Coach Bobby Petrino and the University of Louisville Cardinals will have a tough order as they look to replace 14 starters from last year’s team. Most glaringly absent is former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Even with its losses, Louisville retains lots of talent and fielded a solid 2018 recruiting class. Which Cardinals will have a breakout season after all the talent has left? Let’s take a look.
After years of drawbacks, P.J. Blue finally takes the field. There might not be a player fans are more excited about than Blue. The 6’4” outside linebacker picked UofL over Oklahoma, Clemson and Alabama, among other powerhouse programs. In 2016 as an athletic linebacker/safety hybrid, Blue was expected to take Josh Harvey-Clemon’s position after he departed. After redshirting, Blue saw his redshirt freshman season come to an early exit due to a knee injury. This season, Blue is finally healthy and is expected to play linebacker after being switched over from safety this spring. After two years of learning the scheme, he should be a leader on defense.
Averett barely played last season because he was considered too a raw talent as a freshman. But tight end Charles Standberry struggled to produce, Louisville put the giant tight end out there for blocking purposes and it worked. Some say his size limits his athletic ability, but Averett doesn’t think so. Additionally, he’s a solid pass catcher, as evidenced by his 22- yard touchdown run down the sideline on 4th and 11 against Boston College.
Averett finished the season with six receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown for the Cardinals. Now, with Standberry gone, Averett appears to be the go-to option as far as the tight end position is concerned. He provides a huge mismatch for almost all defenses, as he’s almost too fast for linebackers and too big and strong for defensive backs.
There wasn’t a higher-rated player in last season’s recruiting class for Louisville than safety C.J. Avery. He was ranked as the 7th best safety in the country according to ESPN’s recruiting rankings. Playing behind two high-quality players in Zykiesis Cannon and Chucky Williams, Avery didn’t get the chance to show his true talent. Avery was moved to the “star” position in Peter Sirmon’s defensive scheme, where he was forced to play a role he never played before.
Avery has bulked up since arriving on campus, going from 190 pounds to 215. With the talent of a safety and currently the size of a linebacker, he will help the Cards tremendously as he moves into the likely role of full-time starting linebacker. The talented freshman showed flashes of greatness and posted decent numbers for playing out of position. He racked up 22 tackles and one fumble recovery while getting fans excited about his potential in 2018-19.