Louisville Has New Weapons Ready To Emerge For Lamar Jackson

    Louisville is looking to remain an ACC contender in 2017. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson will be surrounded by new playmakers in the fall.

    March 22, 2017

    Louisville is looking to remain an ACC contender in 2017. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson will be surrounded by new playmakers in the fall.

    Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino met with the media on Tuesday evening as spring football practice commenced for the Cardinals in preparation for the 2017 season. The Cardinals conducted their first of 15 practices ahead of their annual spring game, which takes place on April 15 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

    Of course, the biggest area of concern for Petrino and his coaching staff this year is protecting star Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was particularly battered in the last three games of the 2016 season—all losses. New offensive line coach Mike Summers has been brought in to oversee a unit that lost three starters. The play of a beleaguered O-Line will likely go down as the biggest key to whether the Cards can seriously compete for an ACC Atlantic division crown in the fall.

    However, the Cards also have to replace some key playmakers from an offense that averaged 42.5 points per game last season behind the arm and legs of Jackson. Running back Brandon Radcliff, receivers James Quick and Jamari Staples and tight end Cole Hikutini are all gone. Petrino, though, likes what he has coming back.

    Petrino has tabbed tailback Jeremy Smith as “the front-runner” to replace Radcliff as the starter, and he also praised 6-foot-1, 235-pound redshirt freshman Dae Williams, who is more of a power back. Smith’s game experience and past results should make Cardinal fans rest easy.

    At tight end, Petrino cited the experience of senior Charles Standberry and junior Micky Crum, so that’s an area that the coaching staff does not believe will be a concern. Former Texas A&M pass-catcher Jordan Davis is a talent who could be in the mix, as well, but Petrino says he “has a ways to go.”

    Perhaps the biggest concern for fans of The ‘Ville heading into the new season was at receiver, although Petrino sounded very optimistic at the open of spring ball. Quick and Staples were quite the talents, but Petrino singled out third-year sophomore Emonee Spence and senior Javonte Bagley as having nice first days of practice.

    Spence is a former four-star recruit who has battled the injury bug during his time with the Cards. He only saw limited action as a true freshman before missing all of last year with a fractured foot.

    “Emonee had one of the best camps we had going last [preseason before the injury],” Petrino said. “It’s great to have him back out there. He can play inside and outside. He’s really quick, and I think he’s going to be a good runner after the catch, too, which is something we need to add.”

    And while Bagley didn’t see a ton of playing time last year, not playing football until his junior year of high school means he is still raw and adjusting to the game.

    “He has all kinds of talent, and we just keep waiting for it to turn on,” Petrino said. “This is the year he really has to come out and make good plays for us.”

    Sophomore receiver Seth Dawkins is the favorite to start on the outside, while former quarterback Reggie Bonnafon is playing both outside and slot. Speedy junior slot man Traveon Samuel will also see plenty of action because of his quickness and big-play ability.

    Over these 15 practices, the Cardinals’ defending Heisman Trophy winner will be looking to develop rapport with his new cast of playmakers. At least after one practice, though, Petrino sounded optimistic about the future of his offense.

    That is, of course, if his star quarterback is properly protected.

    MORE: Jacob Eason’s Maturation As Leader Will Dictate UGA’s Season


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