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March 7, 2009

Louisville enters 2009 with plenty of pressure

Louisville went into the 2008 season with high expectations. The Cardinals were supposed to bounce back from a disappointing 2007 season and have a say in the Big East race.

Instead, Louisville finished tied for last in the Big East and its coach enters the 2009 season firmly on the hot seat. Plus, the Cards are looking for a new quarterback this spring.

Here's a look Louisville as it prepares to open spring drills.

Louisville AT-A-GLANCE
Victor Anderson returns as part of a talented running back tandem with Bilal Powell.
THE BASICS
Coach: Steve Kragthorpe
Last season: 5-7, 1-6 Big East
Spring dates: March 8-April 17
RETURNING STARTERS
Offense (5): T Jeff Adams, WR Doug Beaumont, WR Josh Chichester, G Abdul Kuyateh, G Mark Wetterer.
Defense (4): FS Daniel Covington, LB Jon Dempsey, CB Johnny Patrick, E L.D. Scott.
Special teams (2): P Cory Goettsche, K Ryan Payne.
Positions of strength

The Cardinals look strong at wide receiver and running back. Wide receiver Scott Long is back after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury. The tailback duo of Victor Anderson and Bilal Powell is formidable.

Help is needed

Three starters on the defensive line are gone. The replacements? For the most part, it'll be junior college transfers. In addition, star center Eric Wood is gone, there is no experience at quarterback and the secondary needs to be rebuilt after getting shredded to the tune of 26 touchdowns (against just eight interceptions) last season.

Keep an eye on

C Mario Benavides: Benavides, a sophomore, is a strong, athletic blocker who has the ability to move and trap. But he will be trying to replace Wood, one of best offensive linemen ever at Louisville.

LB Dexter Heyman: Heyman, a sophomore, is quick and athletic and able to cover lots of ground from sideline to sideline. He needs to be a playmaker after seeing the field sparingly last season.

DT L.T. Walker: He is part of a defensive front that is being overhauled. It is vital that Walker who started four games last season becomes a run-stuffer and anchor for a defense that desperately needs a spark.

His time is now

It is hard to pick just one guy. There is no doubt end L.D. Scott, a senior, needs to pick up the pace as a pass-rushing end. Wide receiver Josh Chichester, a junior who is 6 feet 8, needs to be more of a playmaker - especially in the red zone. Guard Abdul Kuyateh, another senior, needs to be a building block along the line.

The buzz

Job No. 1 is finding a starting quarterback. Depth across the board is shaky, so getting through spring drills relatively healthy will be key. This is a program that is breaking in six new assistants, and it's also a team that needs an injection of confidence after closing last season with five consecutive losses when just one more win was needed for bowl eligibility. There is lots of negativity surrounding a program that not long ago was one of the nation's hottest properties; as such, Steve Kragthorpe plans to serve as his own offensive coordinator this season.

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.



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