New coach takes over rising program
Obviously, the big storyline in Louisville is new coach Steve Kragthorpe. Kragthorpe, who guided Tulsa to three bowl games in four seasons, takes over one of the hottest rising programs in the nation.
If Louisville is one of the top up and coming programs nationally, so too is Krathorpe after going 29-22 at Tulsa. Now, Kragthorpe is blessed with a legitimate Top 10 team who has aspirations of competing for the BCS championship.
the upcoming season.
Taking over for Bobby Petrino, though, won't be an easy task. In fact, Kragthorpe has big shoes to fill. While Petrino might not have been the most loved coach on campus, his teams were consistently excellent and entertaining. Fans liked Petrino's high-scoring offense – and his team's results.
Can Kragthorpe take Louisville to new heights? Will his offense be as explosive and high scoring as the one's Petrino annually put on the field? How will the players embrace Kragthorpe's system and coaching style? All excellent questions folks in Louisville look forward to finding out this season.
"This has probably been the longest four months of my life getting ready for this camp in terms of concluding spring practice in April and wanting to continue to practice with these guys," Kragthorpe said. "I'm excited to get on this field and start to mold and shape this team."
The Louisville fans are excited about this team, too.
Cards gunning for first BCS title
Louisville has some unfinished business heading into the 2007 season. Last season, the Cardinals were close to playing for the BCS title. If not for a heartbreaking three-point upset loss to Rutgers late in the season, Louisville, which rose to No. 3 in the national polls, would have played Ohio State for the BCS championship last January.
With an experienced and talented team returning, the Louisville players are determined to take things a step further this season. Sure another Big East title would be nice. But the Cardinals, led by Heisman candidate Brian Brohm, are shooting for a shot at the title this year.
There are questions on both sides of the ball that need to be answered, but Louisville has as much talent – or more - as anyone they'll face during the '07 regular season. If the Cards go 12-0 in the tough Big East conference, they'll play for all the marbles.
"The expectations have changed since I've been here," Eric Wood said. "As a team, we want to play for the national title and win it. That's a long way away and we're going to prepare hard for every game and take it one game at a time."
Brohm aiming for Heisman
Brian Brohm is probably the top quarterback in college football this year. He's rated as the top NFL prospect by ESPN's Mel Kiper. He's got the stats, the pedigree and the right offensive system to showcase his talents.
Can Brohm win the Heisman? Sure. Will it be easy? Are you kidding? With guys like Rutgers Ray Rice and West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton, it's conceivable that Brohm could win the Heisman and not the Big East's offensive player of the year award.
Brohm enters the season as one of the top Heisman contenders in the nation. There's no question he'll receive plenty of national attention and publicity with at least seven games slated for ESPN coverage. If Louisville wins the Big East, Brohm will likely be invited to New York for the Heisman presentation. If the Cards go 12-0, he'll take home the trophy.
With Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia catching passes, Brohm could put up significantly better passing stats than the 3,049 yards and 16 touchdowns he passed for last season. The key: Brohm must stay healthy. In each of the last two years, Brohm has missed games because of injury. If he wants to hoist the Heisman, Brohm will need an injury-free year.
Will the offensive line hold up?
Louisville's offensive line has already taken one big hit before preseason camp has even begun. Projected starting right guard Marcel Benson will miss the season because of a heart condition, making a position that was already a concern a definite trouble spot.
The Cardinals have plenty of talent and experience. Three starters return, including All-Big East performers Eric Wood and George Bussey. Breno Giacomini has plenty of experience and Benson's probable replacement, Mike Donoghue, is ready to step into the starting rotation.
The problem for Louisville isn't the first five; it's the depth behind the starters. Here's the problem in a nutshell. If one of the starters goes down, Louisville will have to rely on guys with zero game experience. Sure redshirt freshmen Conrad Thomas, Josh Byrom and Jeff Adams have plenty of talent and potential, but they haven't played a down in college.
So, someone will have to step up and provide depth if Louisville is to reach their potential and realize their national title hopes.
Can the defense replace departed stars?
The Louisville defense was a major reason the Cardinals went 12-1, won the Big East title and defeated Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl last season.
Now, defensive coordinator Mike Cassity faces the difficult challenge of replacing five talented starters, including a Top 10 NFL Draft pick (DT Amobi Okoye), the team's leading tackler, (LB Nate Harris), and an All-Big East/NFL Draft choice (CB Will Gay).
Fortunately, Cassity has plenty of talent returning. Malik Jackson, Lamar Myles, Preston Smith and JUCO transfer Willie Williams are one of the top linebacker corps in the nation. On the defensive line, Adrian Grady, Earl Heyman, Peanut Whitehead and Brandon Cox should be able to disrupt things up front.
The key for the Cards will be replacing Gay, safety Brandon Sharp and corner Gavin Smart in the secondary. CB Rod Council, FS Jon Russell and SS Latarrius Thomas could be the nucleus for an outstanding secondary.
Kragthorpe brought in a pair of JUCO stars – Woodney Turenne and Chaz Thompson to help solidify the secondary. How quickly they adjust to major college football could determine how successful the defense is this season.
There also appears to be plenty of depth. Redshirt freshman Johnny Patrick showed promise during the spring, and Bobby Buchanan, Richard Raglin and Travis Norton all have plenty of game experience. If that wasn't enough, two talented freshman - redshirt Brandon Heath and C.J. Peake - could make immediate impacts at safety.