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The Wynnedbag: Spring Practice

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Music City Bowl - Mississippi State v Louisville Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Spring practice started this week so it felt like a good time to talk some football. These will be somewhat regular during the off season so if you have a question that pops up feel free to send it to me via Twitter (@keith_wynne) or email (keithwynne2@gmail.com).

I would say so. Louisville returns a ton of production on both sides of the ball but they had unbelievably good injury luck last year and the glaring lack of depth was still an issue. On offense, Adonis Boone was the lone option to replace a starter on the offensive line while the defense was forced to move a couple of guys to different positions and play a couple of former walk-ons.

Louisville is a team that is very solid at the top of the depth chart and even very good at certain spots. They now have to put themselves in position to not only withstand injuries but also poor play. Coaches have to have the ability replace guys as needed and to use competition to decide who plays.

Louisville has a ton of new guys and guys who redshirted last year who will be working to get onto the field and that will lead to good competition this spring and summer. Once they get to that point, you know that not only are the starters being pushed but the backups are getting good reps. That’s the key to this team building depth and being able to withstand the wear and tear of a full season.

This is such a great question for February. Pretty much everything is speculation until the first depth chart comes out in like August so why not go all in? Louisville added some key guys in this recruiting class that should at least push for a starting spot. Kam Wilson is the main guy to keep an eye on. He will most likely push Yasir Abdullah for the starting spot at the Dog outside linebacker spot. Abdullah had a really strong season last year but he never fully owned that starting spot. Wilson has a good chance to win it.

Defensive line is a spot with some new blood, also. I think that Ja’Darien Boykin and Yaya Diaby both have the ability to be starters and one of them will win the job in my opinion. Danna Kinnaird began the season as a starter before Amonte Caban became the regular starter. I don’t know that Kinnaird can just step back into that role again. He’s a high motor player who made some plays last year but Louisville needs dynamic play makers up front. Boykin and Diaby fit that bill.

I’m not sure if anyone else could steal a starting position but I’d also list Jamel Starks as a sleeper at corner over Marlon Character and Anthony Johnson. I don’t see it happening but it’s a position that had some issues last year.

You’re not going to find too many people that love Justin Marshall as much as me but he’s got some work to do this off season to ensure that he’s a starter. Marshall showed some nice flashes last season but he left a lot to be desired when it came to tracking and adjusting to the ball in the air. Marshall is too big and too athletic to not be utilized as a deep threat but that’s not an option if he can’t make the play.

Marshall has to be a reliable deep threat who can also make the plays that we saw him make last season. Dawkins played his role really well as the third option but the offense should be a little more wide open and there will be more opportunities for that third guy. Marshall has to show improvement or guys like Christian Fitzpatrick and Corey Reed will happily slide past him for that spot.

A fun thing about “covering” UofL football or whatever this is that I’m doing is that none of the online information is reliable. The roster is never totally correct until the season starts and the coaching information gets updated a couple of times a year, at best. This only frustrates nerds like me but I’ve actually considered offering to keep it updated for free.

With that being said, I believe that they still have one spot to fill. Dale Jones is the only position coach that needed to be replaced and Scott Satterfield hired Southern Miss’ Co-Defensive Coordinator to replace him. Derek Nicholson is a young coach who has a solid resume as a coach and recruiter. 247 ranked him as 2nd best recruiter in C-USA for this class and it looks like he’s recruiting northern Florida for Louisville. Can’t blame Jones for headed back to his family in Boone while also getting a promotion but I do think that UofL did a good job with the hire.

The one spot they have to fill looks to be Nic Cardwell’s spot on the offensive side of the ball. Cardwell became well known as the coach who hyped up the team before the game. He was featured a lot in highlight packages. Cardwell was Satterfield’s tight end coach at App State and went back to coach the offensive line. I’m pretty sure he worked with the tight ends here last season. They haven’t announced any of the hires for off the field roles so there’s a strong chance that I could have missed the last one.

I would say on offense we could see really good things from Dez Fitzpatrick as a senior. We obviously know what he can do at this point but I don’t think the coaches had a clue what they had on offense until the Notre Dame game kicked off. They got the running game going and that’s what we saw early on. By the time they got Dez involved in the offense, Tutu Atwell had already become a focus and the season was a third of the way over.

I do know that Dez was truly considering taking his chances in the draft but he felt that the coaches really wanted to involve him more next season. Dwayne Ledford has made it known that the offense still has a ton of room to grow — he called it “vanilla”— and I think Dez will be the beneficiary of that growth. I could see them moving him around more to get him more targets. He’ll take full advantage of more opportunities.

Bryan Brown needs Jared Goldwire to be a reliable force in the middle of the defense. I’ve beaten this point to death but Brown’s stellar defense at App in 2018 was led by MyQuon Stout at nose tackle. Stout didn’t show up in the stat books much but he was first team all-conference because he was unbelievably disruptive. Stout is on staff as a strength coach so hopefully he can help coach up Goldwire a bit on the side.

Louisville needs to be better against the run and they have to rush the passer better than they did last season. Goldwire can be that disruptive force while also having the speed to get to the quarterback. If he can take that step forward, the defense as a whole benefits.

There aren’t many holes to fill this season but we could see a couple of new faces filling those holes. Renato Brown looked to be the guy replacing Tyler Haycraft at right tackle on the first day of practice. He played in three games last year including the opener but he never got that fourth game even when Mekhi Becton was injured. He should have a fighting chance at winning the right tackle spot as a redshirt freshman.

I also think that Luke Kandra could come in this summer and fight for a starting spot on the line. He played guard in high school but he could possibly play tackle or Ledford could be willing to move guys around to get him out there. Look out for Jackson Gregory on the offensive line as well.

Braden Smith got an extended highlight on a video the team posted from the first day of practice and Satterfield mentioned him by name as a guy who stood out. That’s always a sign that he’s going to get a chance to play. Smith will likely back up Tutu with the staff looking for other ways to get him on the field. I’m personally very high on Jordan Watkins to come in and see the field early, also.

UofL is solid at inside linebacker but Dorian Jones will see the field in some way this season. He tore his ACL on his first play of the season but Satterfield talked about him multiple times last year when asked about the freshmen.

My pick for the guy to breakout that we haven’t seen much of is Zach Edwards. He looked really impressive in the handful of snaps he got last year and he is a converted linebacker who will play defensive end. That should be a good sign when it comes to rushing the passer. If he can carve out that role, he’ll see the field a lot and could be the guy that leads the team in sacks. I loved him as a recruit and saw him in that “Dog” role. He can rush off the edge which is what they need.