There aren’t many players in the country that meant more to their team last year than Malik Cunningham. While he made plenty of highlight plays, his 7.79 yards per play average and 39 total touchdowns were what made him so vital to the Louisville offense. No quarterback in the country was able to utilize their running and passing skills as well as Cunningham and the only thing that held him back from gaining more notoriety is the fact that the ACC has so many good quarterbacks.
With everything I just pointed out above about how important Malik is to the offense, Scott Satterfield needs to find a way to not be so reliant on Cunningham this year. Malik was a great playmaker last year but he also became too much of the offense at times. Teams were able to key on him to take away his ability to run and create which then led to the offense stalling.
The best way to help Malik is to have a strong traditional running game. If the backs can keep the offense on schedule you can truly utilize Malik as a run/pass threat that the defense can’t prepare for. Too many times last season, the offense got behind the sticks and they had to rely on Malik to create. Satterfield and Lance Taylor have to find a way to get the running game back to where it was a few years ago when Malik wasn’t the focal point of the offense. That is how they can maximize his ability.
One other way to help Malik is to use their slot receivers on jet sweeps and other edge plays to get some cheap yards and/or big plays. That was a missing piece of the offense last year with Tutu Atwell in the NFL and Braden Smith out with an injury. Hopefully, we will see that back in the playbook.
Satterfield and staff have not done a good job of building depth in the quarterback room so far. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. Whether it be from the high school ranks or the transfer portal, UofL has not brought in a player that would either push Malik or be a reliable replacement if needed.
I’m one of the biggest Evan Conley fans you will find but after a strong start to his career as a freshman, Conley hasn’t been able to replicate that success. When he has been called upon in non-garbage time minutes he has struggled with his accuracy and poise. After missing the spring with an injury, one has to wonder if he will be ready to step in if needed.
We got to see Brock Domann play in limited minutes last season and in an expanded role in the spring. What we’ve seen hasn’t been very impressive. Domann has good size but his skill set is still unknown. He was not able to get off a pass in mop-up duty last season and in the spring game he ended up running the ball about as often as he got a pass off. There’s a chance that a full off-season will help, but we have to just hope at this point.
Freshmen are always exciting because you never know anything about him other than recruiting rankings and Hudl videos. Therefore, Khalib Johnson has the most upside out of this entire group. Johnson missed the spring game because of an injury to his non-throwing shoulder but the reports about how he performed in practice were solid. It’s hard to know where Johnson stands in the pecking order but it would be great to see him get some live snaps this year.
I think this is the year that we see Malik breakout as a passer. In 2019, he nearly led the nation in passer rating but he didn’t qualify for the stat. I think we could see him put up some passing numbers that are somewhat similar to 2019. He may not have the proven talent that he had at receiver that year but I’m willing to posit that he has more options this year to work with. He’ll need big plays from all three receiver spots as well as the reliability that Marshon Ford brings. But as I pointed out above, he needs a stronger running game from the running backs.