The ACC was the first BCS conference to expand to 14 teams.
Some might say it’s a darn good thing Pittsburgh and Syracuse cast their lots with the ACC last September, because if the conference had seen how the 2011 football season turned out for the schools, it might have had secon
Athlon Sports ranks the Top 25 best coaches in college football for 2012.
Ranking the coaches in any college football conference is a difficult task. Many factors play into just how successful a coach is at any school. How well are the assistants paid? Are the facilities up to par with the rest of the conference? Can the coach recruit or is he more of an x's and o's manager? Are there off-the-field or age issues to take into consideration? Has a coach built a program or continued the success from a previous coach?
College football realignment dominated the headlines last summer and if you thought it was over, think again. More movement in college football could be coming this summer, especially with the mixed messages coming out of Tallahassee with Florida State. Are the Seminoles content to stay in the ACC or are they interested in the Big 12? If Florida State does make the jump to the Big 12, the domino effect will be felt across all of college football.
Athlon analyzes the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft as they were ranked as high school prospects.
Football recruiting is an inexact science.
It is nearly impossible to evaluate the motivation, maturity and integrity of 17- and 18-year old kids. However, I personally believe that recruiting rankings are outstanding indicators of how a prospect will turn out.
Rogers is just one of a handful of young players that made an impact for Louisville last season. As a true freshman in 2011, Rogers led Louisville with 41 catches and finished second on the team with 454 yards. He finished the year on a high note, catching 15 passes over the final three games, including seven in the Belk Bowl over NC State. Parker also had a 100-yard game, catching seven passes for 106 yards against Cincinnati in mid-October. Louisville has a solid group of receivers, so the receptions could be spread out among a couple of players. However, Rogers and DeVante Parker should be the go-to guys for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Pryor was a surprise addition to the starting lineup last year, but his emergence helped to stabilize the back of the defense. He played in all 13 games and started the final seven as a true freshman. Pryor collected 43 stops, one sack, two interceptions and broke up five passes. The sophomore is expected to be a full-time starter in 2012 and with another offseason under his belt, has a chance to blossom into a contender for all-conference honors. Pryor will team with Hakeem Smith to give Louisville one of the best safety duos in the Big East.
Even though the Cardinals ranked 10th nationally against the run last year, coach Charlie Strong wants this unit to be more physical at the point of attack. Philon should play a key role in stuffing opposing ground attacks, especially since he came on over the second half of last season. He made six starts in 2011 and led all Louisville defensive linemen with 36 stops. Philon also picked up six tackles for a loss and registered 1.5 sacks. The junior has room to improve and his development will be crucial to keeping Louisville’s rush defense among the best in the nation.
Parker made some noise as a freshman last year, catching 18 passes for 291 yards. While his 18 receptions weren’t particularly overwhelming, he converted six of those for touchdowns and averaged 16.2 yards per reception. Parker posted only one game of more than three catches, grabbing four receptions for 52 yards and one score against FIU. At 6-foot-2 and 204 pounds, Parker has a good frame and will only get stronger with more time on campus. The sophomore may not lead the team in catches in 2012, but he could approach 10 touchdown receptions.
Replacing second-team All-Big East linebacker Dexter Heyman is one of the top priorities for defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, but the defense isn’t without options. Brown played 13 games as a freshman in 2010, but emerged as one of the team’s starting linebackers in 2011. He tied safety Hakeem Smith for second on the team with 84 tackles, while picking up 1.5 sacks and five tackles for a loss. Brown is expected to move from the outside to fill Heyman’s role on the interior, which should allow him to lead the team in tackles and challenge for All-Big East honors in 2012.
Smith has been a journeyman of sorts for Louisville, but he appears to have settled into the defensive end position. He joined Louisville as a quarterback, but moved to linebacker as a freshman. After one season at linebacker, he moved to defensive end before the 2011 and became one of Louisville’s top pass-rushing threats off the edge. Smith appeared in 10 games last season and recorded 5.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. Considering the junior doesn’t have a ton of experience at end, he will only get better with more snaps. Expect Smith to lead Louisville in sacks in 2012.
