April 28, 2006

Spring Football Grades

Now that the four weeks of spring practice have come and gone, CardinalSports.com is ready to weigh in with a quick report card for all nine position groups. While the Cardinal coaching staff's grades are infinitely more accurate, Howie Lindsey and Matt Willinger will take a quick stab at it as well.










Louisville Spring Grades
Quarterback: 10.0
Not only did Louisville fans see the miraculous recovery of quarterback Brian Brohm, the fans also got to see sophomore back-up Hunter Cantwell come into his own running the offense. Brohm's ability to drop-back, plant and throw 40-yards on the spot and Cantwell's 321 yards and three touchdowns in the Spring Game make it very difficult to give this group anything other than an A+. Bill Ashburn's three picks in the Spring Game overshadowed a strong late spring performance, and Pat Carter's athleticism could be an interesting option come next fall.
Running back: 8.5
While bruiser Michael Bush and second starter Kolby Smith missed some time during practice for various ailments, the Cardinals' stable of running backs is healthier than ever. Bush is a likely first or second-round draft pick in next spring's NFL Draft, Kolby Smith's 230-pound frame will have him high on some team's draft board and the speed and versatility of George Stripling and Sergio Spencer was impressive. The score increases because Illinois fullback Brock Bolen came into the spring ready to fight for carries and ended up playing first-team at fullback and fourth-string at tailback.

Wide receiver: 9.0
Even before sophomore wide receiver Mario Urrutia exploded for 143 yards and a touchdown on just five catches in the spring game, we were ready to claim him as the nation's top deep-threat receiver. Now, he's just adding icing to the cake. Super Mario averaged more than 25 yards a catch last season and he was the third option at wide receiver in most games. Beyond Mario, senior wideout Harry Douglas had possibly the best spring practice session of any player on the team. Duke transfer Corey Thompson was a welcome surprise, Scott Long is solid, Jimmy Riley is our sleeper pick for 2006 and the list of top receivers keeps growing with each practice.
Tight end: 7.5
Louisville's wideouts seemed to steal the spotlight in the spring, making us wonder what the offense may hold next season for the tight ends. Then in the Spring Game Gary Barnidge caught four passes for 45 yards and Scott Kuhn caught a pair of passes for 36 yards. Both were the second-leading receivers on their respective teams. We were also impressed by redshirt freshman Careg Bonner, but we can't help but wonder what he'd look like on defense or as a big back in the backfield.
Offensive line: 9.0
No offensive unit had more question marks after last season, and Coach Mike Summers delivered a masterful performance this spring. Sophomore Eric Wood owned his center spot, and is starting to take a leadership role. We were also happy to see Renardo Foster and big Kurt Quarterman re-unite at guard and tackle for one of the biggest one-two punches in the Big East. Nothing like 675 pounds anchoring one side of the line, eh? One the other, George Bussey seemed to edge out Danny Barlowe near the end and Marcel Benson appears to be the starter at tackle over Breno Giacomini.
Defensive line: 8.0
Fierce pass-rushed Elvis Dumervil is gone and run-stopper Montavious Stanley is going to the NFL. And as much talent as this group has, those two losses showed this spring. The Cards are deeper at defensive tackle than they were last fall, but we wonder if Amobi Okoye and Adrian Grady can be as strong for 11 straight games like Stanley was before missing the Gator Bowl with injury. At end, Brandon Cox had four sacks in the Spring Game, but can he and Zach Anderson make up for Elvis' production? Questions still remain.
Linebacker: 9.0
We fully expect Nate Harris to be an all-conference stud at middle linebacker next season and Lamar Myles may be just as good a year down the line. Louisville also has a ton of talent at outside backer. Abe Brown was challenged all spring for his starting role and the speed of Malik Jackson, skill of Preston Smith and flat out athletic ability of Terrance Butler makes the backers get our highest grade on defense.
Defensive backs: 7.0
While the young pups are growing up in the secondary, there still seems to be work to do. We just aren't sure whether the 511 yards passing in the Spring Game was all because of offensive talent or could it be that the defensive backs still struggle from time to time. We're guessing the first one. Will Gay is becoming the leader coaches had hoped for, Rod Council has big-time speed[/db] and Travis Norton and Bobby Buchanan are future stars. At safety, Jon Russell or Deon Palmer must step-up at strong safety and Brandon Sharp seemed to have a solid spring.
Special teams: 7.5
Louisville will have no problem with field goals and extra points. Sophomore Art Carmody had a solid spring, and the emergence of Marc Zucconi should also bode well for the Cardinal kicking game. Punter is still a question mark as are kickoffs, but new coach Tom McMahon will adjust quickly. Having talent like Pat Carter and JaJuan Spillman returning kicks should be exciting this next season.


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