Spring Football: Louisville ready for highly anticipated spring

First Practice: March 20
Spring Game: April 13

With Teddy Bridgewater entering his third season at quarterback and riding high from that shocking upset of Florida in the Sugar Bowl, there hasn’t been a spring practice this exciting around Louisville in decades (probably ever).

This will be Louisville’s final year in the Big East (until they give me a new name I don’t know what else to use) and the Cardinals would love nothing more than to make a historic run.

It’s probably unlikely, but Louisville could have a perfect regular season and try to give the lame-duck Big East a shot at its first national championship since Miami in 2001.

A more realistic outlook has Louisville winning the Big East with a perfect league mark and playing for another BCS Bowl crown.

Stability Factor (1=chaos, 5=rock solid): 4.0

It’s starts with Bridgewater and what he can deliver at Louisville. Of course, if he goes down this could all change.

But Louisville also has one of the nation’s most respected coaches in Charlie Strong, and he seems to be happy with the Cardinals. When given a chance to leave for the SEC and Tennessee, Strong showed a real allegiance and it appears he likes Louisville’s future heading to the ACC.

Another point worth noting is the final class signed by Steve Kragthorpe will officially be gone after the 2013 season. That has to make every Louisville fan smile.

Under the Microscope: Offensive Line

Louisville returns the bulk of this unit, but the offensive line will be without center Mario Benavides and left tackle Alex Kupper. Those are big losses.

Benavides started 47 games and Kupper made 27 starts, and when one of your main goals is to protect the star quarterback you can see why this group will be watched closely this spring.

It appears that guard Kamran Joyer will make the switch to center and Abraham Garcia looks like the best fit at left tackle.

devante-parkerLocked and Loaded: Wide Receivers

DeVante Parker heads the class of talented receivers at Louisville. It’s not like Parker is a complete unknown, but Bridgewater gets all of the press. Parker is one of his favorite targets, which is evident by his 17.8 yards per catch average in his career.

Parker is a deep threat and he opens things up for the Louisville offense, and if he has the type of year that is predicted he could be a legitimate All-American candidate.

After the junior Parker, Louisville also has senior Damian Copeland, junior Eli Rogers and will welcome freshman James Quick into the mix. The three returners accounted for close to 1,900 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

Jockeying for Position: Defensive Line

Louisville enters the spring with some key lineman are out (Deiontrez Mount, Roy Philon and Sheldon Rankins), and Marcus Smith is questionable for spring.

So this opens up some opportunities for others to make an impression.

Brandon Dunn and Lorenzo Mauldin are experienced players so it will be interesting to see how this battle shakes out in spring.

Name to Know: Finesse Middleton, DE

After enrolling in January, Middleton is looking to make an impression this spring. He probably won’t be the starter when the season begins, but he could be a solid contributor in his first year.

At 5-foot-11, Middleton is undersized at defensive end so it would make more sense to work on bulking him up and try to get him in the middle of the line to clog things up more.

Spring Will Be a Success If …: Louisville finds some depth at cornerback

Louisville will be without Andrew Johnson in the spring and it’s still not clear if Devontre Parnell will practice much.

But defensive coordinator Vance Bedford will focus a lot on finding players who can cover to try to shore up a potential weakness.