2018 Louisville football projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord
College football won’t soon see another player quite like Lamar Jackson. The 2016 Heisman trophy winner put together an even better season in 2017 and leaves Louisville as one of the sport’s brightest stars of recent memory.
But the world hasn’t stopped turning for Bobby Petrino and his football program. In fact, it’s been a busy offseason. Not only is the offense void of its quarterback and leading rusher, but also its second and third leading rushers. On top of that the defense loses seven starters from a season ago. As well they are breaking in a new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who is implementing a new defense this offseason.
Jawon Pass is the heir apparent at QB, and he put together an impressive spring to back that up. Like Jackson, Pass is very athletic and was a heralded recruit that many other schools felt would play another position. He should remind many of Jackson with his drive to prove his talent at QB. Expect him to put together a big season through the air as the Cards return their top four pass catchers from a season ago. Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick and Seth Dawkins each grabbed more than 40 passes for more than 640 yards last season. Smith, like Pass, is also following talented lineage at his position as he has developed into a big wide out for UL. Trey Smith and Dae Williams should both produce well at the RB spot, as well as complement Pass nicely.
We’ve already hit on the key points with the defense. A new coordinator, system and seven missing starters from 2017. But it’s worth noting there’s plenty of talent to field a solid first 11. The key to depth will be unproven and incoming underclassmen.
At linebacker there’s Dorian Etheridge, who led the team with 83 tackles as a freshman last season. He’s been noted as the leader defensively by players and coaches this spring. CJ Avery and PJ Blue are also at linebacker now, and physically-imposing freshman Robert Hicks also looks ready to contribute. The D-Line will need steady production from GG Robinson and Henry Famurewa inside, because it’s mostly youngsters around them. On the edge the Cards will count on returning star Jonathan Greenard and transfers Michael Boykin and Boosie Whitlow. In the defensive secondary the safety spots still have Marlon Character and Dee Smith, while PJ Mbanasor is better than solid at corner. Same story there, though, as youth will have to emerge to ensure depth.
The schedule is key for Louisville in 2018. It’s Alabama to start the season, but after that the Cards get key games against Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State and Kentucky at home. If they can get three of those it could be a statement season for Petrino and company. If they win two, a decent finish is still in place, but they need two or better to get where they want this season, in my opinion.
HG analytics pick: 7-5, 4th in ACC Atlantic
My pick: 8-4, 3rd in ACC Atlantic
2017 Louisville Projections 10-2; actual finish; 8-4 (80 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 36th – Outside our Realistic College Football Playoff Bust Line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Bobby Petrino on HG Scale: 25th (Petrino Stamp at 6.5) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning Louisville quarterback play rated 52nd in the country in our Power Five Rankings. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. Louisville has a stamp of 2.5.