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Community Projection: Hunter Cantwell

This is a preseason feature ordinarily reserved for baseball sites, but you don't achieve a position of power like this without periodically breaking the mold, so that's exactly what we're going to do beginning this morning.

Whenever the mood strikes me (power), we'll focus on one particular member of the 2008 Louisville football team and all predict (or project, if you will) how he'll fare statistically in the upcoming season. We'll then average all of our prognostications and come up with a community projection. In the end, nothing of any real value is going to have been achieved, but you will have spent that much more time focused on college football instead of convincingly forcing laughter, wondering if anyone screwed up badly on The Price is Right, rehearsing for a scene with Gwyneth Paltrow, or whatever it is you would have been up to otherwise.

So let's hop to it.

Rarely in college football is one of the biggest sources for offseason optimism the return of a three-year backup, but such is the case with Louisville and senior quarterback Hunter Cantwell.

Multiple Brian Brohm injuries in 2005 and 2006 forced Cantwell into more action than Cardinal fans would have preferred at the time, but these opportunities allowed him to showcase a level of talent that has some experts saying he could be the first quarterback selected in the '09 NFL Draft. He started a bowl game as a freshman, secured one of the biggest wins in program history by throwing for 113 yards and a score against Miami as a sophomore, and kept Louisville's hopes for a national title alive in 2006 by guiding the Cards to a pair of victories as a starter against Kansas State and Middle Tennessee State.

2005 39 73 53.4 640 5 4
2006 45 70 64.3 700 5 2
2007 8 14 57.1 79 0 1

Cantwell's past success and enormous arm - which has been on full display since a 32-yard touchdown throw in his freshman debut against Oregon State - has some predicting outrageous numbers for the Paducah native, but there are several factors that would suggest a more pedestrian senior campaign. 

For starters, Cantwell has yet to prove that he can be consistently accurate. While his toughness was certainly on full display in the 2006 Gator Bowl, so was a rocket arm that was too often unable to locate teammates. He finished the game 15-of-37 with three interceptions, including one that resulted in a game-sealing Virginia Tech touchdown. He was relatively efficient, but far from spectacular, in his other three career starts.

There's also the matter of him having not seen extended action since his sophomore season of 2006. He saw the field just twice a year ago, first in mop up duty against Murray State, and then at the tail end of the massacre in Tampa. Cantwell was the first to admit that the biggest thing separating Brian Brohm from himself was Brohm's ability to grasp offenses and read defenses. While Hunter had all of last season to acclimate himself with the new regime's offense, his maiden snap in the Kentucky game will be the first of any consequence he will have taken in the Steve Kragthorpe era.

But perhaps the largest obstacle in the way of Cantwell having a statistically spectacular senior season is the offense around him. Louisville's four leading receivers in 2007 are all gone, a group that includes one of the best to ever wear the red and black in Harry Douglas, and a guy that Cantwell always seemed to be on the same page as in Mario Urrutia. Discounting running backs, there are only two players on U of L's current roster that have caught a pass from Cantwell. Also, new offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm has stated multiple times that he's going to turn more to a veteran offensive line and a talented stable of ball carriers than his predecessor did, which means it's unlikely that Cantwell is going to see anywhere near the number of attempts that Brian Brohm did a season ago.

So there it is, a player with astounding physical gifts entering his first and last season as the starting Cardinal quarterback. Not exactly an easy opening task.

Taking only the 12 regular season games into consideration, I say Cantwell goes 202-of-335 (61%) for 2,900 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

What say you?