Five questions for spring practice

Spring practice gets underway this week at the University of Louisville, and we've put together five important questions Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino and his staff will be looking to answer in the next few weeks.

Who will emerge as replacements for Jason Spitz, Travis Leffew and Jeremy Darveau on the offensive line? Spitz and Leffew were fixtures on the U of L offensive line the past few seasons. The two started next to each other every game Petrino has coached at Louisville, and were major reasons why the Cardinal offense has enjoyed so much success the past three seasons. Both were all-conference selections as seniors and figure to be solid NFL Draft selections this spring. Darveau stepped in for an injured Renardo Foster midway through the 2004 season at tackle. He did an admirable job as a starter for a season and half. Who will fill the voids? If Foster can return from back and knee surgery, he'd be an ideal replacement for Darveau. Danny Barlow, a 6-5, 290-pound junior, might be the frontrunner to replace Spitz at guard, while junior college transfers Marcus Gordon and Marcel Benson could enter into the mix at either tackle or guard. Keep an eye on talented redshirt freshman Brian Roche. Roche sat out last season to rehab an injury, but was considered one of the nation's best linemen coming out of high school two years ago. If he's fully recovered, Roche could challenge for playing time at any number of positions. Eric Wood and Kurt Quarterman appear firmly entrenched at center, and guard, respectively.

Where will the supremely athletic Pat Carter end up? A transfer from Georgia Tech, Carter has the size (6-3, 210) and speed (4.4) to play any number of positions. A highly regarded quarterback in high school, Carter might given a chance to split reps with Hunter Cantwell in Brian Brohm's absence this spring. More likely, though, Carter will eventually end up at either receiver or in the defensive backfield.

Georgia Tech transfer Pat Carter
will display his talents this spring
for the Cardinals. The only
question is what position the
athletic 6-3, 210-pounder will play.

Are returning secondary starters Will Gay, Rod Council, Brandon Sharp and Jon Russell secure in their jobs? While the Louisville secondary struggled last season, the unit showed improvement as the season progressed, particularly when Russell replaced Antoine Sharp at safety. Council appears a lock at one corner, and Gay, a two-year starter, has the upper hand over potential competitors. However, there are plenty of young and talented options behind the returning veterans. Corners Travis Norton and Bobby Buchanan figure to push both Council and Gay all spring, and both have the talent to supplant either returning starter. Keep and eye on safeties Richard Raglin and Lamar Alston. Both played last season as true freshman and have the talent to push for playing time this spring.

Will the running game suffer because of the losses along the offensive line? Sure Michael Bush returns. Sure Kolby Smith returns. Sure George Strippling returns. Without question, that trio represents the best group of running backs in the Big East. But will the losses of Spitz, Leffew, and Darveau negatively affect what has been a potent U of L rushing attack the past two seasons? There's no question the Cardinals will be less experienced upfront next season. There's also little question Louisville won't be any smaller along the front than they were last season. If anything, they might be bigger. (Foster stands 6-7, 320, Gordon stands 6-6, 330, Benson stands 6-6, 325, and Roche 6-5, 310). There's plenty of beef, talent and potential to suggest the new group can get it done and open holes from the Cardinals talented trio of running backs. But until the new unit is solidified and proves it on the field, the rushing attack has to be considered a question mark.

Who will emerge as a big time player after a redshirt season? Last year, Mario Urrutia emerged as a future star after an outstanding spring practice. Who will it be this year? Keep an eye on Jonathan Holston. He's big, he's fast and he might become a great one at defensive end. Other redshirts to watch: Brian Roche. Roche turned down Notre Dame to play for Louisville and could become the next great offensive linemen for the Cardinals. Careg Bonner. Bonner appears to be an athletic tight end/H-Back with excellent hands and good speed. He reminds of former Louisville standout Ibn Green, and could be a major surprise this spring.

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