Bushell took an interesting path to get to Louisville, but emerged as one of the top corners in the Big East last season. He spent one year at Florida, before transferring out of Gainesville after spring practice before his sophomore year. Bushell spent 2010 at Cedar Valley Community College and joined Louisville before the 2011 season. In his first season with the Cardinals, Bushell recorded 50 tackles and one interception. He was a key part of Louisville’s upset win over West Virginia, as he blocked a field goal that was returned for a touchdown. Bushell will team with safety Hakeem Smith to form one of the top defensive backfields in the Big East.
Benavides was expected to be one of the top offensive linemen in the Big East last season, but injuries limited his availability early in the year. He enters 2012 as the conference’s top center and his return to full strength should be a huge boost to a Louisville offensive line that struggled at times in 2011. Benavides has started 34 games during his career and with a small senior class, he will be counted upon by the coaching staff to be one of the leaders in 2012.
Smith has been one of Louisville’s top defensive players over the last two seasons and is expected to be a first-team All-Big East safety in 2012. He was the Big East’s Conference Rookie of the Year in 2010 and earned first-team All-Big East honors in 2011. Smith has 25 starts over the last two years and tied for second on the team with 84 stops in 2012. He has recorded just one interception, but has 10 pass breakups and 10 tackles for a loss in his career. Smith is on the radar for NFL scouts and with a big junior season at Louisville, could depart early for the next level.
Bridgewater was thrown into the mix as a true freshman last year and didn’t disappoint. An injury to starter Will Stein allowed Bridgewater to take over the starting duties in Week 4 and he proceeded to throw for 2,129 yards and 14 scores. He also added four rushing scores and completed 64.5 percent of his throws. Considering last season was the first as a collegiate starter, tossing 12 picks wasn’t a surprise. Bridgewater ranked as the No. 6 quarterback in the 2011 recruiting class and should only get better with more snaps in 2012.
Receiver DeVante Parker should be in for a breakout campaign.
The Louisville Cardinals check in at No. 23 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.
Can Charlie Strong's team finish unbeaten in Big East play in 2012?
Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 23 Louisville. The Cardinals are a team on the rise under coach Charlie Strong and are Athlon's pick to win the Big East in 2012. Louisville has a promising core of young talent on defense and a rising star at quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.
Athlon looks at the 10 greatest players since 1967.
Three Louisville quarterbacks are on the list and two others could have made a case (Stefan LeFors, Browning Nagle). Clearly, the quarterbacks aren’t doing it alone. Of Louisville’s top pass catchers during the John L. Smith/Bobby Petrino run, Branch was the best. He arrived as a junior college transfer in 2000 and became a 1,000-yard receiver in his first year – in a receiving corps that already included senior Arnold Jackson, who finished his career as the school’s leading receiver. Branch caught 71 passes for 1,016 yards with nine touchdowns in 2000 and caught 72 passes for 1,188 yards with nine touchdowns in 2001. In just two seasons, Branch finished his career as Louisville’s seventh leading receiver.
As a senior, Madison contributed to a defense that was a headache for opposing quarterbacks. The Cardinals’ defense intercepted 24 passes in 1996 while allowing only eight touchdowns. Madison paced a ball-hawking defense with 16 career interceptions, second-most in school history, and 44 career pass breakups, a school record. Madison earned third-team AP All-America honors in 1995 when he had five picks, but he only had one shot at the post season with an 18-7 win over Michigan State in the Liberty Bowl in 1993, his rookie season.
As a sophomore, McCloud recorded 133 tackles in 1994, coach Howard Schnellenberger’s final season at Louisville. He blossomed the next season as a third-team AP All-American and Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 1995. When he repeated as C-USA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1996, he joined quarterback Dave Ragone as the only player in program history to win a conference player of the year award twice (keep in mind, Louisville was an independent for two decades). McCloud is one of seven players to finish his Louisville career with more than 400 tackles.
