Louisville Cardinals — 2019 Syracuse Football preview

Dontae Strickland
Syracuse running back Dontae Strickland rushes against Louisville. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its ACC schedule when it travels to Kentucky to play Louisville on Nov. 23.

BYE BYE BOBBY

Just about everything that could’ve went wrong for Louisville did in 2018.

After starting the season 2-1, the Cardinals took a complete nosedive, losing every game the rest of the way. Its offense was completely anemic, averaging only 19.8 points per contest, with its once vaunted aerial attack mustering just 211.1 yards per game.

Its defense wasn’t much better, allowing more than 44 points per game and 483.5 total yards per game. In its last five games, it gave up at least 52 points, leading to the dismissal of Bobby Petrino in November.

Most people expected former Cardinals quarterback Jeff Brohm, currently the head coach of Purdue, to take over the position. But when Brohm removed himself from the running, the Cardinals hired Scott Satterfield away from Appalachian State.

Even though Satterfield was not Louisville’s top choice, the hiring itself was widely seen as an excellent move. Satterfield was a dynamo at Appalachian State taking a program that was transitioning to the FBS and guiding it to a 51-24 record in six seasons, along with trips to four bowl games.

“I understand there are high expectations here, but as a program, we will do things the right way and develop men of high integrity and character,” Satterfield said in a statement. “We will build a program that our fans will be extremely proud of on and off the field.”

Satterfield will have plenty of work to do to rebuild a program that is only two years removed from the Lamar Jackson era.

» Related: Previewing Syracuse’s matchup with the Duke Blue Devils

WHO TO WATCH FOR

There will be a quarterback battle heading into training camp, with both Jawon Pass and Malik Cunningham having seen snaps last year. Pass is the more accurate thrower, though it didn’t show last year, as he completed only 54 percent of his passes and threw eight touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

Cunningham is far more mobile, having led the team in rushing yards last year with 79 attempts for 497 yards. Satterfield prefers a strong running attack over Petrino’s aerial attack, which would seem to give Cunningham a leg up. Also expect early enrollee Evan Conley to compete for the starting job.

A key for any of the quarterbacks to have success is for the offensive line to improve from a dreadful 2018. Three starters are gone from an O-line that was second-to-last in the ACC in rushing yards and dead last in sacks allowed (43). But look for Mekhi Becton and Cole Bentley to anchor this unit.

An improvement on the line would open up a passing game that returns depth and talent. Wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick flourished with Jackson throwing to him, catching 45 passes for 699 yards and nine touchdowns in his freshman year. That dipped to 31/422/3 with Pass and Cunningham under center last year. The same can be said for Seth Dawkins, who saw his slash line from 2017 of 42/642/4 drop to 25/329/1 in 2018.

Expect a lot more from sophomore running back Hassan Hall, who rushed for 303 yards and three touchdowns, with Satterfield installing more of a ball control offense.

On defense, the Cardinals will have a new defensive coordinator in Bryan Brown, who will be Louisville’s fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. The good news for him is that there is nowhere for this unit to go but up, and he’s got some intriguing pieces to work with.

Junior linebacker Dorian Etheridge is coming off a season where he collected 55 tackles and defended four passes, while junior defensive lineman Tabarius Peterson will look to build off his 49 tackle, two sack campaign.

In the secondary, junior cornerback, and former four-star recruit Russ Yeast is returning and is hoping for a rebound year. He initially announced he was transferring before the new coaching staff came in and convinced him to stay.

PREDICTION

This will be a multi-year reclamation project for Satterfield. He arrived too late to leave a true footprint on the 2019 class, so he’s got to work with a team that already had issues at quarterback, offensive line, running backs and on the entire defensive unit.

Syracuse draws Louisville in late November, so by then the team should have a firmer grasp of Satterfield’s schemes. To be sure, Syracuse has struggled at Louisville, having last won there in 2007. But this is the year that streak ends, with Syracuse winning 42-28.

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2452 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.