The Louisville Cardinals are in dire need of a winning football season, especially after their 2020 letdown. Louisville went from having an 8-5 record in 2019 to a 4-7 record in 2020. Things had better get better quickly.
Attrition striking during the off season, with UofL losing four assistant coaches, including OC Dwayne Ledford to the Atlanta Falcons, and two of their top offensive players for the NFL in wide receivers Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick going to the Rams and Titans, respectively. With college football odds experts already at work predicting what the season will look like for the top college football programs in the country, what can UofL fans expect? Let’s break it down.
Will Satterfield be able to make offense elite again?
After seeing the departure of former OC Dwayne Ledford to the NFL, Coach Scott Satterfield decided that head coaching was not enough in his curriculum so he would take up the offensive coordinator gig as well with his team. Right from the get go it is of the utmost importance for Satterfield to address the two most dominant issues in the offense. One is trying to make QB Malik Cunningham a reliable and respectable starting QB for the Cardinals and the other is how to rebuild an offense who lost their main weapons to the NFL draft.
While Cunningham’s first season with Louisville saw him play at a very good level, leading him to be considered the third best QB in the ACC, his second season on the job was not anywhere close to where he was needed and expected to be. Cunningham went from being the top option for the position in Louisville to having a season with a dozen interceptions as well as three lost fumbles. Satterfield needs to get to work in fixing his QB, first of all eradicating his turnover problems and exploiting his solid mid-range passing skills as well as his running talents.
Now, while Satterfield can end up working wonders with Cunningham, nothing will matter as long as he does not find a way to recoup from losing his main offensive weapons to the NFL. While their usual “go-to” players are gone; Louisville can build off having the competition to become the top performers in the team open. This season will be pivotal for guys like Braden Smith, Hassan Hall, Jalen Mitchell and Jordan Watkins to go for it all and become immediate impact stars in the Cardinals offense.
Expect great things from the Cardinals’ defense
While on the offensive side of the ball Louisville has long strides to take in order to perform significantly better than in 2020, on the defensive side of the ball things are looking more positive. Even in a losing season Louisville ended up ranking in the top half of the ACC in total defense, with the Cards defensive unit limiting their opponents to less than 200 passing yards per game. With this said, the job for DC Bryan Brown is clear and concise, improving the run defense. Having guys like YaYa Diaby and Tabarius Peterson as well as Malik Clark, C.J. Avery, Monty Montgomery, Yasir Abdullah and the returning Marvin Dallas all coming back in full health and ready for action will seriously benefit a Louisville defense that wants to go out and prove that they could be one of the top defenses in the ACC.
In the secondary, while three starters departed Louisville, there might be a diamond in the rough here that some people are overlooking. Former Liberty CB standout Kei´Trel Clark had an outstanding first season at Louisville, with some numbers that put him up there at the top of the ACC rankings, all this while not even having a full offseason with the Cardinals since he joined the program during the fall camp. His man to man coverages resemble another former Cardinals great DB, Jaire Alexander and with a full offseason to prepare he can easily be one of the cornerstones for Louisville’s defense and earn some very well earned national recognition as one of the best CB’s in the game.
Scott Satterfield has his work cut out for him. First of all, working on fixing his relationship with the Louisville fan base is a must, especially after being involved in the South Carolina head coach hunt. He did write a letter of apology to the Cardinals fans, but much more is needed here. If he can work on the needed improvements that this offense needs and the defense can continue on their way to becoming an elite ACC defensive unit, bright days might be ahead for Louisville.
The main key will be just how much Malik Cunningham can improve again. If Cunningham betters his accuracy and decision-making with a crop of new receivers then again, bright days might be ahead, if not, then Louisville should pray for some lucky breaks to finish the season above the .500 mark.