Coach:Steve Kragthorpe (6-6 in one season at Louisville, 35-28 overall) | Staff In 2007:6-6 overall, 3-4 in the Big East (tied for fifth in the conference).
Returning starters: Offense: 3. Defense: 4. Special teams: 1 | Depth Chart Key losses: Offense—TB Anthony Allen, G Daniel Barlowe, TE Gary Barnidge, QB Brian Brohm, WR Harry Douglas, T Breno Giacomini, WR Mario Urrutia. Defense—CB Rod Council, LB Malik Jackson, LB Lamar Myles, LB Preston Smith, E Peanut Whitehead, T Willie Williams. Special teams—K Art Carmody.
Final 2007 Rivals.com ranking: 58th. | Complete Final 2007 Rankings
THE SCHEME: Louisville will return to a power running game under new coordinator Jeff Brohm, who was promoted from quarterback coach. After being a pass-first offense last season, Louisville looks to revive the Bobby Petrino-style offense that worked so well with Brian Brohm and Michael Bush.
STAR POWER: Patience should pay off for senior quarterback Hunter Cantwell. He spent three seasons backing up Brohm, starting three regular-season games and a bowl in the process. At 6-5 and 236 pounds, Cantwell has the size and the arm to be a top NFL prospect, even though he hasn't started a full season.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Speedy redshirt freshman tailback Victor Anderson (5-9, 182) gives Louisville a nice change of pace from the bruising Brock Bolen and Bilal Powell. Look for him to get a few carries each game.
IT'S HIS TIME: Junior wide receiver JaJuan Spillman is a talented and fast playmaker, but he has had trouble staying in the coaches' good graces. He was suspended for six games last season and finished with nine receptions. The potential is there if he can stay on the field. Without Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia, Louisville is looking for impact wide receivers.
STRONGEST AREA: Perhaps in a case of addition by subtraction, tailback looks to be the strength of the offense. Leading rusher Anthony Allen transferred (though he might have been a nice fit for Brohm's offense), and George Stripling was dismissed. Bolen is a former fullback, who rushed for 456 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Powell averaged 7.8 yards per carry as a true freshman. Anderson could provide additional flash at the position.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: Goodbye Gary Barnidge, Louisville will miss you. The tight end position is in dire straits without Barnidge and Scott Kuhn. Johnnie Burns was moved from defensive end and won the position in spring practice.
OVERVIEW: Louisville's high-powered offense faces as many questions this season as in recent memory. There are wholesale changes at the skill positions from a team that led the Big East in yards per game and passing. The line returns two all-conference candidates in tackle George Bussey and center Eric Wood, but the new starters are relatively unproven. With Cantwell and a deep tailback corps, there's reason to believe the offense will remain just as productive.
That's the number of games Louisville lost by one score (Kentucky, Syracuse, Connecticut, West Virginia). Louisville also won three games by one score (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Rutgers).
THE SCHEME: New coordinator Ron English has his work cut out for him, but his track record suggests he is up for the challenge. English brings a 4-3 scheme with him that looks to pressure the quarterback and stifle the run.
STAR POWER: Senior Earl Heyman continues to shift between defensive end and defensive tackle. He started 11 games at tackle last year but begins this season as a first-string defensive end. Regardless of which position he plays, he must set the tone up front for a Louisville defense that collapsed last season.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Miami transfer James Bryant is trying to win the job at middle linebacker. Bryant, who played fullback for the Hurricanes, was limited during the spring by injury but is expected to be a contributor this fall.
IT'S HIS TIME: It's a sign of the times when the defense's top player also is the one with the most to prove. Heyman was a four-star signee in the 2005 class but has only 3.5 sacks in his three-year career, including two years as a starter. It's now or never for Louisville's most experienced lineman.
STRONGEST AREA: Louisville needs to find replacements throughout the defense, but has enough reinforcements on the line to stay competitive. Heyman is the leader here, but he is surrounded by experienced former backups. Fellow end L.D. Scott started at the end of last season while Maurice Mitchell led the team in tackles for a loss (8.5) in a reserve role. At tackle, Adrian Grady returns after missing seven games last season because of a torn pectoral muscle. Louisville hopes two-year backup L.T. Walker will develop into a run-stuffing nose tackle.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: The Cardinals have depth issues because of attrition. Peanut Whitehead (injury) and Rod Council and Willie Williams (both dismissed) could have been starters this season but no longer are with the team. Louisville signed six junior college defenders to fill out the depth chart.
OVERVIEW: Louisville has nowhere to go but up after last season's disaster on defense. After it appeared they gave up on last year's plan, the Cardinals players are re-energized under English's new scheme and discipline. Still, while energy and intensity might be up, Louisville probably needs more talent and depth to contend with the better offenses in the Big East.
Trent Guy will be the main return man. Guy took back a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown last season. Cory Goettsche is back at punter after averaging a lackluster 38.9 yards per kick. The biggest void is left by kicker Art Carmody. Purdue transfer Tim Dougherty and true freshman Chris Philpott will compete for the position.
It took only one season for Steve Kragthorpe to come under fire in Louisville. A last-minute loss to Kentucky in and a complete collapse against Syracuse in the first half of the season had fans questioning if Louisville made the right hire in replacing Petrino. Kragthorpe, though, walked into a less-than-perfect situation, judging by the exodus of troubled players. Kragthorpe replaced both coordinators in the offseason. Brohm brings back the Petrino offense, and English was a home-run hire on defense. Three more defensive assistants – line coach Ken Delgado, linebacker coach Bill Miller and cornerback coach Eric Lewis – were added to the staff.
The schedule sets up nicely for the Cardinals. They open at home with Kentucky, and the other non-conference opponents are Tennessee Tech, Kansas State, Memphis and Middle Tennessee. Only Memphis is on the road. Plus, Louisville gets its toughest Big East games – Connecticut, USF, Cincinnati and West Virginia – at home.
Literally and figuratively, it all starts with Kentucky. Louisville's loss to the rival Wildcats last season set a bad tone. Another loss to UK increases the heat already on Kragthorpe. On the other hand, a victory could mean a hot start and a return to the postseason. Cantwell and the offense are expected to be fine. It's the defense that's the big question.