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Mailbag: Week Two

NCAA Football: Louisville at Alabama Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think that Louisville was in as bad a spot without Jaire Alexander as it seemed to be. He was an extremely talented player, but he also only mans one spot at the third level of the defense. I know that the defense seemed to play much better when he was on the field, but they also played the worst offenses on their schedule when he played (Remember Syracuse didn’t have Eric Dungey). With that being said, I think that Louisville should be able to handle Jonathan Greenard’s loss pretty well.

Greenard is the best edge rusher on the team and that will be a big loss but Brian VanGorder’s scheme is built more on blitz pressure and individual defensive line pressure. Todd Grantham and Peter Sirmon liked having a “rush end” that came around the edge to get to the quarterback. The new system will look to get that pressure from different points. Mike Boykin showed some good moves to get into the backfield from inside and Amonte Caban really impressed me at end.

The defense will really miss Greenard’s versatility. He could play every position up front and could even line up as an outside linebacker. That allowed VanGorder to move him in side and bring in a pass rusher like Gary McRae. That will be hard to do without him.

Louisville absolutely needs to figure out their running game over the next two weeks. The offensive line struggled to stave off penetration and the running backs weren’t able to make anyone miss or break through any tackles. Some of that is completely attributable to Alabama, but all five guys struggling to even create one hole over an entire game is not very normal no matter who you’re playing.

I think that UVA looked good in some areas in their first game. Their running game was very good with Bryce Perkins and Jordan Ellis both putting up over 100 yards on the ground. That’s a good sign for them because their rushing offense was putrid last season. Perkins left a bit to be desired as a passer, so they might have just flipped their issues on that side of the ball. I also think the Western game could be closer than expected. They played Wisconsin pretty tough last week.

If Louisville can run the football, they should be fine in those games. If their defensive front can get penetration and make plays in the backfield, they should have a good chance to beat FSU and their terrible offensive line. If they still have glaring questions entering the FSU game I’m not so sure they can pull of the upset. The Noles looked impressive on defense and Willie Taggart has only had one team that couldn’t run the ball in his head coaching career. I tend to think he will figure things out there.

The games between the FSU and Clemson game are a toss up at this point. But, no matter what Louisville has to find balance on the offensive side of the ball and they have to be able to defend the pass better than they did against Bama. If those things are still issues after the Western game, I don’t know that the record you’re looking for is going to happen.

Perfect segue into this question even though I have no clue what the answer is. Here’s the thing. If Trey Smith could beat out Dae Williams and Colin Wilson to earn the start against Alabama, I don’t know how he isn’t the guy going forward. To take that a step further, it would be a very bad look for the coaching staff if Smith isn’t the guy and they couldn’t identify the better guy through the spring and summer. All of these guys were here last year and they were all healthy during the fall camp. Smith should be the guy if he beat out everyone else.

I would love to see Bobby Petrino use the two freshmen that he’s been talking up all summer at some point. If they can’t do everything they need to be to be the starter, they should at least have specialized plays to get them on the field in certain situations.

I think that a lot of people have a hard time understanding that being critical doesn’t mean that you’re calling for someone’s head. I’m very critical of Bobby Petrino but I don’t think that Louisville as a program needs to fire him. I’d say that most fans are happy with how things have gone since he returned. That’s probably all that Vince Tyra needs to stand pat with the program’s direction.

I personally think that the program has peaked under Petrino and I think that the trends that we’ve seen for four-plus years are just part of what fans are going to get. The teams will turn the ball over a lot and they will commit too many penalties. I also think that there will be coaching turnover each year with uninspiring hires being made after a coach moves on. We haven’t seen this as a trend yet, but the early results show that recruiting could suffer because of that.

All of those things are what lead me to feel that they are at a plateau at this point and I’m not sure that they start climbing again. The staff is the key reason to me. From a recruiting standpoint, we all know how big Cort Dennison was when it comes to the slight uptick in recruiting over the last few years. Going all the way back to before he was an on the field coach. With him leaving this spring, the small class where Louisville could focus on specific guys that they wanted in 2019 has regressed back to landing the level of talent they were getting a few years ago.

From a coaching standpoint, I think that there are some areas that haven’t done as well as they should have over the last few years. Louisville’s receivers have been up there each years in drops, nationally. The offensive line improved last year, but how much is that really saying? The defensive line has regressed each year since 2014 and the secondary issues are known by everyone.

But, when you break it all down, they’re still winning enough games for the majority of fans to be happy so if we’re being honest nothing needs to change because that’s what matters to most.

Via email from Stephen Clark: What do you know about ISU’s RS Freshman backup QB, Kurtis Wilderman? What do they think of him as a long-term prospect?

Stephen, I don’t know if you’re trying to troll me here but I put my email out there publicly and I will answer this question about the backup quarterback of an FCS school that I don’t cover just as I would any other.

ISU seems to really like their starter, Jalil Kirkpatrick. He has the size that you want at the spot and he is a dual threat guy that expands what they can do on offense. His first start was solid but I do think he has a lot more to show as a passer. As a runner, he was more impressive and I think he’s good enough there to do well at that level.

The Sycamores also got a grad transfer from Iowa named Ryan Boyle. He’s listed as the backup but he didn’t play last week due to a MCL injury. Boyle feels that he might be back for the game this weekend, but I would be surprised if we saw him in a game that they know they can’t win. Both quarterbacks are dual threat guys that can run the offense as it’s designed.

From what I can see, Wilderman had a very good summer and he’s being mentioned in the same breath as the other two quarterbacks. While I don’t think he will be able to surpass the upperclassmen I do think that he could see the field this weekend as he did in their last game. My concern for what the future holds for him is that he is more of a pocket passer even though he ran for 400 yards his senior year of high school. He might be able to do most of what they want on offense and they can mold things around him, but I think they are looking for a guy that can run a little more.

Again, I’ll be doing the mailbag each week during the season. Shoot me a tweet at @keith_wynne or email me at I’ll pretty much answer anything if you couldn’t tell.