Bobby Petrino is making his return to the Louisville Cardinals and he is bringing his patented style of high-paced offense with him as the program transitions into the ACC. He’ll have a new quarterback under center this fall, officially naming Will Gardner to the role this week, and a number of playmakers even without the services of the injured DeVante Parker. With Petrino calling the shots, expect Gardner to emerge as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the ACC this season.
Gardner has looked strong all offseason in the hunt to replace Teddy Bridgewater under center. While most teams would expect a step back when losing a player like Bridgewater, Gardner may be poised to match his predecessor’s production from 2013 where he threw for 3,970 yards and 31 touchdowns. The biggest reason could be Gardner’s physical ability and quick grasp of the offense that has made him the clear choice for starting quarterback since the spring.
But another factor is Petrino’s offense. Last season, Charlie Strong was content to get a lead and then sit on it. Parker even came out this summer accusing the previous regime of “taking their foot off the pedal” when the Cardinals had the advantage. That mentality of shortening the game, while effective in winning games, likely stunted the offensive production of the Louisville playmakers. Under Petrino, that won’t be a problem.
While Petrino has left a wake of controversy wherever he has gone, there’s no denying the offensive acumen of his gameplans. Quarterbacks under Petrino have enjoyed great success over the years as the offense is geared towards creating big plays with high-percentage passes. If Gardner continues to look as comfortable in that offense as he has during the spring and fall camp, then he should reap the benefits of playing in this wide-open offensive attack.
Transition in college football can be difficult and Louisville faces a major transition losing their head coach and starting quarterback. However, the combination of Bobby Petrino and Will Gardner should help alleviate the growing pains of this particular transition and translate into a truly prolific season for Gardner and the Cardinals’ passing attack.