We had some questions about Louisville, their coach, and even chicken. Mark Ennis from Card Chronicle gave us some answers.
To get to know our opening opponent a bit better, I reached out to Mark Ennis, blog manager of SBNation's Louisville site Card Chronicle. He probably knows Louisville better than anybody else. And now, we will too.
SOTU: What's the feeling around the program now that Bobby Petrino is back for a 2nd stint coaching the Cards?
Ennis: I think there have a been a whole host of mixed feelings. More good than bad, though. People know there will be jokes and comments almost no matter what happens, at least at first. And frankly, it's deserved. But people also have very clear, tangible memories of what it's like to watch a Bobby Petrino coached team and that seems to pretty much outweigh everything else. The biggest fear has been his and his staff's ability to recruit and I think the last six or seven commitments in the back six weeks has done a lot to quell those fears as well.
One thing I am sure of: there's no coach that fans around here would want more to prepare the team for a far more difficult schedule than Bobby Petrino.
SOTU: Like Miami, Louisville is starting a new QB in this game. What is your take on Will Gardner?
Ennis: I have been a much bigger fan of Will Gardner than most people but now I think folks are beginning to come around to where I am. He's very much in the mold of Petrino's successful Arkansas QBs like Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson. He's big (6'5, 230) and has a very strong arm. Petrino was wise to really let him air it out in the spring game to gain some confidence. He's not Teddy. But I think they won't be asking him to do the things they asked Teddy to do, so the drop off won't be nearly as dramatic as a lot of people fear.
SOTU: Devante Parker will miss this (and other) games with a foot injury. How does that change/affect the offense we'll see on Monday?
Ennis: I think the big thing is Parker could do everything. He could take the top off of a defense, he could take a short pass and go the distance, and he was deadly on those fades and jump balls in the red zone. With defenses always having to key on him, that was going to force teams to play one on one against the tight end Gerald Christian and the other two receivers Eli Rogers and James Quick. I think Quick is as good a deep threat and Rogers is great in the slot, but there's nobody that can do it all like Parker can. So it probably means Louisville will have to have more sustained drives but there are still plenty of offensive weapons.
Ennis: I think the first thing that will help is a changed scheme. It just so happens that Louisville has recruited the linebacker position better than any other on defense, so losing an elite defensive end like Marcus Smith is somewhat mitigated by changing things up and needing one less down lineman. At safety, they moved Terell Floyd, an experienced corner, to free safety and are counting on Gerod Holliman to finally come into his own after being a pretty highly rated prospect out of Florida. Late in the summer Louisville also signed JUCO safety James Sample, a four-star prospect out of high school and he's come in and helped at safety, too. Nobody is Calvin Pryor, so I think you'll simply again rely on scheme and linebackers like James Burgess, to replace the muscle against the run that Pryor gave.
SOTU: With a sizable contingent of South Floridians on your roster, what does this game mean for recruiting?
Ennis: I think it's important personally for the south Florida kids on the roster to play well against Miami and other kids that they probably have known for years growing up. I think in terms of recruiting, it's not so much important to beat Miami because it's Miami as it is to beat Miami to show that there won't be a huge drop off from Charlie Strong to Bobby Petrino.
SOTU: There has been reports of conflict between coaches and players alike. Do you think that will impact the on-field performance?
Ennis: I have to be honest with you, I don't know where the stories about conflict between Petrino and Grantham come from. I'm not saying it's true or untrue, I just haven't seen anything to indicate that's really an issue. And even if it's true, it's not necessarily a hindrance to success, either. Louisville fired it's offensive coordinator under Strong (Mike Sanford) in the middle of the 2011 season and went on to finish tied for the Big East title.
It's not like Petrino really cares what the defense is doing anyway.
SOTU: Church's, KFC, or Popeye's?
Ennis: Oh this is a low blow. I think I'm legally required to say that I prefer KFC since they pay for literally everything at Louisville and employ one of my best friends, but, I totally love Popeye's.
SOTU: How do you think this game will play out?
Ennis: If Miami were starting an experienced player at quarterback, I would be very tempted to pick the Hurricanes to win the game. But I think, even with the loss of Parker, there are enough offensive weapons and an evil genius calling the plays, to get Louisville north of thirty points. It's hard for me to see Miami being able to put enough on Kaaya to match that. So, I do think Louisville will win, I don't see a blowout like the bowl game. This will be a competitive game.
Thanks to Mark Ennis for sharing his thoughts. Be sure to follow him on twitter @markennis, and check out cardchronicle.com for all your Louisville news.