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Louisville Football Position Preview: Wide Receivers

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Dez and Tutu are gone. Who will fill the void?

Syndication: The Courier-Journal Sam Upshaw Jr./Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Scott Satterfield came to Louisville with a pedigree for putting up points with a run-heavy offense that relied on efficiency and misdirection to create those points as well as big plays. After a handful of games as Louisville’s head coach, it was obvious that he knew how to use his Wide Receivers to hit big plays in the passing game. With the focus of those big plays now playing in the NFL, Satterfield will have to rely on a committee approach in the passing game.

Louisville doesn’t have a bonafide “go-to” guy to start the season but I would be surprised if we didn’t see Braden Smith become somewhat of a security blanket for Malik Cunningham. Smith finished last season with 27 catches but didn’t find the endzone. While I don’t know that he will be a threat to put up 5+ touchdowns, I do think he will be a guy that gets a lot of looks on third downs.

Shai Werts will likely be the first man up to back up Smith in the slot. Werts is a grad transfer from Georgia Southern where he was one of the most electric quarterbacks in the country over the last few years. Werts is a little bigger and longer than I expected him to be but he has obvious quickness and good speed which should help him adjust to his new position. We won’t know just how good he will be as a Receiver until the games get going but he has pure talent that you can’t teach.

The key to this group will be Justin Marshall, in my opinion. Marshall showed flashes last season as a complete Receiver that could be more than a guy that ran go routes. He looked very fluid and athletic running the deep comebacks that the offense likes to run and he made a couple of catches where he worked his way back to the Quarterback to create separation and an avenue to run after the catch. That’s where Dez Fitzpatrick excelled and if Marshall can do some of the things Dez did, he will give the Cards a consistent target.

Tyler Harrell was listed as Marshall’s backup during the summer but when practice opened up this fall he was across the field as a starter. With how much the coaches have hyped him up as well as what I saw in practice, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him with the first group against Ole Miss. If he can use his reported 4.19 speed to be a threat to take the top off of the defense, UofL’s offense could be very good. That type of speed opens up things for everyone else.

Louisville will be relying on one or two guys to take a big step forward this year and Jordan Watkins is probably the top player on that list. Watkins only had a handful of catches last season but he looked much more comfortable as the season went on. Watkins got to campus in the summer last year and the transformation in his body by the end of the year as well as to now is very noticeable. He showed off his speed on a 23-yard touchdown run late in the year and my hope is that we see him used in different ways to force defenses to defend all of the skill positions this year.

Amari Huggins-Bruce and Josh Johnson will be the next guys up at Receiver. Johnson got some run late last year and after battling injuries his entire career, he should be on the field plenty as a rotation guy. AHB is one of the young guys we’ve heard about during camp. Scott Satterfield has mentioned him as a guy that’s impressed and I think that he has a skill set that is pretty unique out of the guys on the roster. Lousiville needs guys who can make plays on their own and AHB seems to have that type of ability.

The remainder of the group is very much unknown. Demetrius Cannon arrived in the winter so he should have a solid grasp of the offense. Jalein Carter did not look like a guy that played sparingly at EKU when I saw him. He has very good size and ran pretty well in 1-on-1s. Carter was featured in a social media video UofL posted the other day where he went up and over a defender to catch a jump ball. He won’t likely be a key to the offense but with the committee approach they will have to take, he will definitely be a guy who could work himself onto the field.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

I have talked myself into a theory that Justin Marshall is being talked about less than other guys because the staff doesn’t want to show their hand. Marshall is a veteran player that has obvious ability. With the improvement that I saw from a guy who couldn’t track a deep ball a few years ago to a guy who could be a weapon in the intermediate passing game, I fully expect him to have a big year. UofL will have to have a “guy” in this offense and I think Marshall will end up being just that.