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Monday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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Christopher Coe brings the 2021 Summer Tour to Mt. Rushmore.

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—Improved offensive play was the theme of Louisville football’s second intrasquad scrimmage.

—ESPN ranks the 100 best players in college football for 2021 and has Malik Cunningham at No. 65. St. X product Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati’s quarterback, is at No. 20.

—Three-Man-Weave has Louisville at No. 21 in its preseason top 40 college hoops countdown.

The 2022 season trajectory hinges on the revitalization of Malik Williams, the pulse of the Cardinals’ interior unit. Williams’ fractured foot worsened during the pandemic, keeping him at bay for all but three games last season. Big things are expected of Williams heading into the 2021-22 campaign, but an in-depth report from SI.com highlights Mack’s adamance on being extremely cautious with Williams’ reintegration:

For the time being, Williams is taking part in individual workouts and drills with both the assistant coaches and Mack himself. This is in an effort to be “the healthiest Malik Williams that we can get” for the 2021-22 season. While he will likely not participate in 5-on-5 activities this summer, Mack believes Williams will be able to make a seamless transition when that time comes.

This is obviously an evolving situation but it carries huge implications for the Cardinals’ 2022 outlook. Roosevelt Wheeler projects as a college ready big but the Cards can’t afford Williams to be a shell of himself again.

Dre Davis is the other key piece to the puzzle. The barrel-chested power wing is a quintessential role player with a revved-up motor but, like Williamson, was a feast-or-famine contributor all year long. He hit a freshman wall late in the year and his production plummeted over the final three weeks of the season. Again, Davis marks another ‘wide range of outcomes’ player situation that Mack will have to nurture. To his credit, Davis serves as an invaluable tool defensively.

Bottom Line: The 2021-22 season represents a blank canvas. There’s plenty to nitpick at here, from off court distractions to volatile on floor production. The mitigating factor and potential antidote to all these concerns? Depth. Mack’s best teams have always leaned on a strong bench, which was essentially non-existence last season. Guys like Michael James, JJ Traynor and Sydney Curry may be stuck at the back of the line to start the year, but they have the chops to break into the core rotation - and that doesn’t even include Mason Faulkner, a recent Western Carolina defector who has apparently already enrolled at the school.

It all comes down to Mack’s ability to harness this roster optionality as an asset. If successful, the Cardinals have top-10 upside.

—Louisville Report’s Matt McGavic takes a stab at projecting the current U of L football 2-deep.

—Last Thursday, Isaac Bales, captain of the University of Louisville Rugby Club was selected 12th overall in the First Round by RugbyATL (Atlanta) in the Major League Rugby Collegiate draft. Bales is the third Cardinal in the last four years to hear his name called in the draft.

—Not a bad professional start for TuTu.

—The last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient, 97-year-old Hershel “Woody” Williams, was honored during Military Appreciation Day at Slugger Field.

—The ACC Network is now available for Comcast and Xfinity users.

—Teddy Bridgewater has emerged as the somewhat surprising favorite to win the Broncos’ starting QB job.

—Vikings fans gave Teddy a standing ovation during his return to Minnesota.

—Peyton Siva has signed a new deal with the New Zealand Breakers of the NBL.

—In a direct shot at the Providence Friar, Purdue Pete has been voted as America’s creepiest mascot.

—Kenderick Duncan makes the Pro Football Focus All-Underrated Team for the 2021 college football season.

S: Kenderick Duncan Jr., Louisville

Louisville’s safety room underperformed in 2020. The group tied for the third-worst coverage grade among the 65 Power Five safety units. Duncan — a transfer from Georgia Southern — is bound to help fix that in 2021. He shined in a limited role in 2018, broke out in a full-time role in 2019 and sustained that success in 2020. Over that span, he recorded an 89.1 PFF grade, buoyed by 87.0-plus marks both against the run and in coverage. Duncan is also one of the best tacklers at the position in the country. Duncan has missed only 16 tackles on 170 career attempts.

—Former Louisville pitcher Adam Elliott is returning to the program as a graduate assistant.

—Racing Louisville won the first Women’s Cup by stunning Bayern Munich in about the most thrilling manner you could have imagined.

—Quality content here.

—Two weeks away from the season-opener against Ole Miss, the CJ’s Cam Teague highlights four position battles to keep an eye on.

—The U of L field hockey team picked up an exhibition win over Bellarmine on Saturday.

—TNIAAM can foresee Syracuse going 3-9 this season.

—Ole Miss LB Ashanti Cistrunk has some lofty goals for a Rebel defense that was torched in 2020.

“The goals, I’d say, is more turnovers this year and not allow anybody — I mean, nobody — over 21 points. That’s the goal,” Cistrunk said.

The first real test for Cistrunk and Co. — a full-team scrimmage on Sunday — didn’t inspire much confidence.

The first-team offense, led exclusively by All-SEC first-team quarterback Matt Corral, scored six times (five touchdowns, one field goal) in eight series. The poor performance drew the ire of Kiffin, who, in his post-practice meeting with local media, made a point to single out the team’s shoddy tackling.

Kiffin had a different assessment of the No. 1 defense — Cistrunk among them — two days later. After reviewing the film, he said the unit “played pretty well,” though the two defense “did not.”

“Man, playing our offense, it’s tough,” Cistrunk said. “But it’s getting us ready. It’s a bunch of moving parts. Matt, he plays like a pro, really and truly. I feel like I’m going against an NFL quarterback every day. The crazy part is, everybody’s a weapon. You can’t sleep on nobody on the offensive side.

“Every day we’re getting one percent better, if not more. The last scrimmage, the twos had a little rough time, but the ones, we did pretty good. It was pretty good. The biggest difference (from last year) is everyone’s combined effort. We’re running to the ball now, getting after it.”

Ole Miss held just one of its 10 opponents below 21 points in 2020 and ranked 118th out of 128 FBS defenses in points allowed per game.

—You can hear what Lane Kiffin had to say following Ole Miss’ Saturday practice right here.

—Cardinal Authority breaks down the updated Louisville women’s basketball roster.

—Offensive lineman Jordan Rhodes was practicing with South Carolina at the beginning of this month. Now, Louisville could face him in two weeks when they take on Ole Miss.

—The summer of shots at Lamar continues.

—The ESPN college football staff has a betting guide for the upcoming season.

—The 13th-ranked Louisville volleyball team started its preseason with an exhibition win over Dayton.

—And finally, the Mike Rutherford Show is back this afternoon from 3-6 on 1450/96.1. You can stream the show here.