The Louisville Cardinals may have lost Teddy Bridgewater and Charlie Strong after last season, but don’t assume that the Cards won’t be a contender in their first season in the ACC. Bridgewater is gone, but seven other starters are back. Strong left for Texas, but one of the best offensive minds in football, Bobby Petrino, is back at the helm.
The return of Petrino is reason enough for optimism when it comes to Louisville’s offense, but quarterback Will Gardner’s performance this spring certainly helped as well. In the spring game, Gardner completed 32 of his 37 pass attempts, for 542 yards and four touchdowns. It may be unwise to read too much into the spring game, but if Gardner’s performance was at all indicative of his talent and ability to command Petrino’s offense, then the Cards’ offense could be outstanding this season.
Gardner will be supported by one of the best receivers in the country this year, thanks to DeVante Parker’s decision to return to Louisville. Parker hauled in 55 receptions last season for 885 yards, in Strong’s run-first offense. In Petrino’s system, Parker’s numbers could skyrocket. Standing at 6’3, and possessing great speed, Parker is going to be a matchup nightmare for ACC defenses.
But Parker was overshadowed by another pass-catcher during the spring game. Tight end Gerald Christian had a monster game and looks poised to have a huge year in Petrino’s system. Last season, Christian caught 28 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns. Like Parker, he should see his numbers fly up this season.
And while Louisville will almost certainly feature a pass-first offense this season under Petrino, the Cards should be able to run the ball as well. Running backs Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer are back, and the Cards’ offensive line should be better than it was a year ago. Freshman running back L.J. Scott, who enrolled early and performed well in spring football, should also push for playing time.
Louisville is unlikely to keep the Florida State Seminoles from winning the ACC’s Atlantic Division again this season, particularly if the defense struggles. But even without Bridgewater, there is plenty of talent left in Louisville to make 10 wins a realistic goal.