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Young Cardinals in good shape heading into spring

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Louisville opens year three of the Charlie Strong era as a strong contender to win the Big East title.

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Charlie Strong and Louisville claimed a share of the Big East title last season.
(US Presswire)
Louisville at-a-glance
Coach: Charlie Strong (3rd season)
Last season: 7-6 overall, 5-2 in Big East
Spring practice dates: March 21-April 14
Returning starters (minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (6): C Mario Benavides, QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR Michaelee Harris, T Alex Kupper, G John Miller, G Jake Smith
Defense (6): LB Preston Brown, CB Adrian Bushell, T Brandon Dunn, CB Andrew Johnson, FS Calvin Pryor, SS Hakeem Smith
Special teams (0): None

West Virginia was a league tri-champ with Cincinnati and Louisville last season, and would've been the prohibitive favorite this season. But WVU has moved to the Big 12, and that leaves Louisville as the likely league favorite.

Louisville loses only five full-time starters, and there is a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the biggest priority on offense this spring is establishing a pecking order at tailback.

The Cardinals didn't run the ball all that well last season, ranking 93rd nationally (and fifth in the league) at 121.5 yards per game. Leading rusher Victor Anderson is gone, but Jeremy Wright and Dominique Brown have talent and will vie for the starting job. They will run behind a line that returns four starters, with C Mario Benavides the standout.

While there was no true go-to receiver last fall, the Cardinals have a solid receiving corps, headed by sophomore Michaelee Harris (who will miss spring drills while recovering from a knee injury) and Eli Rogers. They work well with sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater, not surprising considering they were high school teammates at powerhouse Miami Northwestern. DeVante Parker is another sophomore primed for a breakout season, and there are numerous other receivers who will be looking to nail down complementary roles in the attack this spring.

The secondary was a huge question going into last season, but that unit should be a team strength this season behind CB Adrian Bushell, who began his career at Florida, and FS Hakeem Smith. This spring is about establishing depth in the secondary.

The defensive line should be fine, too, which leaves linebacker, the biggest question mark on the entire team. Only one full-time starter, Preston Brown, returns at the position, and numerous young players will be jockeying for position this spring.

One guy to watch is true freshman Keith Brown, a highly touted all-state player from Florida who enrolled in January and is expected to strongly contend for a starting spot.

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