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The Cardinal Countdown: 3 Days Until Kickoff

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East Carolina v Louisville

#3 Malik Cunningham

Class: RS Freshman

Ht/Wt: 6-1/190

Position: Quarterback

Hometown: Montgomery, AL

Twitter: @MalikMalikc10

Thoughts: This time last year the hype in the QB room was obviously on the defending Heisman Trophy winner looking to repeat. The backup (our Day 4 stud Jawon Pass) was getting plenty of pub as well, but knew it wasn’t quite his time to shine just yet. As with most major college athletic programs stories on the third string QB aren’t selling many papers or generating much traffic, but the kid out of Montgomery last year likely deserved a little bit more hype than what he got. The consensus 3 star that had a composite rating on 24/7 nearly identical to the guy who was trying to win back to back Heisman’s came in with some fanfare on NSD but slowly faded into the background. It wasn’t unexpected as even Malik knew that 2017 wasn’t the year for him to make his name known, and 2018 may not be either, but he came to Louisville to compete and win football games. A redshirt in 2017 was always the play for Malik but that didn’t mean he was just hanging out. Petrino mentioned him occasionally throughout the season here and there complimenting his athleticism and speed, highlighting his decision-making, and even made a point to say that Cunningham was doing well as the scout team QB to help the team prepare for mobile quarterbacks. The season was a great opportunity for Cunningham to settle into college life and prepare him himself to be the #2 heading into 2018.

Fast forward a few months and Malik was playing really well in Spring ball. Improving his deep throws, improving his play-action technique, and of course, showing off his “escapability”. In fact, nine days into camp Petrino was forced to make Malik live beyond the line of scrimmage because he felt as if the “no hands on the QB” rule was limiting Cunningham’s abilities. A little buzz was generating around Malik in early April and then the young man formally introduced himself to the 17,000 or so fans who came to the Spring Game. Malik went 13-16 for 99 yards passing and a touchdown in addition to his 52 rushing yards. There were instances where Cunningham appeared to be ready to be the Day 1 starter this year showing off his arm and his legs…and then of course, as a freshman getting his first significant number of reps, there were a few instances where he did not. I think the familiarity of his style of play, having watched Lamar run all over everyone for three seasons, generated some additional excitement, myself included, and had fans thinking about what the future may hold at the position. If you read yesterdays post on Jawon you know how high I am on his ability and what I think he can do, but I also think Cunningham is a rare talent who can without a doubt make plays THIS season. Pass is no slouch in the run game but do not be shocked if Malik gets some chances with a few RPO play calls or some Petrino “trickeration”. I’m not a big fan of pointing people back to high school film for a guy who has been in the program over a year now but I still think this clip is worth your time, even if it’s just to jog your memory of what Bobby has in his back pocket this season…

Sweet Tweet:

Told you the fans took note back in the Spring. Get those Malik ‘John Hancocks’ while you still can.

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#3 Cornelius Sturghill

Class: RS Senior

Ht/Wt: 5-11/188

Position: Cornerback

Hometown: Memphis, TN

Twitter: @boomane_6

Thoughts: I started doing this countdown eight years ago…and I covered Cornelius Sturghill that offseason. Okay, okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, it was actually 2014 when I first mentioned the man now referred to as “granddaddy” by some of the younger players (guys who were actually born in the year 2000, yikes). Sturghill has been around awhile due to a few unfortunate circumstances and reoccurring injuries. A foot injury to a speedster like Sturghill can certainly slow you down, but being shot doesn’t help either. As a freshman Cornelius came into the program and dropped a 4.2s 40 time on people, turning heads on both the offensive and defensive staffs. So much so in fact that both units wanted him and both units fought to keep him on their side. Sturghill would go from playing a few series at wideout to playing a few series at corner, and then back again. Finding a landing spot was a challenge obviously as the roles and responsibilities for each position are drastically different but it appeared the Cards finally had a healthy Sturghill back heading into the 2017 season. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Four games into the year Sturghill had made appearances in three of those contests, even grabbing a tackle against UNC, but something wasn’t right. According to an article from the CJ during Spring ball Sturghill said he never felt good last season and his body wasn’t responding the way it normally would. He did make one more appearance last year (FSU) but used the time off to get his body in peak condition both mentally and physically, a change that included not only trips to the weight room but new eating habits and focused rehab on his foot. By the time Spring camp rolled around Sturghill was nearly 100% and the staff saw flashes of what they were fighting over nearly four seasons ago, a speedster with a great football IQ.

If you ask Sturghill, like a few reporters did earlier this month, he’ll tell you he is still the fastest guy on the team. While that may be up for debate from some of the young guys what isn’t debatable is the respect he has in the room. The recent depth chart has Sturghill as a co-starter with Rodjay Burns on the outside at corner, a position he’s been fighting for almost five seasons, and I couldn’t be happier to see him earn that spot. Go do work Granddaddy.

Sweet Tweet: