The Louisville Cardinals entered the ACC last year with huge momentum. Head coach Bobby Petrino, who took over after a very successful tenure by Charlie Strong (who bolted for Texas) was able to build on the success of the program, taking the team to a 9-4 record, and a return trip to the Belk Bowl. Louisville also sent 10 players to the NFL draft, which was second in the nation only to Florida State (11) .
Petrino has historically made great leaps in his second year at every school he has coached at, and his tenure at Louisville is shaping up to be no different. Is Louisville the dark horse selection to win the ACC?
Louisville’s Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Reggie or Will?
Louisville was able to go 9-4 despite spending the year searching for a consistent starting QB. The Cardinals will not be able to do that again. They must decide whether they are going to finally go with the age and experience of Will Gardner or the youth and athleticism of Reggie Bonnafon, with Kyle Bolin waiting in the wings.
2. Devante Parker 2.0?
Parker justified his 10th overall selection in the NFL Draft when he returned to Louisville after a foot injury and put up 855 yards and five touchdowns in just six games. His heir apparent seems to be James Quick, a player with similar freakish talent, and ability to go up after a ball, especially in the red zone. If Quick continues his ascension to a Parker-esque level, Petrino’s high-powered offense will hit its stride.
3. Defense Wins Championships
Todd Grantham has been masterful as the Louisville’s defensive coordinator, easily picking up where Vance Bedford left off. Grantham was left with a very full cupboard in 2014, and so it was very easy to build and restock for this season. Now the challenge is building quality depth around All-ACC players Keith Kelsey, Sheldon Rankins and James Burgess, which will aid the Cardinals in wearing teams down.
4. Make Your Case
Quite possibly the most important game of the year for Louisville is the first one. Opening against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is the statement that the Cardinals desperately need to make to be considered a serious contender this season. A win would instantly propel the Cardinals back into the national spotlight, and send a very clear message to the ACC and the rest of follege football.
5. Hold That Line
Last year Louisville was not able to get constant and consistent pressure on either side of the ball. The Cardinals must plug their holes on their offensive and defensive lines. Petrino must develop true depth at every position on both sides of the ball. That depth must perform on par with the starters in order to produce the kind of success this team has become accustomed to knowing.
— Written by Lloyd H. Spence Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence has covered both high school and college sports for several years, and has written for several outlets, incuding ESPNLouisville.com and CardinalSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.