I’m ready to Kick the Big Red Elephant out of the room

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Back in October of 2015 the Louisville Basketball program fell under a dark shadow of scandal that has been ongoing for close to two years. The program faces allegations from the NCAA that include four level 1 violations by the basketball program and criticism of Coach Pitino for failing to monitor a former Cardinals basketball staffer… That dark shadow has now become the big red elephant in the room and hopefully in about 6 or 8 weeks we can move past this crap forever.

6 to 8 weeks is what Tom Jurich said in downtown Cincinnati Thursday after meeting with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, a group of lawyers and college and conference administrators. This is a hearing that plays out like a trial in court, with lawyers representing both parties. Louisville’s final chance to state their case. The University feels like they did enough by self-imposing a post season ban and taking away two scholarships. I agree. And think it’s time for the NCAA to let our program move on from this.

Here’s Tom Jurich’s full statement from Thursday:

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As far as Coach Pitino’s part in this… when you put your trust and confidence into someone you in some way bear a certain level responsibility for their actions as well as your own. We all have an alter ego… Unfortunately for Coach Pitino his director of basketball operations alter ego was Ronnie Mund of the Howard Stern show. And instead of showing recruits around campus Andre McGee was running thru the halls of Minardi Hall screaming “let’s fuck some whores”. A guy like Coach Pitino runs in close circles think of it as a “circle of trust” and he had someone he trusted let him down. I do think Coach Pitino will be held responsible for trusting Andre McGee and agree he should. That’s just the way it goes.

I’ve seen and heard folks talk about the NCAA possibly stripping Louisville of the 2013 National Title. That has never been done and wouldn’t make any sense if it happened this time. If it did happen it would be more about bad politics within the NCAA than a player getting a lap dance. Having strip shows in the dorm didn’t have anything to do with the out-come of the 2013 season. It didn’t make those players collapse in tears on the court in Lucas Oil stadium when their brother Kevin Ware was injured and it didn’t help those players rally together and win that game. It didn’t help a walk-on Tim Henderson bury two three point shots in the National semi-finals and it didn’t help Luke Hancock go 5-5 from the 3-point line and score 22 points in the Title game. Those guys weren’t even mentioned in all of this. There is nothing that happened with those strippers in that dorm that did anything to help the 2013 Louisville basketball team win a National championship.

Why should those players have that special season taken away from them because the guy watching over them acted like he was in an episode of Blue Mointain State. The 2015-16 Louisville basketball team has already paid the price for Mcgee’s stupidity. And what about the fans. I waited 25 years to be in Atlanta that night for that moment. We all did. I followed that team at every stop along the NCAA path that season. Cardinal fans paid the price during the 2015-16 season and I think we paid again this past season. That post-season ban set this program back. The price has been paid.

Whatever comes our way here in a few weeks I will just be happy to get this over with. I’m ready to kick that big red elephant out of the room for good. We have all suffered enough.

Louisville Basketball gets Some Big Man Insurance for the future

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The Louisville basketball program got some big man insurance for the future today with the news that UCONN 6-11 center Steven Enoch will transfer to play basketball for Coach Pitino and the Cardinals. Enoch visited the campus a few weeks ago and must have liked what he heard from the Louisville staff. The most important part of that conversation is how big of a role that Enoch could play in the 18-19 season. Enoch will sit out a year and then have two years of eligibility left.

Enoch is your typical Pitino type player. He was in the 2015 recruiting class with Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel, Ryan McMahon and Ray Spalding. And like those guys was labeled as a recruit with a lot of upside. Enoch was a 4* recruit and ranked #99 in the ESPN100. Here are what scouts said about Enoch in 2015:

Enoch is a late blooming big man who barely played high school basketball as an underclassman but has continued to both grow and develop at a rapid rate. He’s got good size with a naturally strong build and long arms. He’s a solid athlete who can change ends and play above the rim. His skill set has been well developed so that he is a consistent shooter from 15-18 feet and a threat from behind the three-point line. He’s starting to develop a jump hook over both shoulders with his back to the basket but also has a naturally high release point in or around the paint. He’s quick in catch-and-finish situations, a solid rebounder, and good shot-blocker.
Weaknesses:
He’s largely unproven against high level competition and still very much a work in progress. Consistency is arguably his biggest problem right now as he can disappear for long stretches at a time. He’s a product of a skill development generation and so while he can look great in a workout, he’s still learning to adjust to the many variables that game conditions and defenders create.
Bottom Line:
His recruiting has taken off by his long-term potential, now it becomes a matter of backing up his newfound reputation as he’ll have to turn potential into production on an increasingly frequent basis.

