Monday, August 16, 2010

Conflicted on Cardinals

With Steve Kragthorpe and three seasons of ineptitude fading into the rearview mirror, I want to be optimistic about this year’s University of Louisville football team. I really do. But I’m finding myself somewhat conflicted.

Take the quarterback position as a prime example. Louisville returns three quarterbacks who won games last year in Justin Burke, Adam Froman and Will Stein. (That’s no small feat for a team that won all of four games.) All three showed flashes of being good quarterbacks last year. Burke looked downright unstoppable through most of the opener, which was a near upset of arch rival Kentucky. Froman proved to be a good, hardnosed leader. Stein’s size is questioned, but his toughness is beyond reproach.

Based on offensive coordinator Mike Sanford’s description of his spread offense, none of the returning quarterbacks seem ideally suited for it. Sanford recently talked about the importance of dual treat quarterback. He even mentioned running some option. That might point toward some involvement from true freshman Dominique Brown. From my perspective, you better not count on the option being an important part of your offense unless you’re jersey says “Navy” on the front or “Tebow” on the back. To make matters worse, Louisville couldn’t keep its quarterbacks healthy last year, even without running the option.

On the plus side, Louisville’s running back corps looks so solid behind Victor Anderson and Bilal Powell that Head Coach Charlie Strong moved the team’s second leading rusher from last season, Darius Ashley, to defense. Let’s hope Powell proves Strong right by hitting the hole with authority this season instead of more dancing like in the past. Both runners will have a big and experienced line to run behind.

No matter how leery I am of the offense, I am much more concerned about the Cardinals’ defense. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford recently said only two players have nailed down starting positions, Greg Scruggs and Brandon Heath. He added that the Cards are so undersized on the defensive front that opposing offenses will just run the ball at them until they can stop it. As a result, most of the buzz around the defense surrounds two players who have yet to even join the team in USC transfer Jordan Campbell and former Michigan signee Demar Dorsey. One or both may not make it to campus.

I want to believe that better coaching alone could result in an extra win or two for the Cards this season. Strong has done and said all the right things since coming to Louisville. Yet, for all his competence to this point, the former Florida defensive coordinator has never called the shots. Sanford has more head coaching experience than he does. Maybe that’s why Strong has so readily handed over the offensive play calling over to him.

This strikes me as a little odd. We know Strong can be a top-notch defensive coordinator. You’d think he’d be eager to show off his offensive chops. Yet, he turns his offense over to someone else. That’s like a CEO who doesn’t want to serve on his company’s board of directors. We saw too much of this kind of delegating under Kragthorpe.

Despite these nagging doubts, I can imagine a scenario in which a leader emerges at quarterback, the defense makes up for its lack of size with quickness, and Strong shows everyone why he should have been a head coach five years ago. I can also imagine a scenario under which none of that happens and history repeats itself.

As I said, I’m conflicted.

1 comment:

Charles Springer said...

Makes sense to turn the offense over to the offensive coordinator, especially if your background is in defense. Why have one if you're not going to use him?