April 2, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Expectations for the University of Louisville football team's offense are high with the return of eight starters from a group that averaged 31.2 points per game and 418.8 yards of total offense last season.
With the exception of a pair of starters on the offensive line and one wide receiver, the offense basically returns fully intact. The Cardinals put their offense on display on Saturday with the first major scrimmage of the spring, and there were plenty of big plays and bright spots with the first-team unit that excites second-year offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.
"We had some real bright spots," Watson said about the team's performance during the scrimmage. "The obvious thing with the guys you had playing for the first time was mistakes. I was very pleased with our first group. We came out here and didn't miss a beat after the bowl game. We just picked up where we left off."
Watson is thrilled with the new additions to the offense this spring. The Cardinals added two transfers and also will benefit with the return of a healthy Dominique Brown. Florida transfers Gerald Christian and Robert Clark are eligible after sitting out last season, and Brown is back after sitting out with a knee injury.
"Some of the new blood in the lineup really impressed me," Watson said. "Gerald Christian played well. Robert Clark played really well. DeVante (Parker) is really special. Dominique Brown was the highlight for everyone because he ran so well. Teddy (Bridgewater) was off the charts. I think he missed one pass all day. We had a good day with those guys. With the younger players, we have a lot of work to do."
One position that does need some revamping is the offensive line that must replace two keys starters in center Mario Benavides and offensive tackle Alex Kupper. Despite the losses to graduation, the Cardinals will still be an experienced and talented group. Watson is satisfied that most of the positions are solid, but the goal for the spring is to continue to build depth.
"On the offensive line, I feel we have four positions that we have nailed down," Watson said. "I think Jamon Brown and John Miller were exceptional during the scrimmage. I can say the same thing about Kam Joyer. He will be a good fit at center. The right guard spot, Jake Smith was out, but Chris Acosta, who has been in that second group of guys, had a nice scrimmage. Ryan Mack and Nacho Garcia rotated at the other tackle spot. They were good, but just a little inconsistent."
Always a hot topic, no matter what time of year, is the back-up quarterback position. The Cardinals were fortunate to have Will Stein as the reliever last season, but he has joined the program as a graduate assistant. A major point of contention this spring is developing a signal-caller behind Bridgewater, a Heisman Trophy contender.
"Will Gardner has the edge," Watson said. "He is just mentally sound in the mental part of the game, but he should be because he has been here. Brett (Nelson) is catching up. It's way too early to say where those guys are. I'm pleased that we kept Will with us. We traveled him to road games and kept him in my classroom."