—Spread check: Louisville by 12.
—ESPN has named TuTu Atwell a preseason First Team All-American.
—Good vibes need to be sent in the direction of Kyle Kuric, who recently suffered a head injury in practice and was forced to undergo surgery to repair the cranial implant that was placed in his head during his bout with a brain tumor in 2016. Eric Crawford has more details.
—On March 12, ACC sports stopped. Exactly six months later, they will be back.
—Covers likes Louisville to cover its 11.5-point spread against WKU.
—Monday night’s BYU-Navy game was eerily quiet and wildly surreal.
—The CJ’s Cameron Teague has three big predictions for the 2020 Louisville football season.
Louisville will be the next team with two 1,000-yard receivers
Tutu Atwell was the ninth 1,000-yard receiver in Louisville history last year, leading the ACC with 1,272 a year ago. That total set a new program record, as well. That’s what is expected of the Miami native, but for Louisville’s offense to be even more dangerous another receiver is going to have to elevate, and Dez Fitzpatrick is that guy.
Fitzpatrick had a good season last year. He caught 35 passes for 635 yards and six touchdowns. On average he was already better than many ACC receivers, averaging 18.1 yards per catch, sixth in the conference. I expect Fitzpatrick’s targets to go up this season as Micale Cunningham gets more comfortable in the offense and Satterfield is able to open things up more. Fitzpatrick will likely move around between outside and into the slot at times providing other mismatches for the 6-foot-3 receiver.
Louisville’s offense is still going to be focused on the run. Hawkins and Hassan Hall will get their carries, but I think Fitzpatrick is prepared to do more with the added targets he gets.
Last year Wake Forest and North Carolina each had two 1,000-yard receivers. With a full year of Cunningham, who is more confident than he was at the start of last year, and Atwell, things will open up for Fitzpatrick as well. It will be hard for defenses to contain both Atwell and Fitzpatrick all season. A 1,000-yard season is also the perfect transition for Fitzpatrick who will be looking to get drafted in April.
—Rick Bozich writes about the possibility of Louisville going 10-1 this season.
—Scott Satterfield says that Louisville’s playbook is “much more advanced” as it heads into year two under his direction.
—The IOC is determined to make the Olympics happen in 2021.
—Three-Man-Weave has Louisville at No. 15 in its preseason top 40 college hoops countdown.
I already tagged Williamson as a major breakout candidate here on our site, so I won’t belabor that point.
Williams is the last-discussed of the team’s key players, but he may be the most valuable. A “heart-and-soul” kind of leader who plays with a ton of emotion (in a good way), Williams is a dominant rebounder and will be the anchor of Mack’s man-to-man defense. He platooned with the now-departed Steven Enoch, but he should earn the majority of minutes with Aidan Igiehon (the “Irish Hulk”) getting bursts of minutes off the bench. Williams has the added bonus of being able to knock in an open triple (57/181 for his career, 31.5%), forcing opposing bigs to take an extra step out of the paint and helping the Cards’ spacing.
Filling in the minutes around that primary group of Williams, the grad transfers, and Johnson/Williamson will be crucial. Igiehon, forward Quinn Slazinski, and guard Josh Nickelberry barely saw the court last year, while freshmen Jaelyn Withers (redshirt), D’Andre Davis, JJ Traynor, and Gabe Wiznitzer are obviously D-I newbies as well. All but Slazinski were top-150 recruits, though, so the talent is not lacking. Instead, it’s more a question of “which guy(s) will emerge?”
Fortunately, the key offensive weapons are largely figured out, so that question will probably be answered by who best meshes with Mack’s defensive scheme. He runs a modified pack line, taking away the rim as an option and forcing foes to hit jumpers over the top. To wit: per hoop-math, Louisville’s defense allowed the 9th-fewest attempts at the rim last season. Like Virginia, the Cards’ defense also takes away transition opportunities, and forcing teams to execute in the half court helped them rank 17th in defensive shot quality, per Dribble Handoff. Slazinski and Nickelberry’s experience, however slight, likely give them an edge over Davis and the extremely thin Traynor, with the bouncy Withers being the wild card.
Bottom Line: The range of outcomes for this Louisville team is fairly wide given the amount of unproven-in-the-ACC commodities it will rely on, but the combination of talent and terrific coaching at a powerhouse program bodes well. Jones and Johnson should be a formidable backcourt tandem, while Williams and Williamson will be nightly matchup problems with their size and skill sets. With Mack at the helm, we’ll slant towards the optimistic end of the spectrum.
—TMW also released its ACC preview today. They have Louisville finishing fourth in the conference, have David Johnson as a preseason First Team selection, and Samuell Williamson on the Third Team.
—The U of L men’s soccer team has been picked to finish fifth out of six teams in the ACC’s North Region for the 2020 season.
—A new episode of the Cardinal Sports Zone podcast is here.
—The Jets have released former Cardinal WR Josh Bellamy.
—State of the U prepares for year two of the Manny Diaz era.
—The first installment of the player-driven “Ville 4 Change” series features the Cardinal quarterbacks.
—Cardinal Authority is out with its weekly Louisville football notebook.
—Big Red Louie lists three things Louisville needs to do in order to take care of WKU on Saturday.
—According to Lamar Thomas (Athletic link), Bobby Petrino tried to get him to convince Lamar Jackson to decommit from U of L.
Louisville offered Jackson, but then almost backed out of the offer, Thomas said. “Petrino is like an impulsive buyer sometimes. He came back in a week or two weeks and tells me, ‘This kid, I don’t really know.’
“I said, ‘Coach, you watched his film. I think he’s gonna be the greatest quarterback who ever played here.’ He said only Garrick and I know about quarterbacks. I thought to myself because I didn’t want to be disrespectful. But in my mind I was thinking, ‘Let me see, my quarterback in college in high school was All-American and went to Duke. My quarterback in college (Gino Torretta) won the Heisman Trophy, and I played with a guy in the NFL named Dan Marino. So you’re right. I don’t know shit about quarterbacks.’”
Thomas said he’d become sold on Jackson beyond his physical tools by observing the QB on the sidelines during games, seeing his demeanor and how his teammates reacted to him.
“His teammates loved him,” he said. “I never saw him yelling at his teammates. It was always on him. I was very impressed by that.”
“And then for him to say that he wanted me to get him to de-commit. He won’t admit that, but I won’t forget it. And I told him I couldn’t do that. Because regardless of wherever I was working, South Florida is my home, as far as recruiting. The only thing you have is your word, and you have the trust. And I wasn’t gonna do that. Of course, he was pissed at me, but it is what it is.”
—Pat Forde looks at the start of Power 5 play in his latest Forde Yard Dash.
—Fresh Eric Van Der Heijden highlights are here.
—And finally, each home football game this season will be a “salute” to a different segment of Card Nation, beginning with the class of 2020. For a full list of the season game themes, go here.