With Spring practice beginning shortly and seemingly everyone providing their list of players to watch or things they’re looking for, I figured now is the perfect time for me to do mine. I realize only the first three practices will be open during the Spring and with all the injuries the Cards have, many key players will not be participating, but Spring ball is still pretty important for many players and will play a role in whether or not they see the field in the fall.
Therefore, here is my list of the four players I’m most interested in looking at this Spring. Why four? Because it’s just as arbitrary a number as five. Here they are:
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This one’s pretty obvious. With Will Stein the only true quarterback on the roster right now, the development of Teddy Bridgewater will be critical. We all know Teddy is the most heralded recruit in Louisville’s 2011 class, perhaps in program history, but he will have to strait up beat Will Stein to start.
I think most everyone feels for the 2011 UofL team to reach it’s max potential, Bridgewater has to be under center. However, Will Stein will not give up the job without a fight. He’s extremely tough, a fierce competitor, and his teammates love him. And let’s not forget, Charlie Strong has said numerous times he’s totally comfortable with Stein at quarterback.
Again, I think this team goes further with Bridgewater, but he will have to earn it. Neither Charlie Strong, nor Will Stein will give him the job. If Teddy is going to start, he must take advantage of this Spring.
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For those of you who were with us for Charlie Strong’s first recruiting class at Louisville, you know I pegged Kamal Hogan as my sleeper pick of the 2010 class. The 6-0, 210-lb back from Montvale, New Jersey has been compared favorably to former Georgia star Knowshon Moreno. I did not see Knowshon in high school, but I did see another big time back who Kamal reminds me of: Michael Bush.
The main similarity I see between Kamal and Bush is the combination of power and speed. While Michael didn’t have blazing, 4.3 speed, he had enough to pull away from defenders if necessary (see vs. UK in 2006). Michael was also not afraid to put his shoulder into the defender and put a DB on the ground in the process.
I saw similar traits from Kamal Hogan. Kamal did not play last year because he suffered a concussion in the team’s first scrimmage. However, he is said to be 100% healthy and I will be looking forward to seeing him come the Red-White game.
The local star from Male high school was one of the top recruits of the Steve Kragthorpe era. Pardon me, the ‘Great’ Steve Kragthorpe. As the younger brother of UofL star Earl Heyman, a lot was expected of Dexter coming out of high school. However, Dexter was in somewhat of position purgatory. Was he a linebacker? A defensive end? Maybe a defensive tackle?
Whatever he was, he was on the sideline and not on the field as much as we expected.
Last year, he moved back to his natural position of linebacker and we started to see the Dexter Heyman from high school. He seemed comfortable on the field and was flying around making plays. With the loss of 25 seniors, leadership will be crucial to the team’s success. I think this is where Dexter can make an impact.
As much as anything, the 2011 Cardinals need leaders to step up. Strong leadership can win just as many games as pure talent can. If this team develops leaders during Spring and into Fall, they can make some noise. I think Dexter needs to be one of those leaders and because of that, I’ll be looking for that this Spring.
There are a lot of key components to replace on the offensive side of the ball, but the most important are along the offensive line. With experienced veterans Josh Byrom, Mark Wetterer, Greg Tomczyk, Byon Stingily, and a few others gone, the offensive line is a big question mark and guys will have to step up.
This is where I think Jake Smith comes in. I think he was one of the more underappreciated signings of the 2010 class and I one person, a former college offensive lineman, tell me Smith is going to be real good. The Jacksonville, Alabama native has good size at 6-4, 315 lbs and can move his feet well.
Smith is only a redshirt freshman and has the ability to be an anchor on the line for several years.