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The Cardinal Countdown: 63 Days Until Kickoff

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NCAA Football: Florida State at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

#63 Nathan Scheler

Class: Junior

Ht/Wt: 6-1/288

Position: Offensive Line

Hometown: Louisville, KY (Product of St. Xavier High School)

Twitter: @NScheler

Thoughts: Nathan is another former walk-on for the Cards who got all his reps on the practice fields the last couple years. While he was a solid player in high school I was a bit surprised to see his name pop up on Day 1 of Spring practice as the starting center in a somewhat shaky O-line. Look, you all know the drill around here, I try my best to hype each player up accordingly, provide some insight into their role, and crack a joke or two occasionally, but honestly I was a little concerned with Scheler winning that job. We’ve seen the results of walk-ons fighting their way to starting roles, and while some have been successful stories, others have left us wondering how we were so undermanned that a player who came into the program without a scholarship could be the best option (Scheler did earn a scholarship last season). I can hear both sides of the argument…

“Why limit a player who is outperforming others just because he wasn’t highly recruited”

Strong agree. None of us see every practice rep, every weight room session, nor every minute in film study. If Player A is outperforming Players B and C I want him on the field, no matter what his scholarship status or year of eligibility. If anyone should know this, UofL fans specifically have been preached at by coaches for years that how you practice determines who plays. Period.

“No way a local walk-on should be a starting lineman on a championship caliber football team”

Soft agree? I understand the sentiment for sure. I think if you’re recruiting well and pulling in athletes to compete on a level to win ACC conference championships and shoot for the ultimate goal of a National Championship the odds of an undersized walk-on earning a starting spot in one of the more important positions on your offensive line should be pretty small, and in my opinion, it certainly shouldn’t happen twice in a row (Hughley).

As the Spring wore on Scheler started rotating at the position with another St. X walk-on (Tyler Haycraft) and Robbie Bell. If you remember the Bell post from back on Day 75 I all but pegged him as the starting center once fall ball completes, but, as we all know so well, one play can change the season drastically, so if Bell doesn’t quite make it or injury strikes it appears Scheler is next in line at this very important position. Deep breaths folks, deep breaths.

***

Game 12: Kentucky Wildcats

Key Player: Benny Snell, Sophomore, Running back

Just typing out “Kentucky Wildcats” above made me clinch my jaw so I guess my distaste for the program is still alive and well. Noted.

Let’s just get this out of the way early and we can move on. The loss the UK last season 100% changed the perception on the whole year. In my mind, there is no arguing it. If UL holds onto the football, scores a late TD and beats UK for the 37th consecutive season (may not be accurate) the mood about how the year ended is completely different. The Cards walked into a bee’s nest AT Houston, against a team with Top 10 talent and was not prepared for what they saw, it sucked, BUT you follow that up with a win against Kentucky and you fielded a 10-2 team that tied for first in the ACC Atlantic, with a solid statement win against FSU, and a win over your rival. The bowl game, with all the injuries for the Cards, becomes a footnote to a successful year and a Heisman trophy winner. The loss to Kentucky not only hurt because Petrino never loses to UK, but it created a losing “streak” of two games, which then turned into three against LSU. You know how many teams have won a championship, or even won their conference following a season that ended with three straight losses? No? Me either...but I bet it’s a very small number (stats department slacking today). That loss, in conjunction with the other two, still leaves a sour taste in my mouth about the whole year, and there was a lot to be excited about, which makes it that much more irritating. As frustrating as that loss was, the Cards better come prepared in 2017 as Kentucky has some talent, finally.

Losing ‘Boom’ Williams to the NFL draft was a big hit for UK as he was a top performer in conference for them the last couple seasons. That hit is slightly negated because of the emergence of Benjamin ‘Benny’ Snell Jr. As a freshman Snell was also a Top 10 back in the SEC and helped power UK to the 3rd best rushing offense in the SEC and one that was Top 20 in the country. While Stephen Johnson played well enough to help support the run, you know what you’re getting from him week to week, and Kentucky will likely focus on their run game once again in 2017 to drive the offense, meaning Snell becomes your work horse in a very physical conference. Kentucky created a balance attack last year with Snell, Williams, and the now departed Senior Jojo Kemp, so Snell is the only returning ball carrier (outside of Johnson) with more than 11 carries last season. I don’t imagine Stoops will place the entire load on his shoulders but he will be asked to do a lot, and if he’s still healthy come Week 13 of the season he is a solid threat for the Louisville defense every play. The game is in Lexington, it will be their Senior day, and there are fans legitimately expecting a 10 win season (I’m serious, google it), but there is ZERO chance Petrino lets his team lose to UK in back-to-back seasons. ZERO. Cards tack back the trophy.

Sweet Tweet: Nathan’s tweets are protected……just like he needs to protect Lamar, amiright?!?! (sorry)

Instead of reading tweets let’s take a moment and pause to reflect on the fact that we’ve already made it through the month of June. I’m not a wish the summer away type of guy but July means one thing…we’re one month away from August, and as we all know, there are college football games in the month of August. Start dusting off the coolers, start getting the tailgate equipment ready…

We’re playing football in Indy 9 weeks from today.