Scouting C-USA: Louisville

John L. Smith has taken this program very close to the top and the hopes are '02 will be the breakthrough season as there is talk in Louisville of possibly getting an invite to a BCS contest. They have what it takes; a great signal caller, a fierce defensive line and solid secondary. They also have a boatload of fine pro-prospects.

Louisville Cardinals

The headliner from this program, and with good cause, will be quarterback Dave Ragone. A tall, slim, passer, Ragone has all the mental intangibles the NFL wants in a young signal caller coming out of college. He is smart, accurate and a true team leader. Scouting him in person last year on a Thursday night game when the Cardinals wrapped up the league championship against East Carolina we were taken back by Ragone's great sense of timing, wherewithal and general feel for where his receivers are at all times. His fundamentals are sound, accuracy much better than average and decision-making tops. While Ragone displays the ability to zip the shorter passes he does not have the big arm but that could change as his skinny frame fills out. To our minds he's a lot like last April's first pick David Carr in that he more than makes up for average physical skills with a great mental capacity (working with a pair of new receivers this season can prove that statement correct) and hence will be an early pick in '03. One of Ragone's favorite targets is Rhonnie Ghent, a pass catching tight end that plays the game with a good degree of speed. Many love Ghent and have him highly rated, even on top of the tight end charts; we are a little cool to that idea. While he is a good athlete that runs nice routes and adjusts well to the errant throw, Ghent is prone to lapses in concentration resulting in the occasional drop of an easy toss and has only minimal impact as a blocker. His build also dictates that he will never grow into a dominant blocker and that sort of prospect (adequate pass catcher with minimal blocking skills) is not highly sought out come draft day.

While the offense will win a lot of awards the defense is what can carry this team to the next level. The talk and focus is on lineman Dewayne White; a relentless defensive end that displays great pass rush ability, making a lot of plays in the opponents backfield but at the same time doing an adequate job stopping the run or stringing the action out laterally. White goes 100mph all game long and is a real asset for the Cards but to our minds he just does not project entirely well to the next level. Barely 6-2/280 he's short for end, not big enough for tackle nor fast enough to play off the line as a three-four linebacker. His best position may be as an under-tackle in a four-three alignment or even playing the "three technique" in a similar scheme. Bottom line is White, only a junior, may be a collegian with eye-popping numbers that slides on draft day whenever he declares himself eligible. One player that really benefited from staying four years in college is free safety Anthony Floyd; a terrific pass defending centerfielder with great awareness and top notch cover skills. Floyd works well with his corners and is always making positive plays when the ball is in the air. One aspect of his game that he improved is run support; he was much more aggressive as a junior than prior years defending the ball carrier. A few solid forty times prior to next April coupled with a good showing at the Senior Bowl and Floyd could be headed for a top forty choice. Strong safety Curry Burns is not as adept in pass coverage but a hard-hitting run defender that really throws his body around the field and looks to get involved in the action. A later round choice, his aggressive play leads us to believe he will be a special teams demon. Chad Lee has some possibilities as a strong side linebacker while sophomore corner Ronnie Gallishaw looks like a top-notch prospect for the future.

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