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Louisville football's James Quick has one last chance to be a star in 2016

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

"He's the best to ever do it here. No question."

Those were the words in October, 2012 of a longtime coach/observer of the Trinity High School football program. A man who had seen the likes of Jeff and Brian Brohm, Dean May and Carwell Gardner don the green and white for the Shamrocks. A man who believed that James Quick was better than all of them.

About a month after that night, Quick became the first player in Kentucky high school football history to score a touchdown in four straight state championship games. A few weeks later he was named the Most Valuable Player of the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Game. On that same day, the hometown star announced that he would be playing his college football at Louisville, instantly becoming the highest-rated offensive recruit to ever sign with the Cardinals.

This is all to say that expectations were understandably high when James Quick arrived on UofL's campus in the summer of 2013. Even with a loaded Cardinal wide receiving corps that already included guys like DeVante Parker, Damian Copeland and Eli Rogers, the five-star freshman was expected to make an immediate impact before becoming one of the top targets in all of college football as a sophomore and junior.

Player blueprints are never an exact science, and Quick is a prime example.

Quick's freshman season was more notable for the passes he didn't catch than the few -- six, to be exact -- that he did, and his lone touchdown came when he returned a fumbled punt for a score against Central Florida. His sophomore campaign got off to a rocky start before he ever ran a route, as he and former teammate (and now former Kentucky Wildcat) Jason Hatcher were cited for marijuana possession in June, 2014. It then continued through a season in which he posted respectable, but not sparkling statistics.

Still, the breakout season predictions continued heading into 2015, when Quick was supposed to be the focal point of an unproven wide receiving corps attempting to make Louisville fans forget about the loss of Parker. Had he been a former 2-star recruit from Wyoming, Quick's 39 catches for 624 yards and five touchdowns last season would have been celebrated appropriately. Instead, the hometown high school star who was supposed to become the hometown college All-American is headed into his senior season hoping to shed the stigma of being something of an underachiever.

"Sometimes you've just got to put that out of your mind and let it go because they're not the ones out there catching balls," Quick told 93.9 The Ville's Drew Deener last summer. "It's just one of those things you don't listen to too much. All you can do is listen to what your coaches tell you and get coached up every day."

After somewhat disappointing returns in years one through three, Quick now heads into his final collegiate season somewhere between reliable veteran and forgotten man. He's still expected to hold down a starting spot, but the buzz this summer has focused more on fellow senior Jamari Staples -- who led the Cardinals in almost every receiving category last season -- and UofL's talented group of sophomores and freshmen at the position.

If there's hope for a breakout season for Quick in 2016, it might be based on the fact that the quarterback he's seemed to have the best relationship with at Louisville will be the one taking almost every snap. Quick caught five touchdown passes last season, and all five were thrown to him by then-true freshman Lamar Jackson. Quick's three most productive games -- against Florida State, Kentucky and Texas A&M -- all came when Jackson was the primary signal caller.

"What Lamar did in the bowl game just builds all of our confidence," Quick said last month. "That game made all of us hungry to get back on the field for spring ball and now for camp. Everybody's just going to be more confident coming back."

When it comes to finally assuming the starring role he was cast in years ago, it's now or never for James Quick, and maybe he finally has the right quarterback relationship to make now happen.