Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Posted by Rob Jones
It's about time to start preparing for football season. Coach Kragthorpe and his team have a couple new coordinator's and a slew of new players. Here are position previews for the WR and TE's from the old site for you new viewers. Don't fret loyal readers, defensive and offensive line is coming on Friday followed by DBs and RBs on Wednesday.
I covered the Wide-outs and Trevor took care of the Tight Ends. Because we all know Trevor loves the Tight Ends.
Louisville has been spoiled with wide-outs. A position that has been rich in talent since I can remember is going to have problems living up to its reputation this year due to one thing: inexperience. Just in the past week, the Cards have potentially lost two of their wide-outs with the most experience. Junior slot receiver JuJuan Spillman caught his walking papers as a result of a second DUI/marijuana charge, this time involving a handgun. On the other hand, Trent Guy was SHOT IN THE BACK this weekend and his full-recovery timetable isn't known. Guy could potentially return for the season, but how will he respond to an incident that could have ended his life much less his football career. Spillman and Guy were also the team's best option at kick returner, both scoring a touchdown that way.
If the running game works like it should, QB Hunter Cantwell's targets should get a good amount of one-on-one coverage that will help disguise the lack of experience. There are a few newcomers (ie: Maurice Clark) and young talent (Troy Pascley and Douglas Beaumont) that could become the prototypical star receiver that Louisville has been blessed with for the better part of 20 years. A total of 29 passes have been caught by incoming Card wide-outs for a total of 0 TDs. Coach Kragthorpe is handling the receivers, a job that should be considerably more difficult this year due to the unit's lack of experience.
Scott Long (84, above) and Chris Vaughn were known for getting in some trouble involving paint ball guns as freshman. Now the two are the only receivers returning that have caught a pass in college with 27 and 2 respectively. Long was really impressive in open practice in the spring showing he might be able to fill the shoes left by Harry Douglas. In the absence of Mario Urrutia, Long started 7 games last year and caught a pass in 7 straight games. The 6-2 211 pound junior from North Carolina has great hands and a little speed. He should be one of Hunter Cantwell's top targets this fall. Vaughn, who transferred from Notre Dame as a frosh, has been riddled with minor injuries over his Cardinal career causing him to miss a significant amount of time. The senior needs to toughen up and play through nagging injuries because he has the body (6-3 220) and talent to be a great contributor. Vaughn's passion for the game and willingness to put his body on the line have been questioned since his days at Notre Dame, maybe now that his time is running out in college he will put up the stats to back up his expectations. Vaughn was ranked the #1 WR in New England coming out of high school.
One of the questions marks from Steve Kragthorpe's first year at Louisville was why he didn't redshirt Louisville Male standout Douglas Beaumont. He had only one rush and caught zero passes, but played in all 12 games on special teams. Special teams? Doesn't make much sense using a guy who has an immense amount of talent and gives superior effort in such an unusual way. Beaumont is not afraid to go across the middle, catch a screen and gain 8-10 yards, or help out the running game through blocking. He was vastly under-used last year and is poised for a breakthrough season. Beaumont is one of the best athletes on the team and could be used in the return game if Guy's injury doesn't allow him to come back. Look for Beaumont to be this year's breakout player, something a few preseason magazines have already named him.
The sleeper of the unit could be Troy Pascley, who missed most of last year with pneumonia after redshirting in '06. He dazzled in practice last year with his ability to overpower and separate from backs with strength. The 6-2 190 lb soph is currently listed as the backup to Scott Long at the X position over the senior Vaughn. Pascley's potential is unpredictable, but if he plays in game action like he practiced, he has the ability to be a diamond in the rough and contribute immediately for the Cards. "The Giraffe" Josh Chichester is also coming off a redshirt year and might be a little rough around the edges, but his size is impossible to ignore. At 6-8 224 he could be a great target for Cantwell in the red zone and on third down. Chichester needs to improve his quickness and hands in order to break into the rotation, but he will surely have the fan support after his stint with the basketball team this past season. Pascley and Chichester won't be expected to have great years, however the potential is there for one or both to exceed expectations.
Maurice Clark is a JUCO transfer from Saddleback CC and will add much needed depth and stability to the position. The 6-3 Clark is the only recruit at WR that Kragthorpe signed this year, but one of quality. He runs a 4.5 40 and had 16 TDs and over 1,000 yards in two years of JUCO ball. It will be interesting to see him in action, letting the fans see what kind of wide-out Coach K is looking for on the recruiting trail.
The best thing the corps of wide-outs have going for them is the QB throwing it to them. For Hunter Cantwell to truly succeed, one of these guys is going to have to step up and become a "go-to guy". Guys like Deion Branch and JR Russell weren't highly touted coming into their breakout years, so look for Long or Beaumont to perform better than might be expected. However, losing players to dismissal, injury, and early-entry has really handcuffed this bunch, forcing players who may not be prepared to play significant, important time on the field. The potential is there, but the experience is not. It will be interesting to see how the new faces perform when practice starts in the next month.
As was with the receivers, Cards fans haven't had to worry about their tight end situation in a long time. But Gary Barnidge and Scott Kuhn are not walking through those doors and neither are their combined 68 receptions for 826 yards and 9 touchdowns from last season. Instead the Cards will be suiting up a group of guys who have zero starts and catches at tight end. Louisville is so thin at the position that Johnnie Burns, a defensive end the last three years, along with three Freshman and two Sophomores are competing for the starting job.
"We lost two dynamic guys." said Coach Kragthorpe referring to Barnidge and Kuhn. "We have to find guys who will step up for us" Kragthorpe added during spring practice.
Coach Kragthorpe likes to set up in two tight end sets and play smash-mouth football, mixing ion some play-action. That will be hard to do with all the surrounding questions that haunt the tight end position this season. If the Cards want to be a run first team, using bigger formations, someone or in this case two, will have to step up. Uncertainty at the tight end is something the Cards could live without. They need to be able to have confidence in their tight ends and not be forced to use three and four wide outs in running situations, something the Cards may be forced to do.
The 6-3 245 lb Johnnie Burns (pictured left), a three year defensive lineman, was a four year letterman in basketball in high school and the senior is hoping to use that athleticism to make the transition to the offensive side of the ball. Redshirt Sophomore Pete Nochta (6-5 246, lower right) is also in the mix for playing time. Nochta is the only Cardinal returning who has any experience playing the position, however he has yet to record any catches or starts. Louisville will also hope to get contributions from true Freshman Mike Fennerty, a 6-4 220 pound recruit from Olympia, Washington, who is hoping to take advantage of the Cards weakened state to earn himself immediate playing time. Another is JUCO transfer Rock Keys, who may hold the keys to a starting job if he demonstrates with the Cards what he has the last couple of seasons at Jones County CC in Mississippi. Nate Nord out of west Boca Raton, FL is an interesting case, being the nephew of TE coach Greg Nord and having the size (6-5 230) of a prototypical D-1 tight end. It will be interesting to watch how the younger Nord plays under the elder Nord.
As, Coach K pointed out at the beginning of Spring ball, the Cards are desperate for help and need not only one, but two or three players to step up and at least soften the blow left by the graduation of two NFL-caliber tight ends. Hunter Cantwell needs someone to stop the blitzing corner or keep the safety honest. As long as they come CLOSE to matching the production of the last four years, the coaches and fans will be pleased. Whether or not that is able to be accomplished is another story.
at 1:44 AM