Miami’s Offense is going to be MUCH different than what Louisville fans saw in the Russell Athletic Bowl.  First & foremost, we can’t write another sentence without saying that DUKE JOHNSON changes everything for the Miami offense.  Duke Johnson is the real deal at the running back position and was in the middle of an incredible season in 2013 before injuring his ankle in a losing effort vs. Florida State.

Duke Johnson is hard to contain.  He hits the edge HARD, he has tremendous vision and explosiveness to get through the holes.  Johnson will play in the NFL and he is priority #1 for Louisville. Miami returns 4 lineman that started the Russell Athletic Bowl.  Louisville limited the Canes to 174 yards of offense and just 14 yards rushing in December during the bowl game.  That is unlikely this time around with Duke Johnson and the Russell Athletic Bowl really was an anomaly from how the Miami offensive line performed throughout the year.

Louisville loses Preston Brown, Marcus Smith, Roy Philon, Brandon Dunn, Calvin Pryor, Hakeem Smith, and others from the #1 defense in the nation a year ago.  But the cupboard certainly isn’t bare.

Much has been made about the change to a 3-4 defense under Todd Grantham, and the defense IS different but the Cards played a lot of 3-man fronts in 2013, but the personnel was used much differently.  It will be interesting to see how the Cardinal defense performs in their first game, particularly against a premiere running back like Duke Johnson.  But there will are many other weapons and responsibilities in play here.

True Freshman and top prospect Brad Kaaya has won the starting Quarterback job for the Canes and will replace the mostly ineffective Stephen Morris from a year ago.  Kaaya is a gamer and a true student of the game.  The future of Miami football is bright………but this is a true freshman’s 1st game & on the road.  It’s a safe bet that Al Golden is going to try and put Kaaya in successful positions early to settle him down and help him find comfort for the 1st few series in Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. That’s why Duke Johnson is so important through runs and screens, Duke can take some early work and help settle down the super freshman.

If Kaaya settles in, he has WEAPONS to use.  Miami is a QUICK STRIKE offense.  Herb Waters, Stacy Coley, and Phillip Dorsett each are BIG-Time Playmakers and can go the distance in the blink of an eye.  Mix in Tight End Clive Walford and the Canes have major NFL potential in the skill positions with an experienced offensive line.  The question is, can the freshman be the guy can he deliver the ball?

It is a sure bet that Louisville is going to bring a maximum amount of pressure in a hostile environment against the Freshman QB.  The front 7 for the Cardinals was recruited with control of the line of scrimmage and hitting the quarterback in mind.  I do expect that Louisville will mostly play nickel throughout this game where in the Cards have James Sample, Gerod Holliman, and Terrell Floyd all on the field at the same time, with Floyd at nickel.

Charles Gaines has the speed to stay with anyone in the nation and is a side of the field that Louisville shouldn’t worry about it.  Andrew Johnson & Devontre Parnell will also all have work to do and possibly true freshman Trumaine Washington.

If the Cards can stop Duke Johnson and frustrate Miami’s running game the Canes will not be at liberty to try and threaten deep.  With a struggling run stopping unit Lousiville could be in trouble through the air.  I do have a great deal of confidence in DeAngelo Brown and Sheldon Rankins to really come into their own along with Senior BJ Dubose who is also reliable to play assignment football.  Linebackers Keith Kelsey, Keith Brown, and James Burgess should get a big number of tackles in this game and throughout the season, while Defensive Ends Lorenzo Mauldin, Deiontrez Mount, and Nick Dawson will all three have a responsibility to set the edge and rush the passer.

Louisville is replacing a lot of top talent on defense through graduation and the draft, but it’s hard to give the edge in this match-up to Miami with a true freshman Quarterback.  I expect some growing pains for Miami with Brad Kaaya early in the game, but with the play-makers that Miami has the Cards may not take a play off or run the risk of giving up 6.  Miami is that explosive, but they did have trouble sustaining drives last year converting just 35% (96th) of 3rd downs.  Still the Canes had the 33rd best offense in the nation last season.  The Canes can score in a blink of an eye.

It’s hard to given an edge in this match-up, with all of the changes from last season to 2014 but Louisville’s change to the 3-4 defense with DeAngelo Brown at Nose Guard backed up by Johnny Richardson is a perfect cornerstone group.  Sheldon Rankins & BJ Dubose’s skill set both lend well to the defense as well with both players big and strong enough to hold the edges and also with enough ability to create pressure.  The Defensive Line should do a nice job against Miami.  Behind them, Keith Kelsey, James Burgess, and Keith Brown are set to CLEAN UP with a ton of tackles throughout the season.  The pressure is set to come from the outside with Lorenzo Mauldin, Nick Dawson-Brents, and Deiontrez Mount.

The Louisville Defense returns as the #1 defense in the nation from 2013, and while it’s unlikely that the Cards repeat as #1 in 2014 this roster was built for Defense and has the tools and experience in place to really play well.  How quickly the Cards make the change to Todd Grantham will be key.

Miami has PLAYMAKERS at Running Back, Wide Receiver, and Tight End.  With True Freshman Brad Kaaya, do the Canes have a quarterback?  If Kaaya can come in and play well this edge evens out in a hurry.  But if Louisville can take the field and make Kaaya look like a true freshman making his first start on the road???????  That would put the advantage squarely in the Cardinals’ hands.

I expect Miami to try and place the focus on Duke Johnson early to both settle his the freshman QB and also compact the Louisville defense.  With success, I don’t know how much Miami is going to try and put together sustained drives, but rather I expect Miami to try and do everything they can to score quickly with long strikes with WRs Waters, Dorsett, and Coley. When Miami needs a critical 3rd down, I’d expect Walford at tight end to get the call.

Right now, the edge has to go to Louisville but if Kaaya is the real deal right out of the gate we could have ourselves a ball game.

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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of TheCrunchZone.com

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