BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 12-1; BIG EAST: 6-1
Won Orange Bowl vs. Wake Forest 24-13
LOCATION: Louisville, Kentucky
STADIUM: Papa John’s Cardinal (42,000)
HEAD COACH: Steve Kragthorpe
OVERALL: 29-22 (4 seasons)
AT LOUISVILLE: 0-0 (0 seasons)
How close were the Cardinals to facing the Ohio St. Buckeyes in the Bowl Championship Series title game last season? Just an offsides call away…that’s how close. With the score tied at 25 at Rutgers, a game the Cardinals led 25-7 in the second quarter, the Scarlet Knights kicker Lance Ito missed a potential game-winning field in the final seconds. However, an offsides penalty gave Ito a second chance and “the judge” drilled it, leading to a wave of Rutgers fans storming the field, as well as ending any National Title hopes Louisville had.
WHEN THE BIRDS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Charlie Stubbs/Jeff Brohm (1st Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Michael Bush, Kolby Smith, Renardo Foster
The Cardinals have potentially the most explosive offense in the nation with a troika of stars headlining a nearly impossible to stop passing attack. It all starts with Brian Brohm, a strong candidate to be the number one overall pick in the upcoming National Football League Draft. He brings size, with a strong and accurate arm -- there is nothing he cannot do in the pocket. The only concern is his ability to stay healthy, which could put any championship aspirations in jeopardy. He has the weapons as well, beginning with potential All-American Mario Urrutia, who towers over opposing corners with his 6’6” height. Outperforming Urrutia last season was Harry Douglas, the speedster, who set a school record for receiving yards in a single season. Tight end Gary Barnidge is yet another target. The names are not as recognizable in the running game, but they are solid. True sophomore Anthony Allen, AKA Baby Bush, provides the power with George Stripling a threat every time he touches the rock. The line should be among the best, led by left tackle George Bussey and center Eric Wood.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Brian Brohm (SR), 2) Mario Urrutia (JR), 3) Harry Douglas (SR), 4) Art Carmody (SR), 5) Gary Barnidge (SR), 6) Eric Wood (JR), 7) Patrick Carter (SR), 8) Brian Roche (SO), 9) George Bussey (SR), 10) Anthony Allen (SO)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Mike Cassity (4th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 5
KEY LOSSES: Amobi Okoye, Nate Harris, Brandon Sharp, William Gay
The Cardinals must replace many of their top players on this side of the ball beginning with impact defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, likely the school’s best defender since Tom Jackson. Despite losing Okoye, as well as leading tackler Nate Harris (a transfer from Miami), the front seven could actually be stronger in 2007. Four linemen and three linebackers have starting experience with Malik Jackson the leader of the defense. True sophomore Peanut Whitehead has the ability to be an impact pass rusher, while Willie Williams another Miami transfer might just be the most talented player they have on defense. Whitehead, Williams and Jackson all know how to get to the quarterback. There is ability in the defensive backfield as well, with the return of Jon Russell from injury and the addition of Woodny Turenne, one of the top junior college corners.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Peanut Whitehead (SO), 2) Malik Jackson (SR), 3) Willie Williams (SR), 4) Rod Council (JR), 5) Latarrius Thomas (SO), 6) Adrian Grady (JR), 7) Earl Heyman (JR), 8) Jon Russell (SR)
Like most of the Big East contenders, Louisville’s season will likely come down to a handful of games, although they deserve some credit for at least playing three out of conference games they could lose: at Kentucky, at North Carolina St. and Utah at home -- not great but respectable. Nevertheless, the reality is they are expected to be 8-0 when they visit the Mountaineers for the showdown in Morgantown, potentially the game of the year in college football, which is sure to be a high scoring affair. Afterwards, they cannot afford to overlook a trip to South Florida to take on the Bulls the following week or their season finale at home against Rutgers, the only team that left their contest versus the Cardinals as the winner in 2006.
The new coaching staff and how they handle the jump to the Big East is vital. Headman Steve Kragthorpe has been simply brilliant making three bowls in four seasons at Tulsa, including a record setting single season improvement as he turned a 1-11 cellar dweller into a respectable 8-5 squad. How he meshes with Brohm will be key and I am not talking about the quarterback. Older brother Jeff Brohm remains with the program, but he will be working with the offensive minded Kragthorpe for the first time in his inaugural season as offensive coordinator to go along with his duties as quarterbacks coach. Charlie Stubbs comes over from Tulsa where he served as offensive coordinator the last four seasons, a job he must now share, in addition to coaching up the wide outs.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
Many are picking the West Virginia Mountaineers to win the Big East based on the fact the clash of the Big East titans will take place on Mountaineer Field…but who is the better team? With Brohm at quarterback, a bevy of receivers and a capable running game it will be hard for anyone to match Louisville’s combination of explosiveness with balance. Moreover, on the defensive side of the ball they are ready to surprise some people with their speed, which will allow them to get after the quarterback, wreck havoc and create turnovers.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #5 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown