Opponent Analysis: Louisville Cardinals — 2021 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 September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team opponent preview each week over the summer. This week, we’re previewing Syracuse’s matchup with Louisville on Nov. 13 with three major storylines.

No offensive coordinator needed

When Dwayne Ledford left Louisville for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons following the 2020 season, everyone naturally assumed that head coach Scott Satterfield would be in the market for a new offensive coordinator.

It was a tumultuous offseason for the Cardinals coaching staff, who also lost running backs coach Norval McKenzie to Vanderbilt and Frank Ponce to Appalachian State after finishing a disappointing 4-7.

That left Satterfield with wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer, who was thought to be in the running for the offensive coordinator position.

But in an unusual move, Satterfield left the position unfilled, saying he will call the plays this season, something he did at Appalachian State.

Satterfield takes over an offense that was productive in 2020 for the most part. Louisville rushed for 200.0 yards per game, tied for 29th in the FBS, and averaged 244.2 throwing yards per game (48th).

But what killed Louisville was their turnovers, as they coughed the ball up a jaw-dropping 24 times, and finished -12 on the season in the giveaway category.

Stopping the turnovers

Satterfield must address the quarterback situation now that he has full oversight of the offense. Malik Cunningham was stellar in the 2019 campaign when Louisville finished 8-5. He threw for 2,065 yards and 22 touchdowns against five interceptions.

But Cunningham regressed significantly last year, throwing 12 interceptions and adding three fumbles.

Normally there would be a significant quarterback competition as a result, but the transfer portal thinned the room. Jason Pass (Townson) and Luke McCaffrey (Rice) are no longer with the program, leaving redshirt sophomore Evan Conley as the backup. He’s played sparingly throughout his career, and appeared in only two games last year, throwing a combined five passes.

Satterfield is also looking to get more out of his rushing attack with Javian Hawkins now in the NFL. Hassan Hall (223 yards) is likely in line for additional opportunities, though Jalen Mitchell and Maurice Burkley also will figure into the mix.

» Related: Breaking down Syracuse’s matchup with Boston College

Roster turnover on defense

Defensively, the Cardinals are looking to replace six starters on defense. All eyes are on how the linebacker group will reload after losing Rodjay Burns and Dorian Etheridge.

Still, CJ Avery (79 tackles) returns for a fifth season, and Monty Montgomery appears to be a budding star, especially after his performance against Notre Dame. The Cardinals could also get a boost with the return of Marvin Dallas, who appeared in only six games. He is a former No. 1 ranked JUCO linebacker.

Three starters are gone from the secondary, but Satterfield added First Team All-Sun Belt selection Kendrick Duncan at safety. They also return top corner Kei-Trel Clark (10 defended passes).

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, 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 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]sujuiceonline.com.