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Thursday morning Cardinal news and notes

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—Suddenly, Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz are one loss away from what would be a very disappointing second round elimination.

—Louisville catcher Henry Davis has been named a First Team All-American by Baseball America.

—Pro Football Focus ranks the 25 best players in the NFL under the age of 25. Lamar Jackson is No. 2, Jaire Alexander is No. 5, and Mekhi Becton is No. 22.

2. QB LAMAR JACKSON, BALTIMORE RAVENS

A year removed from his MVP season, Jackson is a fantastic example of how quarterback development isn’t always just a neat curve in the right direction. Jackson was still good in 2020, and he actually recorded a higher big-time throw rate than he did throughout his MVP campaign, but his touchdown percentage went from 7.7% to 5.7% while his turnover-worthy play rate doubled to 3.6%. Jackson is still a dynamic playmaker who likely splits the difference between those two seasons in 2021.

5. CB JAIRE ALEXANDER, GREEN BAY PACKERS

Alexander was a shutdown force at cornerback for the Packers in 2020, earning a PFF coverage grade of 91.1 for the season while allowing a total of just 353 yards across 17 games, including the playoffs. The now 24-year-old allowed 20 or fewer receiving yards in 11 games last year and wasn’t beaten for more than 66 all season.

22. T MEKHI BECTON, NEW YORK JETS

Becton’s first season might have been something spectacular had he not been bothered by injury all season. A player some questioned as a draft prospect, Becton looked perfectly at home playing at a high level in the NFL, giving up just 15 total pressures across 412 pass-blocking snaps. With a fully healthy season and a better quarterback behind him, Becton could be in line for a big year.

—U of L’s annual Louie Awards went down on Wednesday.

—Xavier Booker, a four-star power forward from the class of 2023, has been offered by Chris Mack. Booker is ranked as the No. 35 player in the 2023 class by Rivals.

—The sites and dates for each of the 2021-22 ACC championships have been unveiled.

—Definitely a top five “where were you” day for people in their 30s or older.

—Pierce Clarkson, a top 150 QB from the class of 2023, is visiting Louisville today. Clarkson is a four-star recruit who runs the offense for national high school power St. John’s Bosco in California.

—Clemson announced Thursday morning that it is adding women’s lacrosse and women’s gymnastics to its athletic program.

—Jeff Greer’s latest Floyd Street Tribune newsletter looks at the players who should benefit the most from a new offensive scheme in 2021-22.

Jae’Lyn Withers

Withers, who I mentioned in last week’s reader Q&A newsletter in answering this exact question, should fit nicely into a stretch power forward role that will allow him to play his more natural position. That’s a benefit of Malik Williams coming back healthy and Roosevelt Wheeler joining the ranks.

Where the McMains offensive principles can help: Getting Withers in more face-up situations and helping him get solid looks from 3-point range. Withers is at his best creating off the dribble with space to operate, and that’s exactly what the into-space, out-to-space mentality of the McMains offense wants. (For more on what McMains’s offensive principles look like, read here.) He also shot 8 of 21 from 3, and the 6-foot-9 redshirt sophomore will presumably get more attempts this coming campaign. Withers will be tasked this offseason with improving his decision-making in playmaking situations, Mack told me this week on my podcast.

—Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal writes that college football’s 12-team playoff idea is a little daffy and stubborn and hard to explain, but then again, so is college football.

—Daylen Lile will spend this weekend trying to lead Trinity to its first state baseball championship. After that, he’ll face the decision of whether or not to go pro or suit up for the University of Louisville.

—Maybe just make it a 112-team playoff.

—Louisville baseball signee Ethan Wood fired a complete-game, three-hit shutout on Wednesday to lead Danville into the semifinals of the Kentucky State Baseball Tournament with a 3-0 win over Lafayette.

—John Harbaugh says Lamar Jackson “is gonna get paid” with his next contract from the Ravens.

—247 Sports has one big reason for optimism for each ACC football team in 2021.

LOUISVILLE — ALL FIVE OFFENSIVE LINE STARTERS RETURN

Louisville just couldn’t seem to get things going this year, starting out as bad as 1-4 in a year that snowballed to a 12th place finish in the league. Malik Cunningham’s athleticism was impressive and helped carry the Cardinals at times, but his mistakes were glaring, too. He finished with 12 interceptions on the year, creating plenty of reason to be concerned about the future. However, with Louisville losing eight players to the NFL Draft, offensive line play will be more important than ever. Having multiple starters back on that unit for continuity is crucial.

—Incoming U of L hoops freshmen Roosevelt Wheeler and Mike James are both included in the final SI99.

—Florida grad transfer guard Noah Locke talked with the Louisville media for the first time on Wednesday. Here’s what he had to say.

—Donovan Mitchell credits Rick Pitino for “unlocking the fire” in his game during his time at U of L.

—The Athletic’s Max Olson previews the 2021 Louisville football season.

“We played good enough in all three phases to win a lot more games than we won,” coach Scott Satterfield said. “It’s hard to look at one stat, but last year? You probably could look at one stat: turnover margin. And crap, you clean that up and you’ve got a great opportunity, a great chance, to be successful in a lot of games and get back to where we need to get to.”

No one stat can account for everything a football team dealt with leading up to and during a season in a pandemic. But Satterfield is not wrong. Louisville played six close games, and turnovers were unquestionably the fatal flaw. Tossing 12 interceptions, losing 12 of 18 fumbles and forcing just 12 takeaways over 11 games adds up to a minus-12 turnover margin that ranked second-worst in the FBS.

And that made Year 2 of Satterfield’s tenure a disappointing one. He inherited a disaster from Bobby Petrino and pulled off a mighty encouraging 8-5 run in his debut year. Then came a big step back, at least in terms of the 4-7 record. Were the Cardinals actually that bad? They did finish No. 35 in SP+ with a top-15 offense. You can easily point to five games that swung on untimely turnovers. This team couldn’t win close games like it did in 2019.

They’re doing whatever they can to fix that this offseason. Turnovers were a constant theme every single day of spring practice and will continue to be this summer. They embraced new drills and circuits borrowed from the New England Patriots in practice and are being more intentional about both ball security and getting more strips and picks.

“It’s like anything else: Anything you emphasize, I think you get better at,” Satterfield said.

The head coach is loving the response he has seen from his team throughout this offseason. He does feel like, inside the program, it’s starting to feel more and more like it did at Appalachian State. They built up a culture in Boone, he said, where the players could basically run the program themselves. His Louisville players are starting to figure out what that means. Satterfield loves how the leadership group is embracing extreme ownership, how many guys embrace putting in extra work, how they’re not having to hold as many accountable. He calls camaraderie the secret sauce of his program, and that really showed up this spring.

“For us, it was really the first time that we felt that chemistry,” Satterfield said.

—U of L hoops recruit Lawrent Rice felt “really comfortable” during his Louisville visit.

—Former Cardinal golfer Adam Hadwin tees off at the U.S. Open today.

—And finally, congrats to David Johnson on receiving an invite to the NBA draft combine.