the growth that Reggie showed from the start of Spring Practice to the Spring Game was tremendous. Bonnafon may not have started Fall Camp looking like a seasoned vet, but even Teddy Bridgewater struggled the first few days of practice in 2012 & 2013. No one on this team is Teddy, but timing and rhythm is usually an issue for QBs and WRs at the beginning of camp and we haven’t yet seen the final result.
Garrick McGee said on Monday that Reggie Bonnafon has a much better understanding of the offense and is throwing more consistently. The teams that beat Auburn last year really challenged them and made the Tigers respect their ability to pass. If Reggie starts he MUST be a threat downfield through the air in addition to the good things he showed a year ago.
Bold Prediction #2: Kenny Thomas Starts at Guard
Bobby Petrino recently called Kenny Thomas ‘a mauler’ and the buzz surrounding Kenny really began in June when he arrived at the football facility. The staff tried him at Guard and Tackle, and I’ve personally heard that Thomas can be a ‘3 year player’ by people inside the program who tell me that Kenny can be one of the best guards to ever play at UofL. That type of praise doesn’t come out often (and it’s still too early to tell if it will be true), but for now I’m reaching and saying that Kenny will start over Khalil Hunter at Guard in Game 1.
Bold Prediction #3: Louisville’s Rushing Attack Will Be Much Improved in 2015
One of the points of emphasis Petrino talked about often during the off-season was doing a better job on the ground and on 1st down. The Cards were 95th in Rushing Offense a year ago and often got off schedule on 1st down with losses or no gains hampering the attack and driving down Louisville’s probability of converting 3rd down. In 2015, the offensive line is green………BUT IT IS PHYSICAL. Pass Blocking is about technique, finesse, and experience. Run Blocking in Louisville’s scheme is about blocking a zone and being physical, and that’s exactly the type of line the Cards have.
A great rushing attack will provide some protection to the QB by eliminating some blitz packages with the threat to run and opening up the vertical passing game with play-action. Petrino NEEDS the run game to evolve and it has a nice set of backs to do it with. Brandon Radcliff is the energizer bunny and is sitting on what could be a huge year. Fans should know what Bad Rad brings. But what fans may not know is that Jeremy Smith is a HOME RUN HITTER out of the backfield and in his senior season of high school actually had 447 yards and 7 Touchdowns IN A SINGLE GAME. Smith ran similarly in his only year in Fresno City CC and could be an explosive weapon for the Cards after turning down LSU and Alabama. Additionally L.J. Scott, Corvin Lamb, and Malin Jones Bobby Petrino has the varying types of weapons he needs at running back. Look for the Cards to be better running the football in 2015.
Bold Prediction #4: We Make Progress Towards “Bobby Ball”
The Cards weren’t awesome on offense a year ago. A complete change in style, philosophy, and key personnel (along with injuries) really limited what Coach Petrino wanted to do on offense and Louisville was a defensive team and suited its offense as a defensive team. That was a foreign concept to Bobby Petrino and in 2015 despite some big time losses to graduation and the NFL, we expect that the Offense will actually take a step closer towards “Bobby Ball” in 2015. Continuity from a full year of competition and familiarity to go along with almost no turnover in coaching Louisville should be able to expand on its desired concepts. Particularly at QB, where no matter who starts, the Cards have 3 players with experience under Center in key games.
Will Louisville in Year 2 lead the nation in offense like it did in 2004? Probably not, but the 2nd year of Petrino it’s reasonable to guess that the Cards will be a better offensive team than they were a year ago….and that may translate into more wins.
Keith Towbridge OR
Charles Standberry (situational, more of an H-Back role)
Khalil Hunter (probably 2nd for both Guard spots if he doesn’t start)
Charles Standberry (situational)
Alphonso Carter OR