Enoch’s production and development at UCONN has been a slow go it seems, but having that year to work out with Coach Pitino and his staff will really be a big boost to that. I Look for Enoch to be a big-time contributor for the Cardinals in 18/19 season as well as his senior season 19/20… A great add to the program.

Here are Enoch’s stats during his two seasons at UCONN:

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The Future of the Louisville Basketball Program will be on display this Weekend

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Coach Pitino’s best recruiting class since being the head man at the University of Louisville will be on display this weekend. University of Louisville signees Malik Williams, Darius Perry, Lance Thomas and Jordan Nwora will all play in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic Presented by Papa John’s on Saturday, April 15 at Freedom Hall. The Basketball Classic game tips off at 7:00 p.m. Aside from being one of the best recruiting classes it very well could end up being one of the more important ones. This 2017 group will have a similar impact that the 2015 group has had on the program. The Cardinals will head into the 2017-18 College Basketball season as one of the favorites to win a National Title and this 2017 group could play an important part in that happening.

This Louisville class is ranked #8 by ESPN, #7 by 247Sports, #10 by Scout, and #7 by Rivals. Three of the Louisville signees Williams, Perry and Nwora are well within the top 100 of each recruiting service and Thomas finds himself just on the cusp. Malik Williams who is considered the real prize among this group is ranked 20th by Scout, 25th by 247Sports, 29th by ESPN, and 27th by Rivals. Darius Perry is ranked 75th by Scout, 69th by 247Sports, 51st by ESPN, and 94th by Rivals. Jordan Nwora is ranked 146th by Scout, 46th by 247Sports, 87th by ESPN, and 90th by Rivals. Lance Thomas is ranked 103rd by Scout, 76th by 247Sports, NR by ESPN, and 142nd by Rivals.

I’m really impressed by the length as well as the overall skill of this group and can’t wait to see that on display first hand on Saturday night. Malik Williams is a long 6-foot-11 big man with a high ceiling. According to various scouts he has some rim protecting ability on the defensive end, an emerging face-up skill set on the offensive end and most predict him to have some serious star potential down the road. Jordan Nwora is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward and according to various scouts one of the top shooters in the class of 2017, not just from behind the 3-point line but also with his ability to make tough shots off the dribble. Most say that in many ways he is tailor made for coach Rick Pitino’s system. Lance Thomas is another long and athletic 6-9 Power Forward who various scouts say has a lot of potential. They say that he is a long-term stock who has multi-faceted tools and high upside on both ends of the floor but isn’t going to be ready to put it all together for at least another year or so. This kid really has a nice basketball frame and the foundation is there. I can’t wait to see how coach Pitino molds him into a big-time player. Darius Perry by all accounts is a tough and gritty point guard who will probably be Quentin Snider’s back-up as a freshman before having every opportunity to run the show as a sophomore.

This recruiting class really has me excited about the future of the Louisville basketball program. I’m looking forward to them making their Louisville debut on Saturday night in Freedom Hall. I know you really can’t tell much about players in these all-star type events but having a chance to see them in person will give us some idea of just how talented this group really is and just how special they could be for the season ahead. I encourage all Louisville fans to get out to Freedom Hall Saturday and give these guys an early welcome into the Cardinal Nation. Tickets are $18 in advance ($20 at the door) and can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com and by phone through TicketMaster at (800) 745-3000. Tickets for the game and 2017 Pegasus Pins will allow for free admission to the Horseshoe Foundation Derby Festival Night of the Future Stars, which will be held on Friday, April 14, at Indiana University Southeast.

I’ll have full coverage of the Derby Festival Basketball Classic on the site and over on the Cardinal’s Beak Fan Page. #L1C4

I got a Sense of Renewal at the First Open Football Practice of Spring

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It took some time to process the Louisville football team’s loss to LSU and the awful way they ended the 2016 football season. The Cardinals would start the 2016 season with a lot of optimism and promise. But it wouldn’t end that way. There is an old cliché that says the third time is a charm… And although Coach Petrino finished the season with 9 wins and a 7th straight trip to a bowl game I don’t think his third season back as the head football coach at Louisville would be considered a charm. He finished last season with a lot more questions than answers about his football team. What had been a return full of praise and perceived success now mired by some failure and skepticism. The honeymoon is over.

