Without question, the Louisville Cardinals ended the 2016 season on a sour note, losing three straight games, including one to in-state rival Kentucky and a 20-point setback at the hands of LSU in the Citrus Bowl that wasn't all that competitive.
The good news, however, is that Bobby Petrino and Co. have plenty of reason for optimism to build on what was otherwise a strong season.
Obviously, everything will revolve around quarterback Lamar Jackson, the electric playmaker who won the Heisman Trophy and will at least start the season as someone who will be in the conversation to win it again.
Outside of that, though, there is enough experience to see the Cardinals perhaps challenge for an ACC Atlantic Division title, even though powerhouses Florida State and Clemson will be the favorites.
Still, there are holes to fill, and the Cardinals will have a number of newcomers who can do so and maybe push this team to a stronger finish this time around.
Colin Wilson, RB, True Freshman
Brandon Radcliff, the team's starting running back from a year ago, has graduated and taken his 906 yards and six touchdowns from 2016 with him. There are some more veteran options, but Wilson, a true freshman out of Florida, chose the Cardinals over some big-time programs, and his 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame could translate well right away.
Ronald Rudd, OT, Junior College Transfer
The offensive line was the poorest unit on the team in 2016, so improvement in that area is desperately needed. Enter Rudd, a JUCO pickup from California, who can step in and play right away. The 6-foot-7, 305-pound Rudd has the type of length and physical maturity to at least earn some quick playing time.
Jordan Davis, TE, Transfer from Texas A&M
While Jackson returns a good amount of talent and depth returning at the wide receiver spots, he will miss one of his favorite targets in tight end Cole Hikutini, an All-ACC performer. One player who could fill that void is Davis, a once highly-touted recruit for Texas A&M who saw time as a true freshman in College Station.
C.J. Avery, S, True Freshman
Multi-talented Josh Harvey-Clemons is gone, but the safety position remains one where the Cardinals should be strong in 2017, as Chucky Williams will be one of the best in the conference. Still, Avery was one of the Cardinals' best pulls in this recruiting class as an Under Armour All-American. An early enrollee, the Mississippi native is already on campus, which could help his chances of early playing time.
Russ Yeast, CB, True Freshman
As with the safety position, the Cardinals are fairly well-stocked at cornerback spot heading into 2017, but that didn't stop them from targeting some big-time talents in this recruiting cycle. Yeast was a four-star recruit out of one of Indiana's best high school programs in Center Grove and could push for playing time in a unit that already has a strong base.
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.