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Louisville QB Preview: The Puma Pass Era Begins

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Life without Lamar Jackson begins now.

Murray State v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Replacing your starting quarterback is hard enough, but replacing a historical and transcendent talent such as Lamar Jackson is where the Cardinals find themselves headed into this season. Jackson, the former Heisman winner who was responsible for roughly 74 percent of Louisville’s total yardage over the last two seasons, set 42 school records on his way to becoming the first quarterback in NCAA history to throw and run for 3,000/1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. To do that just once is impressive – only seven other players since the beginning of college football can say they have. So, although there are some big shoes left to fill and a huge chunk of offensive production to account for, head coach Bobby Petrino believes he’s got the next man up.

Returning 2017 Stat Leaders:

Jawon Pass (rs-SO): 23 for 33, 238 yards, 69.7%, 7.21 yds/attempt, 2 TDs

13 rushes, 62 yards, one TD rushing

The Starter

In steps Jawon “Puma” Pass, a 6-4, 231-pound redshirt sophomore who was recently named as one of four captains for this year’s team. Appearing in six games as the primary backup a season ago, Puma completed 23-of-33 attempts for 238 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 62 yards and a score with his feet. He’s a tall athlete whose durable stature allows him to stand and deliver from the pocket, a signature trait amongst the lineage of Bobby Petrino-bred quarterbacks.

While certainly green in terms of experience, the former Army All-American has impressed throughout the offseason leading up to this point. April’s annual Red-White scrimmage saw Puma throw for 342 yards and three touchdowns, and most recently, last Monday the 13th, the Cards held their first major scrimmage of the preseason, a competition that was closed to reporters (h/t Jake Lourim, Louisville Courier Journal). According to a release issued by the team, Pass ran for a pair of scores and connected with tight end Micky Crum for a short touchdown strike against the defensive starters.

Puma offers promise as we enter the post-Lamar Jackson era – he’s reason to be hopeful. As entertaining as it is to marvel and dwell on the videogame-like numbers that Jackson was able to put up during his time at Louisville, it’s time to move forward, and Jawon Pass is the direction we’re headed in.

Related: Louisville WR preview: America’s Finest Receivers on Saturday are back

The Backups

Malik Cunningham is the projected backup, having led the white team in the spring scrimmage and taking the majority of the second-string reps. Cunningham is a 6-1, 185-pound redshirt freshman from Montgomery, Alabama, where he passed for 2,913 yards and 30 touchdowns his senior season. Throughout his career at Park Crossing High School, Cunningham tossed for 6,276 yards and 71 touchdowns while adding 1,926 yards rushing and 32 scores.

In the previously mentioned Red-White scrimmage, Cunningham led the white team while putting his efficiency on display, going 13-of-16 in the air for 99 yards and a score and adding 52 yards rushing on eight carries.

The other guy pushing Cunningham for second team reps is Jordan Travis, a talented dual-threat prospect out of Florida. A 6-3, 185-pound true freshman, Travis has been the main competitor since his arrival on campus for the primary backup role. While probably unlikely he gets the nod over Cunningham, the West Palm Beach native reportedly accounted for a score in the closed scrimmage a couple weeks ago and will certainly continue to compete for the number two spot. While in Florida, Travis was named the 2017 FHSAA Class 3-A Player of the Year and was also voted the Palm Beach Player of the Year at the Lou Groza Awards banquet in December, 2017.

Ranked as a three-star recruit by ESPN, Travis passed for 2,190 yards and 24 touchdowns during his senior year at The Benjamin School, while rushing for 905 yards and 16 touchdowns on 70 carries. As a junior, he threw for 2,017 yards and 21 touchdowns, adding 384 yards and 11 scores with his feet.

Related: Louisville football preview: Which RB will emerge as “the guy?”

The Reserves

Rounding out the reserves are redshirt sophomores Clay Bolin and Sean McCormack, plus true freshman Drew Zaubi.

The younger brother of former Cardinal Kyle Bolin, Clay comes to the Cards after a standout scholastic career in Lexington where he threw for 3,002 yards and 23 touchdowns his senior year, leading the state in passing yards per game and snapping every passing record at Bourbon County High School. Bolin is a walk-on transfer, having arrived at Louisville after a short stint at Morehead State. At 6-0, 202-pounds, he’s a bit smaller than older brother Kyle was, but a solid little pocket passer that could develop into a serviceable backup.

At 6-5, 227-pounds, Sean McCormack is the biggest quarterback the Cards have on their roster. A former Nike Elite 11 Regional selection, McCormack starred at Hinsdale South High School, a public school in the suburbs of Chicago close to Naperville. As a senior, McCormack was selected All-State by the Illinois Football Coaches Association.

Putting the finishing touches on the roster is local South Oldham product Drew Zaubi. Another big bodied quarterback, Zaubi stands at 6-4, 208-pounds and can sling it. His highlights on his Hudl profile show him checking off the safety on his throws and demonstrating his elusiveness in the pocket. Go to 1:13 in this video and check out this filthy run. Nice.