But Spring is a time of renewal, and new growth and the signs of change are all around us. The same could be said for the Louisville football program. New coaches, new players stepping into key roles and an overall change in attitude seems to be the theme of the Cardinals Spring Football workouts. I got a real positive vibe being out on the practice fields on Friday afternoon for Louisville’s first open practice. There seems to be a renewed spirit along with more intensity overall and a greater attention to detail. And it’s not just the coaches who are leading the way. I noticed that the players were encouraging each other and holding each other accountable as well. That shows me that this coaching staff already has these guys buying in.

Here are a few other things that stood out to me:

The Louisville defensive unit had a lot of hop in their step on Friday afternoon. They weren’t just going through their reps and seemed like they were having some fun. I think new Defensive Coordinator Peter Sirmon has simplified things trying to make the defense more active instead of reactive. He and his assistants were really paying attention to detail but doing it in a way that their players better understood it. Or at least it seemed that way to me. Coach Sirmon has said that his players will set the depth chart. Just by being around this unit for a couple of hours it appeared that the message has been heard loud and clear. There are a few players who stood out. SR Safety Chucky Williams was active along with SR Linebacker Stacey Thomas, Junior Corner Jaire Alexander and Sophomore Corner Cornelius Sturghill. Some younger guys stepping up on Friday were Redshirt Freshman PJ Blue and Sophomore Linebacker Amonte Caban. There are a lot of studs on this side of the ball for the Cardinals. I really like this unit.

The Louisville Offensive line was horrible last season. There is not a nicer way to put it. They just completely stopped trying to block anyone in the Bowl game. There is footage of them literally side stepping a defensive lineman. If Louisville is ever to take the next step up Program wise, then this is an area that must be fixed and fixed fast. Enter new offensive line coach Mike Summers. Coach Summers hasn’t changed much since his last run in Louisville maybe a little greyer around the edges but the intensity is still the same. Watching this group on Friday I really like our size. Players like 6-7 315-pound SR Toriano Roundtree, 6-6 324-pound JR Lukayus McNeil, and 6-6 318-pound JR Geron Christian look the part. If they can learn some of that intensity and take on the identity of their new coach, we should see a big step up from last season.

Watching the offensive unit on Friday I can tell you that this team has a lot of talent at the skill positions and some size too. I could watch Lamar Jackson launch bombs to 6-6 JR Wide receiver Devante Peete all day. These guys tried that connection several times on Friday afternoon. Coach Petrino has several dimensions to his offense and again has the players to get it done at every level. I was most impressed with Redshirt Freshman Running Back Dae Williams. This kid doesn’t get rush yards he gets rumble yards. He and SR Running Back Jeremy Smith would be a great 1-2 punch. The play of the day was made by Sophomore Tight End Jordan Davis who had an impressive one handed grab for the completion. Wide Receivers coach Lonnie Galloway and Running Backs coach Kolby Smith are “Players Coaches”. They were right on the heels of their guys Friday. Smith was running through the gap with his guys making sure they ran every single play out. I think this will pay off this season. The Cardinal offense will be legit.

There was a lot of blame to go around last season but very little if any should land on the shoulders of QB Lamar Jackson. He had one of the most impressive individual performances in a season that won’t be duplicated for many generations. The only bad thing about that is that his team didn’t leave him with much choice. I think being surrounded by a solid team could really make his stock go up even more. There seems to be a big emphasis on using some of the other talent on this team and coach Petrino really spread the ball out on Friday afternoon. He had Lamar using his legs and his arm. Just watching and observing one practice I think we will see a more complete player this season out of our Heisman Trophy winner. I love seeing him hurdle players but it’s also fun to watch him throw those bombs.

It’s hard to really take in all that you want during just one of these practices but I did try to make my way around observing the things that I felt important to follow up on from last season. You’d have to search far to find someone who was more disappointed at how the 2016 season ended. But the program responded to that disappointment and positive change filled the spring air on Friday. I really like what I see and my optimism is thru the roof. I plan on heading back out to the practice fields on Tuesday the 28th for the second Open day. I would encourage you folks to do the same. Go Cards

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A Journey to the NCAA Tournament that started with a Dunk in Middle School

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One night back in November of 1988 at a Middle School gym in Owenton Kentucky a much younger version of myself was playing an 8th grade basketball game… the coach had just drawn up a play in which I would get the in-bounds pass and have a chance to score. My heart was pounding as I made my move and caught the ball. I remember spinning past the kid who was guarding me and breaking away in the open court as the crowd went wild.