Wilson made the most of his only bowl appearance, even in a loss. As a sophomore in 1977, Wilson earned Independence Bowl defensive MVP honors as the Cardinals held Louisiana Tech to 48 rushing yards. The bowl trip turned out to be Louisville’s last for 13 years. Though Wilson would never again reach the postseason and played the remainder of his career in anonymity, he continued his dominating play into his final two seasons. The linebacker from Brooklyn was known as a ferocious tackler, finishing his career with 484 stops. Professional teams noticed his play when the Chicago Bears drafted him in the first round.
After Redman put up more than 12,000 passing yards in four seasons, Ragone proved he was up to the task of taking over for his predecessor. Ragone didn’t miss a beat in 2000, passing for 2,621 yards in his first season as a starter. He followed that with 3,056 yards in 2001. He was Conference USA’s Offensive Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons, giving Louisville a string of four consecutive quarterbacks to win the award. Working with his favorite target, Deion Branch, Ragone went 20-5 as a starter in his first two seasons before slipping to 7-6 as a senior.
A key player as coach Howard Schnellenberger started to build up the program in the late 1980s, Washington started with a team that went 3-7-1 and ended his collegiate career capping a 10-1-1 season in the Fiesta Bowl. Washington, an interior lineman, finished his career with 298 tackles, including 88 in 1988, and 14 sacks. With Washington anchoring the defensive line, Louisville allowed only 12.9 points per game in 1990, the lowest average at Louisville since 1972. Washington went on to be a first-round NFL draft pick and a long pro career.
Redman was the first in Louisville’s line of exceptional quarterbacks under coaches John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Louisville went 6-16 in his first two seasons, but Redman blossomed under Smith as a junior, passing for a single-season record in 4,042 yards as a junior in 1998. Louisville’s first 3,000-yard and 4,000-yard passer, Redman also was the quarterback who helped begin the Cardinals’ run of nine consecutive bowl games from 1998-2006. Redman finished his career as Louisville’s record-holder in career passing yards (12,541) and touchdown passes (84) among other career marks.
Jackson was a two-time Missouri Valley Player of the Year in 1970 and ’72 and led the Cardinals in tackles in each of his three seasons under then-coach Lee Corso. Despite playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, Jackson earned All-America honors in 1972 from the Walter Camp Football Foundation (first team) and from the Associated Press (second team). Louisville went 23-7-2 during Jackson’s career and shut out five opponents in his final two years. Jackson had at least 120 tackles in each of his three seasons at Louisville to finish with 373, which was second-most in school history when he left campus. He remains ninth on the Cardinals’ all-time list.
At 5-foot-11, 256 pounds, Dumervil didn’t have the typical physique of an elite pass rusher, but the defensive end from Miami ended up as the biggest defensive star for a Louisville program that churned out prolific quarterbacks and receivers over the course of a decade. His 20 sacks in 12 games in 2005 remains second only to Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs in single-season sacks (Suggs had 24) and sacks per game (1.71 per game). Six of Dumervil’s sacks in 2005 came against Kentucky, which tied an FBS record. Dumervil also added 10 forced fumbles that season on the way to winning the Nagurski Award. He also was Louisville’s first consensus All-American since Leonard Lyles in 1957. Dumervil wasn’t a one-year wonder, recording 12 sacks as a junior on the way to 32 total in his 44-game career.
Brohm was the latest in a line of Brohms to play at Louisville and the last in an uninterrupted run of prolific quarterbacks for the Cardinals, dating back to 1996. He was the best of both. At a program that boasts Johnny Unitas as an alum, few quarterbacks could make the case they are the best in Louisville’s history. Brohm could at least argue his point. Brohm passed for 2,883 yards and 19 touchdowns as the Cardinals went 9-3 in their first season in the Big East. He topped that as a junior, passing for 3,049 yards and 16 touchdowns as Louisville went 12-1 with a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl win. Brohm finished his career with 10,775 yards and 71 touchdowns, both second in program history.