The really good news on the University of Louisville quarterback situation is that Will Gardner has been cleared by the medical staff and will be competing for starting position when fall camp opens Thursday.
Gardner, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior, separated himself from the pack last season, completed 127 passes for 1,669 yards and 12 touchdowns. That, of course, was before he tore an ACL in left knee in the 10th game against Boston College. He underwent surgery on the knee in April, later saying it felt stronger than ever.
Let’s hope that’s true because Gardner brings confidence and accuracy to the quarterback position, qualities that will be badly needed with a largely untested offensive line. He faced many of the same challenges last season, putting up some respectable numbers, playing injured most of the time.
Coach Bobby Petrino keeps saying that Reggie Bonnafon would be the starter if the season started this week. Bobby knows best but UofL fans can’t help but remember Bonnafon’s less-than-stellar performances against Clemson and Kentucky last season, all those over and under throws and all those frustrating third-down mishaps.
Bonnafon actually played in two more games than Gardner last season, competing 61 passes for 864 yards for five touchdowns before going down in the UK game. He was good for only one completion in the embarrassing 37-14 loss to Georgia in the Belk Bowl.
Players often make some significant strides between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Bonnafon would have to have made some major improvements in his game if he is going to be successful in the opener against Auburn in the Chick fil A opener.
Gardner was hobbled three times last season, in the fourth game against Florida International, missing the next two games before returning in the second half against Clemson. He had UofL on Clemson’s two-yard when the game ended.
If Gardner can make it safely through fall camp, don’t be surprised to see him calling signals at the Georgia Dome.