I made the lay-up and began my celebration but immediately realized something wasn’t right. The reaction of coach Reynolds was odd and why wasn’t my team on this end of the floor with me…? You can imagine the horror when I figured out that I had just made a wide-open lay-up on the opponent’s end of the court. Turns out the crowd was going wild trying to get me to stop.

Fast forward to a night in November of 2011 in a Middle School gym… a 13 yr. old Carson Williams was playing an 8th grade basketball game when he came flying through the air and completed an alley-Oop dunk like you would see at the college level. That dunk would be the beginning of an incredible basketball journey for Carson Williams. That journey will come to a culmination in Indianapolis when Carson and his NKU team take on the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament Friday night.

I told you about my big middle school moment because that was more of the norm when it comes to the athletic prowess of a 13-yr. old where I grew up. Don’t get me wrong there have been a lot of good athletes come from Owen County but nothing like Carson Williams. You just don’t see too many 13yr old’s making plays like the one in the video above and there aren’t many 18-yr. old’s who could pull it off either.

In small rural areas, it’s hard sometimes for kids like Carson to get the attention they deserve. The AAU programs have really helped but it still isn’t easy to get on the right teams and get on the right courts. And when you do get on the right team and the right court you must take advantage of the opportunity.

Carson took advantage of the opportunity and dunked his way through the AAU ranks and landed a spot on the Lexington based Kentucky Travelers basketball team. The Travelers are a Nike sponsored AAU team who play in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League. Carson had his needle moving performance in AAU while at an event in Virginia back in May of 2014. That weekend Carson was 1-1 3pt, 22-38 FG 58%, 16-24 FT 67%, had 23 Rebs, 2 Assts, 3 Stls, 2 Blks, and 61 points. It was after this weekend in Virginia that scouts really started to take notice of the hometown kid.

There were several articles written that mentioned Carson’s AAU breakout weekend but probably none bigger than the ESPN Insider folks who called him one of the “Biggest Sleepers” of the class. In that article, they said:

Biggest sleeper
Carson Williams: He is a strong and athletic wing and could be a very skilled 4 at the next level depending on future team and scheme. He plays hard, can shoot to 19 feet and will dunk on you if you are not paying attention. He had 21 in Kentucky Travelers’ loss to Team United (N.C.). The 6-5 small forward can be a mid-major stud or a great role player at a high-major school in the 2016 class.

It was his time in the AAU that really helped him get the important notoriety but Carson Williams also dunked his way to a very successful run at Owen County high school setting records that will last generations. He helped his team win a lot of games and a lot of District championships including a few trips to the All-A State semifinals. With the help of Williams, the Rebels basketball team was considered one of the best in the state even ranked in the top 10 of some polls. Carson never got the chance to play in the state’s biggest game but he did win Kentucky’s highest basketball honor the title of “Mr. Basketball”.

This past summer Carson’s journey landed him in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic. It is one of the premiere all-star games in the country and has seen many greats come through it. Carson had a great showing at this event and was a semifinalist in the dunk contest. It was a great night of celebration for all that he had accomplished as a high school player. I was proud to tell the other media court-side that he was from my hometown.

Carson Williams decided to continue his basketball journey at Northern Kentucky University. And he has been that mid-major stud in his first college season that all those scouts said he would be. He earned Horizon League freshman of the week honors a few times and has become an important part of the Horizon League Tournament Champion Norse basketball team.

Carson said that he chose to go to Northern Kentucky to help build the newly Division 1 program into a dominate player in the Horizon League. He said that he wanted to help them get to the NCAA Tournament. In year number one its mission accomplished.

There are a lot of great college basketball players that fall short of the dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament. Friday night Carson Williams will be representing all the years of hard work and dedication that it takes to achieve such a goal while overcoming the odds of coming from such a rural area. It also takes a bit of luck. But good things happen to good people and you won’t find a better young man.

Carson will be the first player from Owen County to make it to the NCAA Tournament during the modern era and only the second ever. He will be representing all the folks that grew up there. Everyone has followed along on his journey and has a lot of pride for his accomplishments. One of the reasons he went to NKU was so his family, friends and community could come to his college games. It’s only about an hour from Owenton to Highland Heights as the crow flies.
Carson brought a lot of hometown spirit back to those Owen County school gyms and that spread throughout the community. It also spread to folks from there that live all over the country.

