A new head coach, questions at quarterback and a new defensive scheme makes Louisville’s football team unpredictable heading into 2019.
The general public did not seem uncertain, though, about how UL’s refurbished product should perform. Betting sites project UL to miss a bowl appearance for its second straight season. No. 9 Notre Dame is favored by 20 points in its Sept. 2 opener at Louisville.
Last season’s 2-10 result had head coach Bobby Petrino run out of town. Taking his place was Scott Satterfield, who went 51-24 in six seasons at Appalachian State. Satterfield scrapped a coaching staff that produced a bottom quarter finish in every major offensive and defensive category last year.
The Cardinals announced junior Jawon “Puma” Pass as their starting quarterback on Monday. However, he might not take every snap. Sophomore quarterback Malik Cunningham tallied three starts and played in 10 games in 2018.
Pass earned the nod for the other nine contests and played in 11 games. He completed 162-of-300 passes for 1,960 yards and eight touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder spent the 2018 season in the same role at Louisville. His scheme will be replaced by a 3-4 defense. VanGorder now serves as the defensive coordinator for Bowling Green, which Notre Dame hosts on Oct. 5.
The UL offense will be without starting tight end Jordan Davis, Satterfield announced. On defense, junior linebacker P.J. Blue will not play this season after tearing his ACL. Blue started in four games last season.
What will these new developments look like? We caught up with Cameron Teague Robinson of the Louisville Courier-Journal for more insight on the Cardinals.
• What are the vibes and expectations surrounding Satterfield?
Teague Robinson: The vibes are up. There’s a new culture around the facility, which has brought the team closer and their new strength program worked them extremely hard throughout the summer. The team expects to be much better than they were last year and pick up a few conference games, but outside of that, it’s hard to think there’s more coming. I picked them at four wins. I think that’s the safe pick and gives them something to build off going into year two under Satterfield.
• What are you expecting at quarterback in game one, and what kind of offseason did both Pass and Cunningham have?
Teague Robinson: Well, Cunningham missed just about two weeks of preseason camp with a knee injury. He returned last week. Pass competed throughout all of preseason camp, and according to Satterfield and his teammates, showed improved accuracy in the second scrimmage. Other than that, we don’t know much. The quarterback position is their big unknown heading into the season. I think they both see the field in some way on Monday.
• The Cardinals are switching to a 3-4 defense after ranking No. 122 in total defense last year. How big of an adjustment will that be with their current personnel?
Teague Robinson: Not too much. They moved some people around to different positions, but those transitions seem to fit those players well. I think they’ll be much improved there, but the biggest adjustment will be playing time. Louisville has talent at the top of its depth chart, but the depth is a big concern. Those starters may have to play a lot of downs for Louisville to get good production, while the coaching staff attempts to develop players.
• Offensive tackle Mekhi Becton ranks high on some NFL Draft boards. Who are some other players to watch?
Teague Robinson: Becton is the most NFL-ready guy on the roster, but wide receivers Dez Fitzpatrick and Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell have been getting a lot of praise. Atwell ran a reported 4.2 40-yard dash during the offseason. Hassan Hall will be the starting running back, and if the offensive line can block, he could have a good year. Inside linebackers Dorian Etheridge and CJ Avery are the leaders of the defense and strong safety Russ Yeast has drawn rave reviews.
• What needs to go right for UL to make this game interesting? What would go wrong for them?
Teague Robinson: Louisville is going to have to come out and start hot. If they can get points early and feed of the energy in Cardinal Stadium, I really do think they can hang around a little bit. Like I said before, though, depth is the concern. I think Notre Dame can really wear them down and take control of the game in the second half.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Louisville 21.
Teague Robinson: Louisville makes it interesting early, but Notre Dame will pull away.