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Assessing The Threat: Clemson at Louisville

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The Tigers will visit Cardinal Stadium on October 19

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Overview

The Cardinals finished 2-10 last season and gave up at least 52 points in each of their last five games. This led to Petrino being dismissed with two weeks left in the season. Scott Satterfield now comes over from App State to take over as head coach, and try and rebuild the Cardinals back to respectability. This game will be the third time in 2019 that the Tigers are facing a team with a new head coach in place.

Satterfield is inheriting a huge mess, and without a lot of time to recruit after being hired, he focused more on attitude, effort, and morals when choosing players to be a part of his first class. He also moved up the start of spring practice to early February so he and the rest of his staff could see exactly what they had to work with.

2018 was not kind to Louisville, as the Cards took a massive fall. They dropped from 14th in the final 2017 S&P+ all the way to 98th by the end of the 2018 season. There's no denying that Satterfield has a major rebuild on his hands.

The S&P+ projects the Cardinals for a 4-8 record in 2019 and 87th overall. By comparison, Athlon ranks them at number 81 in their preseason Top 130. Obviously, there are a lot of questions to be answered before the start of the 2019 season.

Offense

The new staff will be starting from scratch for the most part on the offensive side. The QB battle between Jawon Pass, Malik Cunningham, and incoming freshman Evan Conley is likely to carry over into the season. Each guy seems to have a lot of work to do before locking down the job, but Satterfield prefers a strong running game, and with Cunningham being be the best runner of the three, he may have the early edge.

The offensive line has a lot of room to improve as well. Behind tackle Mekhi Becton and center Cole Bentley, there just isn’t much experience. The Cardinals were just 13th in the ACC in rushing yards in 2018, while also allowing 43 sacks, which was the most given up in the league.

The running back and wide reciever positions do bring back some experience, however. Hassan Hall returns as the top RB, and with his speed he can be dangerous in the open field outside the tackles. Dez Fitzpatrick and Seth Dawkins are very capable wideouts, but receivers can only be as good as the QB throwing them the ball, and there’s a long ways to go in that regard. However, if the Cards can develop a decent downfield passing game, Fitzpatrick and Dawkins are capable of testing the Tiger secondary.

Defense

On the defensive side, Bryan Brown will take over the coordinator duties, with Cort Dennison serving as co-coordinator. The duo will be the Cardinals fourth defensive coordinator(s) in the last four seasons.

One luxury they do have, is they will return as many as ten starters on that side of the ball. However nobody will be guaranteed a starting spot, or playing time for that matter. The lack of effort on the defensive side at times last season, particularly in embarrassing losses to Clemson and NC State, has opened up every position to competition, and nobody will be guaranteed anything.

Summary

Looking at the massive rebuild this new coaching staff has ahead of them, the bar shouldn't be set very high for the Cardinals in 2019. By the time Clemson comes to town on October 19, most of the position battles should be settled, but the Cardinals might just be the worst P5 team on the Tigers schedule this season. Satterfield just might be the guy capable of pulling off this type of overhaul, but that will require some patience from the fan base, and the AD.

All things considered, this should be nothing more than a glorified exhibition. The only way the Cardinals are a threat is if the Tigers have suffered multiple injuries at key positions, or if they just don't show up. Even then, Louisville should still only be considered a minimal threat, at best.