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The Cardinal Countdown: 7 Days Until Kickoff

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

#7 Reggie Bonnafon

Class: Sophomore

Ht/Wt: 6-3/209

Position: Quarterback

Hometown: Louisville, KY (Product of Trinity High School)

Twitter: @RegSoSpiffy1

Thoughts: I may have pulled out the ‘Blackshear’ card a few days too early when I mentioned him in the James Quick post 10 days ago. Reggie Bonnafon, the Sophomore quarterback with only five starts under his belt, is eliciting some pretty strong takes from the fan base since the season wrapped up last December, similar to those we heard of Wayne throughout his career. With such a small sample size (only two years total playing the position) it’s difficult for me to digest the “he’s not a quarterback” venom some are spitting out. Was Reggie the perfect quarterback last season? Absolutely not, and he’d be the first to tell you, but he did some fairly impressive things in 2014 that we haven’t seen around here in quite some time, if ever, from a freshman QB.

I’m no historian, and I certainly don’t have the greatest memory, but a night behind the computer along with the media guide provides some decent fodder for Reggie getting some love based upon his performance as a mobile quarterback. Last season Reggie was the best freshman rushing QB we’ve ever seen at Louisville, statistically speaking. He had the most rushing yards in a single game for a freshman QB (76, Boston College), the most rushing yards in a single season for a freshman QB (164), tied himself for most rushing TD’s in a game by a freshman QB (2 against both Murray St and Notre Dame) and had the most rushing TD’s in a season by a freshman QB with five. Now of course, to be fair, not many freshman quarterbacks get a ton of playing time and when they do they aren’t typically called upon to run…but Reggie was, and Reggie did. Petrino implementing a heavier dose of read option plays for Reggie or QB draws was all part of the plan. His arm wasn’t great last year, and his progressions were slow, so he was asked to win with his legs at times and for the most part, he did. In the five games Reggie started the team went 4-1. Does he get all the credit for those wins? Of course not, but he also doesn’t get all the blame for the lone loss (Clemson). As a freshman quarterback who was coached to make plays with his legs when necessary Reggie fit the bill, but now the real test begins. Mark Ennis had a post last month here on Card Chronicle where he highlighted six of Reggie’s best plays last year. Of those six plays, four of them were damn near perfectly thrown footballs. (i.e. throws that future running backs or wide receivers in this program can’t make) So where do we go from here?

We all saw the first quarter of the Kentucky game, and Reggie, quite frankly, looked bad. Four lousy attempts resulting in eight yards and the same number of completions to our team as the other (1). We’ve all seen things turn around and one quarter does not make a game, but I think we all had the sinking feeling that it was simply not Reggie's day and we were in trouble. Fast forward a few months to spring ball and there was some noticeable concern about the quarterback position. We all knew Reggie needed to make strides in his accuracy and overall development, we saw that Bolin had the talent to compete but weren’t sure if he was a week to week number one guy and Gardner was still sidelined. It was time for a leader to emerge. As Spring ball progressed the coaches talking about Reggie seemed more and more encouraging by the day.  He added 15 pounds of muscle, his velocity increased, and when they went to live tackle, his legs were on display once again. He looked better, felt better, performed better and had the makings of a quarterback starting to put it all together. The coming out party for the new and improved Reggie was the Spring Game, where he showed flashes of his mobility (37yds/1 TD) but also appeared much more comfortable in the pocket. In one half Reggie amassed 238yds passing and a touchdown, albeit against the second team defense, but provided enough evidence to most that he was moving in the right direction, so much so that leaving the Spring most had anointed him as the starter heading into the summer, including Petrino. As in life, nothing is predictable and as a surprise to everyone except the unbreakable Gardner himself, Will worked his back to health and came out firing rockets in the fall…and the competition was on once again. Reggie, Will, Bolin, Lamar…or do we take my advice and trot out Horton? I still have no clue.

I’ve been saying it since the countdown started and I haven’t wavered in 93 days. I trust in Petrino and McGee to know what’s best for the team and what gives us the best chance to beat Auburn, because that’s the sole focus right now as game week is officially upon us. Maybe Will’s arm is a bigger threat to the Auburn secondary, but Reggie’s elusiveness is more challenging for the Houston and/or Clemson defenses? At this point only time will provide the answer, no matter how many times we ask the question.

At this stage what I do know is this, on September 5th, whoever runs out to that huddle as our starting quarterback is the player Petrino has picked to be the leader of our team on that night, the player Petrino has picked to run out in front of 30,000+ screaming Cards fans in the Georgia Dome, the player Petrino has picked to run out in front of hundreds of thousands of Cards fans across the country watching on TV, the player Petrino has picked to run out in front of a national audience of millions in a prime time slot being broadcast on the first Saturday of the college football season…whoever that player may be will without a doubt have my full support, I hope they have yours as well. 

Sweet Tweet:

Among all the chatter, praise and dissension surrounding Reggie last year let’s not forgot that a kid, going through one of the toughest athletic challenges of his life, lost his best friend and father in the middle of it all. If you haven’t read the David Hale story about Reggie and his dad, fix that today. It’s well worth your time, and covers the quote mentioned in the tweet above. The story in general is a great reminder how this game we all love so much can be a helpful distraction for the real issues we all face. We all know it’s only a game, but at times it can be much more than that, especially when we need it to be.