I reached out to Carson Williams and his family and asked them what it meant to be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Carson’s Mother Heidi Williams:

“Some people questioned his decision to go to NKU but we felt like that with the new coach and the move to the Horizon league that it was a good fit and they may make it to the tournament but we never dreamed it would be this soon. It’s been very exciting and fun. He’s had a great deal of support from family, friends and Rebel Nation and I’m glad the community is so excited about the tournament. Carson has worked very hard for the past 14 years and it’s great to see him and his teammates get to enjoy this.”

NKU Freshman Carson Williams:

“Most every young basketball player dreams of playing in the NCAA tournament and I was no different. It means a lot to me to have that dream become a reality especially considering the countless hours of hard work that I’ve put in to help me get to this position. With that being said, no matter how good or popular the team we play is I don’t approach this as anything other than just another game.”

Many of the same folks that were in that Middle School gym the night Carson had that big dunk will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night. And the folks who can’t make it will be tuned in to watch their hometown boy fulfilling yet another dream. That kid who put the ball in the wrong basket will be there too. I love being a Carson Williams fan and watching him play takes me back to my younger days. I didn’t have an ounce of the ability but at one time I did have a similar dream.

I wrote this week about the special moments we often see during March Madness. It is three weeks where real life dramas play out during a College Basketball Tournament. For Carson Williams, his family, his fans, Owen County and NKU Friday night will be that special moment. Good Luck Carson! Good Luck NKU!

March Madness is also about the Moments

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College basketball fans all over the country are in a basketball frenzy. Making plans to go see their teams chase the dream, filling out their brackets and planning their excuse for missing work this week. It really is March Madness. But along with this Madness there are many special moments made.

We’ve all seen these moments and even been a part of them. It’s the occasion where real life becomes a part of the game. We all love to see our favorite team win but nothing is more compelling than to see some of these real life dramas play out during the NCAA Tournament. Moments when folks overcome real life adversity, moments of great personal triumph, moments that bring people together and moments that bring people real joy.

If you aren’t a Louisville Basketball fan chances are that you will forget who the 2013 National Champion was. But there isn’t a college basketball fan that will forget how that team rallied around one of their fallen brothers. The moment when they lowered the basket to let Kevin Ware cut that net folks all over the country were cutting it with him.

And as a fan how great was it to see Tim Henderson hit those three point shots. What a moment for that young man. And I’ll never forget how happy I was for Luke Hancock getting to play the best basketball of his life in front of his ailing father. And there wasn’t a father among us who couldn’t relate to the pride Mr. Siva had cheering for his son and how he had overcome his own adversity through his son’s faith. We all felt great joy in watching that team win a championship.

On Friday I’m looking forward to heading to Indianapolis for a college basketball smorgasbord. I’m going to watch four basketball games that will feature three different basketball teams from Kentucky. I’m also looking forward to that moment that Moment when my Cardinals make their return to the NCAA Tournament again after a post season ban and that moment when Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball NKU’s Carson Williams takes the NCAA Tourney floor for the first time. Carson is only the second player from my humble hometown of Owenton Kentucky to play in the Big Dance. That entire community and everyone from there have followed this young man’s journey. Friday will be a culmination of the pride we all have for him.

There is going to be a lot of great basketball played over the next three weeks. And there are going to be many more special moments made. Don’t get all caught up in the wins and losses of it all and miss out on some of the real life inspiration that can come from it. Don’t miss the “Feel Good” of it all. I wish each of you a great March Madness. Enjoy it! Go Cards!

Senior Day Salute…

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We have reached the part of the college basketball season where teams are winding up the regular season and ramping up for the post season tournaments. Years of hard work hang in the balance as seniors across the country near the end of their college basketball careers, and programs all over the country are having their Senior Night/Day ceremonies. On Saturday, the University of Louisville will honor three players for their contributions to the program. On Saturday, seniors David Levitch, Mangok Mathiang and grad transfer Tony Hicks will lace em up for the last time in that locker room, will come charging out of that tunnel to the alma mater for the last time, and will get the love and admiration from the Yum Center crowd for the last time.

Ceremonies like on Saturday are part of the process that allows closure for the seniors and a passing of the torch to the underclassmen, but in successful programs like the University Louisville the tradition never graduates. This program is rich and vibrant because many groups of seniors have cared enough to give their very best. There are still many chapters that have yet to be written, but the 2017 basketball seniors have added to the outstanding tradition of the Louisville program. David and Mango have been a part of an AAC Regular Season Championship, AAC Tournament Championship, Sweet 16, Elite 8, and have helped the program win 104 games. Tony Hicks had some big shoes to fill following two great grad transfers from last season. He has battled injury and struggled to find his place but has kept at it and contributed in some wins this season. These guys aren’t done either as all will play a big part in the post season.

