Louisville has certainly reached a fork in the road in this 2014 season. The College Football Playoff aspirations have all but evaporated and the odds of winning an ACC Championship are quickly approaching slim to none. The Cardinals have a choice to make as they prepare for N.C. State. The coaches and players can live in the past, relive their excruciating losses and feel sorry for each other, or they can push sympathy aside, band together and continue their improvement towards a 10 win season.
Louisville's coaches, players and fans have debated and discussed the struggles of the quarterback position ad nauseam. The offensive line has been critiqued and tinkered with to the point of exhaustion. The offense has not played a consistent four quarters this entire season and yes, losing Teddy Bridgewater is something many programs need more than year to recover from. Teddy was awesome, the best UofL quarterback of all time alongside Stefan LeFors and Johnny Unitas. However, the loss of Damian Copeland and DeVante Parker have contributed to the stagnant offense just as much and probably more than Teddy's departure.
DeVante Parker has not walked onto a field in full pads so far this season, but due to his prior performance and career statistics NFL talking heads still list him as either the second or third best receiver in the draft. Parker may be the best receiver to ever take the field as a Louisville Cardinal and is all but destined to become a Calvin Johnson-esque wide out on Sundays. Replacing a player such as Parker is nearly unfeasible post-graduation. Replacing DeVante one week before the season began is now obviously impossible. Parker's return will give this offense just the boost it needs to become a consistent and solid threat. Parker will not make UofL a juggernaut, but on those crucial passing downs life will be a whole lot easier with number 9 out there catching everything thrown his way.
DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland were Louisville's leading receivers in 2013. Teddy Bridgewater completed 303 passes last year and 113 of them were caught by either Parker or Copeland. Teddy threw for nearly 4,000 yards a season ago, Parker and Copeland accounted for 1,665 of those 3,970 yards. Parker and Copeland crossed the goal line 17 times in 2013, more than half of Teddy's 31 touchdown passes. Two Parker touchdowns in 2014 are the difference between 7-0 and 5-2.
Those statistics only tell part of the story. Parker and Copeland's numbers were solid and impressive, but those two were probably the number one and number two option on each and every pass play dialed up a season ago. Teddy Bridgewater was sensational, but I am willing to wager that if you remove Copeland and Parker from his arsenal 2013 would not have been a record setting year for Mr. Theodore. Both quarterbacks this season have been unable to find a go-to receiver and losing the top two targets from a season ago play a major role in this year's struggles.
Damian Copeland was a clutch performer in his tenure as a Cardinal and if not for a season ending wrist injury during Jaguars camp he would be having a decent year as a rookie receiver. Copeland is not irreplaceable in the sense of DeVante Parker, but the combination of not having either of those young men available has left this offense searching for a consistent and reliable target.
DeVante Parker is going to return and when the local legend does Louisville's football team will take on a whole new identity. Spiderman isn't back yet and until the best jump ball super hero returns it is time for the rest of Louisville's receivers to step up and play with Cardinal Pride. Louisville has not been outplayed in 2014 and DeVante Parker's return could push Louisville towards an exciting 10 win season. The Wolfpack is the first target in Louisville'e pursuit of five straight wins and is the perfect launching pad for the return of Parker and Louisville's promising offensive onslaught.
All Hail UofL!!