The Louisville football team is coming off a disappointing season where they lost a handful of close games due to a myriad of reasons. One thing that they did do well is put up yardage on offense. The offense finished 10th in the country in yards per play and they were top-25 in total offense.
However, the offense finished the season ranked 40th in scoring offense. They just couldn’t get the ball in the endzone enough and that was also due to a myriad of reasons. This season, the wide receiver group will be revamped, but the rest of the offense returns intact with an experienced offensive line and a new weapon in the backfield to help Malik Cunningham.
Khalib Johnson/Brock Domann
Not a lot of intrigue at the quarterback position with Malik Cunningham coming back as the starter. Malik has been working to improve as a pocket passer even though he made strides there last season. Malik was efficient last season but his legs became a major factor in how the offense operated. In order for this offense to take the needed step forward, Malik has to lead the offense with his arm from him and the staff has worked to make that possible.
The backup spot will be interesting to track as Evan Conley was injured at some point in the season and he missed the spring period. Khalib Johnson and Brock Domann got a lot of reps because of this so they should be in a position to push Conley for snaps in fall camp and they could potentially push their way onto the field if the opportunity arises. While I see Conley being the second guy up, the competition from the guys behind him is needed.
Jalin Mitchell/Tiyon Evans
My dream scenario is Scott Satterfield putting these guys on the depth chart in alphabetical order with “or” next to each name. I don’t think they can go wrong with any of these guys being the starter in game one but Cooley is the guy that I think has the best skill set to do all they need at the running back position. Cooley has had a full year to become the pass protector needed in this scheme and his pass-catching ability sets him apart from the group in my opinion.
As for the rest of the group, Tiyon Evans has the best speed and elusiveness at the point of attack. Jawhar Jordan has the best potential when it comes to breaking big runs. He also runs extremely hard and earns his yards. Mitchell is your consistent performer who could earn him the starting job that he had last season. You know what you get with him and he can do it all, though he doesn’t have the breakaway speed that they need in this offense.
UofL doesn’t designate their receiver positions on the depth chart but I’ve always viewed this as the “X” receiver spot. We’ve seen Seth Dawkins, Justin Marshall, and Tyler Harrell play this spot and I see Wiggins taking this spot in the fall. Wiggins has shown the ability to run the full route tree and I pointed out when I have signed that I was pleasantly surprised by his deep speed. Lance Taylor has to find a way to blunt the loss of Harrell’s speed and Wiggins is the best option as of now.
Depth is a real issue for this group but the staff has made it clear that Jaelin Carter is a guy that they will get on the field this year. I have battled some injuries last season but Carter is a big body at the receiver position who has shown some potential to be a guy who can make contested catches. During his time at EKU, he caught 5 touchdown passes and his size from him is valuable for an offense that needs to expand its passing offense in the red zone.
UofL has had some struggles when it comes to recruiting wide receivers over the last handful of years but Ahmari Huggins-Bruce appears to be a guy that could become a star in this offense. AHB ended up with 444 yards last year as a reserve receiver who worked his way into a key factor. Over the last four games, he put up 3 touchdowns and showed that he could make plays at different levels in the passing game.
Braden Smith missed this spring after being arrested and charged with assault. However, he was spotted on the field during spring practices and the spring scrimmage so it seems possible that he will rejoin the team at some point. If that is the case, I think he will probably be the fourth receiver in the group and he will be the second slot receiver in the group. Smith is a proven option for the offense but AHB has a higher ceiling and he will likely be the first option in the slot.
When Jordan Watkins transferred, I assumed that Tyler Harrell would slide into this spot and become the first option for the offense. While I don’t know how the staff adjusted, Tyler Hudson appears to be the option to man this spot going forward. The top of the depth chart is solid with Hudson coming in as an FCS All-American and showing some solid skills in the spring scrimmage. His long frame and wide catch radius are much needed within this group.
Chris Bell is a personal favorite of mine when it comes to this recruiting class and while I always felt that he would see the field early, his appearance in the two-deep before he even arrives on campus isn’t necessarily a good thing. Bell will likely see the field but I expect UofL to add a transfer here to play a role as an outside receiver.
Louisville has to find a way to replace the big play ability of Harrell. He may not have had a lot of catches last year but he made the most of each opportunity when he got the ball. He also forced defenses to respect his speed which means other guys had more space to get open. I would expect the staff to look to bring in another deep threat via the portal.
Scott Satterfield needs more from this group and bringing Josh Stepp could breathe new life into the position. Dez Melton had one catch last season but that single catch showed that he is athletic and has the ability to make plays. However, Melton didn’t see the ball come his way much and it’s hard not to think that there was a reason for that. Ean Pfiefer was a converted offensive lineman and Satterfield still felt comfortable calling plays for him.
It’s possible that Francis Sherman earns the starting spot here if he can show himself to be the better blocker. UofL will need to run the football this year and being dominant in that area could be dependent on that sixth blocker at the line of scrimmage.
Marshon Ford returns as the key to the offense with his ability to block in the run game and get open in the passing game. My hope is that he can return to the h-back role that was more focused on him being an option in the short passing game but the loss of Tyler Harrell likely means that he will be relied on as an option out wide again this season.
Isaac Martin is another veteran on the offense but I would be surprised if Duane Martin doesn’t push for an elevated role on the offense. UofL is solid at this spot from a depth standpoint but it will be interesting to see if Satterfield utilizes these guys more in the red zone.
The strength of the entire offense is the offensive line and the team as a whole will need this group to take the next step forward to have success. Cole Bentley has exhausted his eligibility and signed with the Arizona Cardinals but the group should be fine with Bryan Hudson moving into the starting role. Hudson started the Clemson game last year and the offense had a strong outing.
The rest of the group returns and another offseason should only help them grow into a better unit. UofL also has great depth with Michael Gonzalez and Luke Kandra pushing the starters every day. Gonzalez played plenty of snaps last season as a true freshman and Kandra looked very good when he got on the field last season.
The staff feels like they have nine guys who can play on the line, so they should be able to withstand injuries this season. They should also be able to utilize that depth to avoid wear and tear throughout the season. Being able to avoid some bumps and bruises could be a big deal with the way the 2022 schedule finishes up.
James Turner/Brock Travelstead
Louisville’s special teams were pretty abysmal last season even though they had James Turner returning after an outstanding season. Unfortunately, Turner became the main issue with the group as he missed 8 field goals on the year which included 3 kicks in games that the Cards lost by 3 points or less. The staff made the move to Brock Travelstead in the bowl game and the former Army All-American should have a shot to win the job this fall.
Jahwar Jordan had an impressive kickoff return for a touchdown in the bowl game and I think he will be a weapon in the return game this season. He has great speed and his ability to run with toughness should help him extend some returns for more yardage than some of the other options.