The walk-on spot at the University of Louisville has become synonymous with passion, heart and determination. Coach Pitino has used this roster spot to find local kids who have dreamed of playing for the Cardinals and give them the opportunity to fulfil that dream. David Levitch played at North Oldham high school and has said that Louisville is “where he always wanted to play” and that it was his dream school. He said that the best basketball advice given to him was “always work to get better”. He followed that advise and has got better every season and earned himself a scholarship. The effort that David has always displayed when he got his playing time is what has stood out to me. The young man has one gear and that is “go”. He is unselfish and the total team player. It has been fun watching him succeed.

A foot injury provided him a red-shirt year and it seems like Mango Mathiang has been on campus for 10 years. He has always been the guy on the team that provided a lighter side of things making his team-mates laugh. In the serious nature of high profile college athletics that is a necessary thing to have. He has had his ups and his downs and like with every player that comes through the program we have watched him grow up both as a person and a player. He has played an important role in a lot of wins. Two moments that stand out to me was the free-throw he hit in 14-15 to send the East Region Championship game into overtime and the last second shot he hit to beat #2 Virginia in the season finale that same year. Mango said that the best basketball advice given to him was “if you really love basketball, work hard and you will make it.” Well you made it Mango. It’s been fun to watch your journey.

I’m happy that I will again be a part of the Senior Day ceremonies at the University of Louisville and this will be my fourth year covering the event. It’s always a special day and Saturday will continue that tradition. Hope the Cardinals can get a big win over Notre Dame and send these guys out on a winning note. Go Cards!

Signing Day Success for the Cardinals

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Coach Petrino has taken the winning culture left at the University of Louisville by the last coaching staff and capitalized on it. Over his first three seasons back he has won 26 games, 17 conference games and became bowl eligible for a 7th straight season this past year. All of this while facing some of the toughest scheduling in years. After a three game losing streak to end this past season it left folks with a lot more questions than it did answers, and it left Coach Petrino heading into year number four knowing that he had to make some changes in order to reach a new plateau. He didn’t waste any time in changing things around in his coaching staff hiring new offensive line coach Mike Summers and a new defensive coordinator in Peter Sirmon. The next step in the process was to address the recruiting needs of his team and yesterday he signed 22 new Cardinals that should do just that.

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The 2017 recruiting class could end up being the backbone of things reaching that next level for the Louisville Football program. Despite the results at the end of the season there has been a lot of success on the field at the University of Louisville and now that success is starting to spill over to the recruiting trail. Not only does Coach Petrino have a lot of wins in his back pocket he now can boast a Heisman Trophy winner. The Cardinals headed into this 2017 Class needing receivers, running backs and offensive linemen… The biggest grabs of this class are ESPN 300 WR Justin Marshall followed by WR’s Joshua Johnson and Corey Reed Jr. all out of the Peach State. ESPN 300 RB Colin Wilson was a big get along with three-star tight end Kemari Averett who will be another pass catcher. On the defensive side of things C.J. Avery is a top-10 safety and a tempo changer in the back-end. Three-star safety TreSean Smith is a steal out of Ohio and four-star corner Russ Yeast II could be a true difference-maker. The duo is joined in the secondary by some guys with a lot of upside in Lyn Strange, Kaheem Roach and Anthony Johnson. ESPN JC 50 Ronald Rudd along with 4* OT Toryque Bateman and 3* OG Cole Bentley are the biggest grabs along the line and this group is physically ready to contribute.

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Yesterday was a big success for Coach Petrino and his staff and I think that they will be able to carry some of that positive momentum into the spring. Cardinal fans also seem to still be very excited about what the future holds as it was announced to the crowd last night that season tickets were sold out and that there was a waiting list. The 2017 recruiting class had 14 three star signees and 7 four star signees… The class was ranked 29th by ESPN, 28th by Rivals, 32nd by 247 Sports and 31st by Scout. I do think that this class will be big help for years to come especially in helping establish a solid offensive line. I’m already looking forward to getting out to the practice fields this spring and seeing these new guys get after it.

One of the best things about National Signing Day is Louisville’s Signing Day party. I really like how the coaches get up and break down each guy in the class. It gives that inside look at just how they evaluate these guys throughout the process. Below is video of the Coaching staff breaking down the 2017 Class… Enjoy! GO CARDS!

