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The Cardinal Countdown: 9 Days Until Kickoff

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NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Single digits, cloids. Single....digits....

#9 CJ Avery

Class: Freshman

Ht/Wt:5-11/205

Position: Safety/Linebacker

Hometown: Grenada, MS

Twitter: @Averyy_Sports

Thoughts: Avery has been getting some of that Blanton Creque 2016 treatment on this years countdown, in fact, I've mentioned him so many times I actually went back just to make sure he didn't have a number change, thinking maybe I'd already covered him in the past few months, but I hadn't, so even though he has yet to make a formal appearance on this years countdown, one could say his first 8 months on campus have been worthy of all the praise I've given him. Let's jump right in.

Avery is an early enrollee who just turned 18 back in March, a full two months after he arrived on campus in January. Graduating early from Granada High down in Mississippi Avery wanted to get a jump start on his college career, and all signs so far point to that being an excellent decision. Petrino was praising Avery well before the Spring game, touting his strength and football IQ for a young man who should still be enrolled in high school and said even back in February they were going to have to try and find a way to get him on the field. Avery had a great spring and all reports from the Cardinals camp seem to indicate there was little to no drop off over the summer and now into the fall. The "official" depth chart from UofL back in July had Khane Pass starting at OLB ahead of Avery, but if you've listened to Coach Petrino and Coach Sirmon, CJ's name keeps coming up over and over, meaning I would not be shocked at all to see him run out there when the defense takes the field on September 2nd.

Avery was a Top 100 player nationally according to at least one recruiting service and even though we are VERY early in his Cardinal career all indications are that he has his head on straight and came in with some pretty lofty goals. If the staff feels this kid is talented enough as a true freshman to put on the field at a very important position (listed as OLB, but likely more of a "star" position, similar to JHC the last couple years) then I'm 100% on board. Will there be some growing pains? Absolutely, but it's pretty exciting to think we could have a player come in as a three or four year starter in the "new" Louisville football program, the one ranked in the Top 16 in the country, not the rebuilding seasons of old.

Starter or not, kid is a beast, and he will get significant reps in 2017, and that should make you excited, too.

Sweet Tweet:

I’m not spending 100 days counting down anything else. Solid agree, boss.

***

#9 Jaylen Smith

Class: Junior

Ht/Wt: 6-4/219

Position: Wide Reciever

Hometown: Pascagoula, MS

Twitter: @JaylenSmith_12

Thoughts: The fact that Jaylen Smith is only a Junior is somewhat mind-boggling considering he's been an important part of the offense for two straight years. Back in 2015 Jaylen had Staples, Quick, and Hikutini out there as upperclassmen hogging all the balls, and understandably so, they were considered the main targets for whoever was playing QB because of their experience. Smith still managed to finish third on the team that year in receiving yardage and receptions, an impressive feat for a true freshman.

Then 2016 rolled around and he had to contend with.....the exact same thing. Staples, Quick, and Hikutini were all still around and now, being Seniors, they were expected to be the leaders of the group, and they played extremely well. As the offense exploded those three separated themselves as the go-to guys early in the year, but Jaylen quickly become known as the deep threat, consistently beating his man down field and racking up yards on top of yards as the season wore on. Jaylen actually caught two less balls in 2016 (27) than he did in 2015 (29) but he ended up with, wait for it...over 200 MORE RECEIVING YARDS than 2015. When Jaylen caught the ball he either caught it 20 yards down field or stacked up YAC like it was going out of style. Smith finished the season with 22.2yds/rec, good enough for 3rd in the country, but he wasn't just making deep ball grabs, he was getting the ball in the endzone as well. Finishing the year with 6 TDs placed him behind only Hikutini (8) last year and blewa way his total from the year prior(1). While they were all great I really liked the long NC State one, but the UVA game winner was good too, and that long Boston College one was nice...I wish I could watch them all...

(Thanks to TTTWILL for the video)

In 2017 Jaylen is now "the man" at wideout and I could not feel more comfortable placing the future of the position in his very large hands. The kid has been nothing but reliable since Day 1 and I love the fact that he is mentoring some of these younger guys (Dez/Seth/Justin/Corey) this season, and hopefully next year as well. I feel like he has been slightly under the radar this offseason simply because Petrino and the staff don't feel the need to mention how reliable he is, or how he is making plays in practice, because we as fans, and the media, already know this. One thing you may not know...Jaylen is getting straight YOLKED UP...

If Jaylen still has the hands, still has the speed, and can now shed tacklers with ease because he's packing 24" pythons, brother...I see a big year coming from this guy.

Sweet Tweet:

If my man can consistently average 22 yards a catch...I'm 100% on board. #BigThingsComing