Typically there's not a great deal one can learn from spring football games, but at tonight's spring football game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium everyone learned at least one thing: Reggie Bonnafon is the leader if not the outright starter at quarterback when fall camp opens in August. In a game with the starters on the "Red Team" and second team players on the "White Team", Bonnafon took all of the first half snaps with the Red Team. He did not play in the second half. Kyle Bolin and Tyler Ferguson took all white team reps in the first half before Bolin switched to the Red Team in the second half. Bonnafon's Red Team won the game 59-0.
Bonnafon opened 1 for 4, but finished the half 15 of 19 for 238 yards and a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown. Bonnafon showed his arm strength connecting on deep corner routes to James Quick for gains of 36 and 23 yards. He also showed his mobility as Louisville showed bootleg action, pistol and shotgun option read plays, and designed QB runs. In addition to having the strongest arm (not to mention playing behind a really questionable offensive line), it is the mobility that makes Bonnafon the most likely of all options at quarterback in 2015.
Here are a handful of other takeaways:
1. Running back will remain a position of strength in 2015. Brandon Radcliff somehow looks even more impressive than a year ago. Backups LJ Scott and Malin Jones ran well and newcomer junior college signee Jeremy Smith looked very impressive in reps with the Red Team. Even if James Allen doesn't manage to qualify, Louisville is in great shape at running back in 2015. Running backs tonight totaled 196 yards on 42 carries.
2. Wide receiver outside of James Quick is very unsettled. James Quick looks like he'll really thrive across the middle and working inside out to the sidelines as a slot receiver. After that, everyone still seems to be settling into their roles. Jamari Staples made a really nice catch on a great throw under the safety but over a corner. He, Alphonso Carter, and JaQuay Savage all have great size. But there's clearly no DeVante Parker out there this year. At least not yet. Traveon Samuel didn't play tonight but he'll surely be seen in the slot in four and five receiver sets and in the return game. Expect all of the true freshman signees to have serious opportunities to play right away. It's not that there aren't good players at the position, it's just that outside of Quick, nobody is head and shoulders above the others.
3. The defensive front is nasty. Sheldon Rankins, Pio Vatuvei, DeAngelo Brown, Drew Bailey and the rest of the defensive line are really big, really athletic and dominated even when going against the first team offensive line. They won most downs, especially short yardage down and distance. Considering Devonte Fields isn't even here yet, Trevon Young didn't play, and James Burgess has been out all spring, Louisville should be one of the ACC's better front sevens yet again.
4. The offensive line is no closer than when spring practice opened. I fully expect the freshmen and two junior college enrollees to challenge for playing time. I wouldn't say the offensive line struggled tonight, but I would definitely say nobody really blows you away right now either. The ability of this staff to integrate the new linemen into the offense will determine how well the offense starts and go a long way in Louisville starting better something closer to 5-1 instead of 3-3.