Coach Petrino talks Russ Yeast & Caleb Chandler Signing Day Party 2017

OL Coach Mike Summers talks Ronald Rudd, Toryque Bateman & Mekhi Bectom Signing Day Party 2017

WR Coach Nick Petrino talks Malik Cunningham & Joshua Johnson Signing Day Party 2017

Secondary Coach Cort Dennison talks CJ Avery & Anthony Johnson Signing Day Party 2017

LD Scott talks Kam Jones & Malik Clark at Louisville Signing Day Party 2017

Coach Klenakis talks Kemari Averett & Cole Bentley at Louisville Signing Day Party 2017

Kolby Smith talks Colin Wilson & Mitch Hall at Signing Day Party 2017

Coach Lorenzo Ward, talks Kaheem Roach & Lyn Strange at Signing Day Party 2017

Coach Lonnie Galloway talks Justin Marshall & Corey Reed at Signing Day Party 2017

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OL Coach Mike Summers Returns to Louisville

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With the way, the Louisville football team ended their season it left more questions than answers for Cardinal fans. Well maybe Coach Petrino is starting to answer some of those tough questions. We learned this past week that Todd Grantham had been replaced as defensive coordinator. That coaching shake-up was a little unexpected as most thought if anything it would be the offensive line coach Chris Klenakis that would be replaced. Today during the Duke game, we have now learned that will indeed happen. Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers will be the new head man for the guys in the trenches.

The Cardinals finished the season ranked 124th allowing 3.62 sacks a game and 95th in Tackles for loss allowed. When you have a guy as fast as Lamar Jackson being tackled so much in the back field you know that the O-line must be doing something wrong. After years of inconsistent play out of the O-Line position something had to be done to try and correct things. College football games are won and lost by what happens in the trenches. All of Louisville’s losses over the last three seasons can be attributed to the poor play up front. It was time to shake things up.

Enter Mike Summers who will try to get this unit better. Summers is no stranger to Louisville fans as he coached the offensive line here during Coach Petrino’s first time around. The Cardinals rushed for 2,974 yards in 03, 3,005 yards in 04, 2,278 yards in 05, and 2.411 in 06. In 2003, the Cards set a then-school rushing record while ranking fifth nationally in total offense (488.9) and 10th in rushing offense (228.2). Two offensive linemen, Jason Spitz and Travis Leffew, were All-Conference USA first-team in 2004 and All-Big East first team in 2005. During his tenure, Louisville won the 2004 Conference USA Championship and 2006 Big East title, and played in the 2007 Orange Bowl, 2006 Gator Bowl, 2004 Liberty Bowl and 2003 GMAC Bowl. The 2004 and 2006 Cardinal teams both finished ranked No. 6 by AP.

In 2006, his Louisville offensive line paved the way for the Cardinals offense, ranking second nationally (475.3), seventh in passing (290.0) and 12th in rushing (185.3). Three of his linemen (Renardo Foster, Kurt Quarterman and George Bussey) were All-Big East first-team picks. The 2004 line helped the Louisville offense set school records with 6,468 total yards, 3,005 rushing yards, 597 points and 47 rushing TDs. The Cardinals led the nation in both total offense (539.0) and scoring offense (49.8).

Coach Klenakis is a great guy and a great recruiter and will remain on the staff as the tight end coach. I’m glad that he is staying with the team but there had to be a change made with how this season ended and I think that Mike Summers is a good hire. He already has chemistry with Coach Petrino and has a proven pedigree. Welcome back to the Card Nation Coach Summers…

The Cardinals and their fans hope Citrus will get the bad taste out of their mouths

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The Louisville Football team carried a lot of momentum from the end of the 2015 season into 2016… The excitement of spring ball and summer practice was a catalyst to a 4-0 start to the regular season. We watched as our Cardinals made it to that 5th spot in the College Football Playoff Poll. The Cardinals started the regular season being compared to a red hot-rod going up and down the field in those chrome helmets but somewhere along the way the tires went flat.

Beating Florida State with the ESPN College Gameday crew on site was the zenith of the season and losing at home to arch rival Kentucky to end the regular season was the nadir. This team was making some of the same mistakes throughout but the effort in those early games masked some of those issues that cost this team in the end.

-The Cardinals offensive line gave up 3.25 sacks a game this season ranked 121 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals averaged 7.75 penalties a game this season ranked 118 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals had 21 fumbles this season ranked 128 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

-The Cardinals had 31 turnovers this season ranked 124 out of 128 NCAA FBS schools.

