Position series: Quarterbacks

Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. Our first installment provides a look at the Cardinals quarterbacks.

OVERVIEW

It's the battle everyone is talking about with the University of Louisville football team: Who will be the Cardinals' starting quarterback on Sept. 5 when they face off against Auburn.

U of L coach Bobby Petrino even joked a week ago about "all the questions" about the QB position.

But it has been the focal point of the media and fans since the end of last season and with so many options to play the position there's been constant chatter about the position.

"We have some options," Petrino said recently.

But the staff is in no hurry to name a starter. Junior Will Gardner, who started seven games last season before a season-ending knee injury, sophomore Reggie Bonnafon, sophomore Kyle Bolin and true freshman Lamar Jackson appear to be the top candidates to take over the position for the Cardinals.

"They're grinding," U of L offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said. "We don't expect any mistakes and they're doing a good job. Right now, we are just trying to get better every day. We are trying to grow.

"They're all about equal."

Gardner, who underwent surgery for the third time on the same knee, said last week he was even a little surprised himself at how well he had recovered and was back on the field.

Bonnafon started five games last season before getting injured in the Kentucky game. Bolin came in and rallied the Cardinals for a victory against UK and then started the Belk Bowl against Georgia.

Jackson is a highly-rated freshman dual-threat quarterback.

"I like our guys," Petrino said. "They're all working hard and they are competitive."

BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER

Reggie Bonnafon, Sophomore

Sure, it's hard to consider him a breakthrough candidate when last season he won a game on the road at Notre Dame and he had the Cardinals' in position to win at Clemson and won a road game also at Syracuse.

But with Bonnafon there's always been some skeptics among the fans.

Petrino said a week prior to fall camp that Bonnafon would be the starter if they had to line up that day and several folks have suggested the staff has game-planned a lot with Bonnafon as the guy under center.

Bonnafon looked a lot different in spring ball than he did prior to getting hurt against Kentucky. He was fifth in the team in rushing last season and that really sets him a part from Gardner and Bolin.

If he wins the job, Bonnafon will star for the Cardinals' this season.

SLEEPER

Lamar Jackson, Freshman

It's the second straight season with a true freshman in this slot with Bonnafon the sleeper last season. Jackson comes from Boynton Beach, Fla., and has said since the day he committed that he would play this season.

There's no guarantee but he's getting a lot of high praise from the staff.

Jackson is an electrifying athlete with speed and the leaping ability to use that athleticism as a major threat with the ball in his hands. It's hard to imagine the staff will want to redshirt Jackson.

But it's also hard to figure where he will get a lot of time. Will he have a package to put him in the game at some point? Maybe even as a 'wild card' type of back? hard to tell, but one thing is certain and that's the staff loves his potential and the future.

EXTRA POINTS

***Bolin has played in four career games and completed 45 of 78 passes for 716 yards and four touchdowns. He threw for 381 yards in the dramatic come-from-behind win over Kentucky.

***Bonnafon's high game as a freshman was his first career start - against Wake Forest - when he completed 16 of 32 passes for 206 yards. He had 180 and one TD on the road at Notre Dame in a victory.

***Gardner has played in 14 career games and has 1,781 career passing yards with 14 TDs. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 112 yards and two TDs in mop-up duty for Teddy Bridgewater two years ago.

***Junior Tyler Ferguson, a transfer from Penn State, seems to be the odd man out.

***Ethan Horton is another player on the U of L depth chart as a quarterback. He's a sophomore walk-on from Leslie County High School in Hyden, Ky. Horton is a 6-foot, 210-pound signal caller.

COMING UP

***Check out from earlier today for a video about the quarterback position and later for a feature on Reggie Bonnafon and a few quotes from each of the QBs battling for playing time.

***Our second day of the position series comes tomorrow with a look at the cornerback position.


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