Louisville's football staff is entering year two so I can now get back to throwing up my favorite post of the year right after the season again. I enjoy this post so much because I’ve been so insanely wrong so often but I also enjoy looking forward to the next year to get a look at what the team has returning as well as how they will replace starters and contributors. UofL is losing about 18 contributors if you include specialists. That number includes guys like Keion Wakefield, Gary McRae, and Devante Peete who played on special teams while also making a few plays on offense or defense. Those guys weren’t at the top of the stat sheet but they were contributors that the staff has to replace in some way.
The improvement that we all saw from Micale Cunningham this season was great to see and it also secured his role as the starter going forward. MC did a great job using his legs when asked while also avoiding a lot of the issues he had with bailing on passing plays too early. He stood tall in the pocket and he also improved his timing as the year went on. He doesn’t show the ability to put the ball on a line on his short passes but if his timing continues to improve, it won’t really matter. His performance in the bowl game should help him continue to get better in the areas that he’s struggled while also fine tuning the areas where he excelled.
Jawon Pass is still with the team and until I hear differently I will assume that he will be here in the fall. I don’t know if Pass will look to transfer once he is healthy but I don’t see him wanting to sit anywhere. So a FCS school is likely his best option unless he has the chance to graduate before the season starts. I think that Evan Conley will be the backup no matter what happens because he has the playing experience in this offense and played well for a true freshman when he was called on. Tee Webb will compete for time but UofL isn’t in need of a new starter so I think he will be a true backup and he will be able to redshirt.
Aidan Robbins/Jalen Mitchell
The running back depth chart will likely look exactly as it did in the 2019 season. I get the feeling that Javian Hawkins should come back around the same size that he is now. I don’t expect them to try to pack on pounds to his frame. I do think that Hassan Hall could add some weight as he has a bigger frame to do so and if he were to lose a step no one would notice. The freshmen should get a chance to see the field next year if UofL is able to get a big lead in a game or two.
This would be the spot that Seth Dawkins is vacating. Justin Marshall was his primary backup in 2019 and he should slide right into the starting role. Marshall has one fairly big issue that he needs to work on and that’s tracking the deep ball. It’s obvious that he’s not comfortable running under the ball and catching it over his shoulder.
I wish I had a better understanding of how the outside receiver spots worked in this offense but Harrell was listed here on the depth chart with CTY behind Dez even though he’s more of a speed guy while CTY has more size. I decided to just roll with the depth chart. I do think that Christian Fitzpatrick will play next year and won’t likely redshirt. Getting here in January will be a big help for him.
Dez Fitzpatrick has had a bit of a rough career at UofL with two straight seasons where his opportunities have dwindled due to the offense and/or quarterback play. He considered taking a chance in the draft in hopes that he could find his way with a team but decided that coming back would be his best option. I tend to think that Scott Satterfield will look to spread the ball around a bit more next year and Dez’s gamble will pay off.
CTY has been listed behind Dez all year and he started to see the field late in the season. I pegged him for a potential transfer but he’s stuck it out all of this time and should see the field more often next year. Josh Johnson has had a hard time staying healthy during his time here but if he can get right before the season I think he will be an option as an outside receiver.
Tutu Atwell announced himself pretty loudly this past season as he set multiple records while also gaining national recognition for his great season in 2019. Teams will look to find a way to stop him with a full summer to prepare so I don’t expect him to have a bigger year next season but I do think he will at least be able to be as explosive as he was in 2019.
Braden Smith was brought in as a JUCO transfer for a reason and I think the staff wanted to add some depth behind Atwell as well as a player who could play in different roles. Jordan Watkins is raw but he has sub-4.4 speed and he can make people miss in the open field. I think there’s a strong possibility that they find ways to get him on the field early.
The “Y” tight end spot is the biggest question on paper as Jordan Davis and Ean Pfeifer both have exhausted their eligibility. Tobias Little has played a handful of different positions at this point in his career but he got a few snaps at this spot in 2019 and should have no issue being the starter going into next year. Dez Melton was a guy I though would be an H-Back but I think he should have the size needed to play on the line and be able to block defensive ends and linebackers.
Louisville got a pleasant surprise when Marshon Ford became one of the best tight ends in the conference as a redshirt freshman. Ford led all ACC tight ends in touchdown catches while being a vital blocker for Louisville’s running game. Another year in the offense should only help him become a bigger part of it. Duane Martin has a chance to see the field next year but the staff might have found another walk-on player that they love in Isaac Martin.
I’ve watched the bowl game a couple of times now for film reviews and just background noise and the more I watch it the more I think that Adonis Boone might earn this spot. Whoever takes over for Mekhi Becton will have a huge role to fill but I think that they should be fine from a run blocking standpoint. Reid or Boone will have to do some major work as pass blockers to protect Cunningham’s blind side.
As of now I’m running with the theory that the 2019 offensive line class will make up the second team.
My early pick for “guy that takes a big step forward” next year is Caleb Chandler. He’s athletic and he seems to totally fit what Dwayne Ledford wants in a lineman. I could really see him being a guy that gets some recognition as the season goes on and he could lead this offensive line to a big improvement next year.
I think there’s a possibility that we see Jackson Gregory at center next year with Bentley and Bell sliding to their right. The staff seems to be high on Gregory and he was mentioned some as an option as the backup center last season. Bentley still has some struggles getting the snap off and getting in position to make a block but he can move well and moving to guard could help him out. Just a little theory of mine.
Robbie Bell finally got back on the field after being benched by the previous staff in his third year in the program. Bell is an obvious leader on the line and he will be needed to take on a bigger off the field role as the veteran of the group. Bell should benefit most from another full summer with the strength staff. He and others will have to work on speed and quickness drills while also getting stronger as blockers.
As I said above, Reid could end up here if Boone is able to secure the left tackle spot in the spring. I think they should be fine either way. I do have some concerns about Reid not finishing things up at JUCO as a mid-year enrollee. I don’t know that there are any academic concerns but I just think he had a very quiet recruitment for a guy that was a JUCO All-American.
I went way off the rails with this spot in the spring and I whiffed. So I’m getting a little soft because Hall is the obvious choice. I do think that they will avoid putting Hawkins out there when he’s really not needed. When Hall was injured in 2019 they didn’t use Hawkins as the primary returner so it doesn't really make much sense to have him out there at all, in my opinion. I think they’ll get Watkins some action as a return guy as the blocking set ups always seem to favor a speed guy as opposed to a guy who can make people miss. Watkins has great straight line speed so he fits here.
I think that Louisville will have a full on battle for their kicking spots and it started when Travelstead got to campus in January. Ryan Chalifoux took over the full time field goal duties after Blanton Creque was lost for the year but he couldn’t put a stranglehold ont he job. James Turner is young but has the bigger leg. One has to assume that his accuracy isn’t quite there as he put a couple of kickoffs out of bounds once he took on that duty. Travelstead was a MaxPreps All-American as a junior and a Army All-American as a senior. I think it’s his job to lose at this point.