When this team got complacent they stopped getting better. This Louisville team never got better than they were during that 4-0 start to the season. In the final two games of the season the effort we had seen early on was nonexistent. These guys appeared to have lost all that great momentum they had in September and October… and will now have to dig deep to get it back.

The game on Saturday is important to the legacy of a great senior class, it is important for the guys who came to Louisville for their last chance, it is important to Cardinal fans who deserve to see their team end the season with a win and the game on Saturday is important to regain some positive momentum headed into next season. The attitudes in the weight room and on that practice field next spring and summer will be a lot different coming off a Bowl win as opposed to three straight losses. There is a lot of discussion around this time of year about how much these Bowl games really matter… for the Cardinals and their fans it’s the only thing that matters now.

Louisville will be making its 21st bowl appearance when they face LSU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and looking for its sixth bowl win in the last eight Bowl games. The Cardinals offense enters the Bowl game averaging 45.3 points per game with 256.8 rushing yards and 302 passing yards per game. Having won 14 of his last 18 starts our Heisman winner Lamar Jackson is completing 57.6% of his passes for 3390 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. Jackson has rushed for 1538 yards and 21 touchdowns. Brandon Radcliff has added 877 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns for the Cardinals. James Quick has caught 42 passes for 688 yards and 6 touchdowns, while Cole Hikutini has caught 49 passes for 656 yards and 8 scores. This Louisville offense will be facing a very good defense on Saturday. The biggest key will be the offensive line. Lamar can’t win this side of the ball alone. It’s going to take a balanced attack. That means time for plays to develop and open running lanes. Coach Klenakis’s guys were able to rise to the occasion last year in the Music City Bowl. Can they do it again?

The Louisville defense is giving up 23.3 points per game with 110 rushing yards and 206.3 passing yards per game. Leading this unit is Keith Kelsey with 81 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack, Stacy Thomas with 74 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 sack and Chucky Williams with 45 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 3 interceptions. Josh Harvey-Clemons and Zykiesis both have 61 tackles on the season. The Cardinals defense will be without sack leader James Hearns but still have Devonte Fields coming off the edge. This unit will be playing with a lot of emotion. They will be playing without one of their defensive leaders in Hearns and it will be the last time a lot of these guys will be wearing a Cardinal uniform. I think Coach Grantham will have them ready.

LSU lost 2 of their last 4 games and finished tied for 2nd in the SEC West. The LSU offense is averaging 28.3 points per game with 238.1 rushing yards and 187.6 passing yards per game. QB Danny Etling isn’t anywhere near as good as the guy he will be facing but gets the job done completing 60% of his passes for 1906 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. The Tigers leading rusher is big powerful running back Derrius Guice. He has rushed for 1249 yards and 14 touchdowns. Their speed back Leonard Fournette will not play. Their leading receivers are Malachi Dupre who has caught 34 passes for 454 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Travin Dural who has 28 catches for 280 yards and 1 score. Who knows what to expect from this LSU offense. What will it do to this unit’s chemistry with Fournette not playing? Or will affect them at all?

This LSU team can put points on the board but it is their top ranked defense they rely on. The LSU defense is giving up 16.4 points per game with 121.8 rushing yards and 201.2 passing yards per game. The leaders of this unit are Linebacker Kendell Beckwith with 91 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 1 sack, Linebacker Duke Riley with 85 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 1 interception. Safety Jamal Adams has 70 tackles, and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux has 58 tackles. Defensive end Arden Key leads this unit with 10 sacks. I think we will get this units best shot on Saturday. A good defense takes pride in being able to stop great players. They have their chance to shut down a pretty good one Saturday.

This game comes down to very good offense vs a very good defense. There will be a lot of speed and athleticism on both sides of the field but it will all come down to emotion. There will be a team that wants it more. LSU can lose this game and rely on the benefit of that SEC bias to be right back in playoff conversations again next season. If Louisville loses this game they will start next year with a very different narrative. The Cardinals need this game more and if they play like they need it more they should be able to secure the victory. If they come out uninspired like they did in the two games to end the regular season it will be a long off season.

It’s gut check time for the Louisville football program. They have faced a lot of adversity on and off the field over the last couple of months. Sure, individual awards are great and it was special for the program and the fans getting to celebrate a Heisman Trophy. But in the end football is a team sport and this team needs a win. Let’s hope the Citrus Bowl gets the bad taste out of our mouths and we can head into next season on a high note. GO CARDS!