EDITOR'S NOTE - This is the second of eight team previews leading up to the 2011 football season. The previews will be released in reverse order of the preseason poll.
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LOUISVILLE' 2011 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Louisville snapped a string of three straight seasons without a postseason appearance with a win in the 2010 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg.
Louisville loses four All-BIG EAST First Team selections from last year — the most of any BIG EAST team.
After winning just one road game in the previous two seasons combined, Louisville went 3-2 on the road in 2010.
The Cardinals return just 11 starting position players from last year.
The Cardinal offense, which ranked second in the BIG EAST in scoring (26.4 ppg), looks to replace seven starters. Louisville will be without its top two quarterbacks, its top running back and four starting linemen.
QB Will Stein, who made two starts in 2009 and saw spot duty in relief last year, is the only quarterback on the roster with significant game experience. True freshman Teddy Bridgewater enrolled in January and could push for a starting spot.
C Mario Benevides is the only returning starter on the offensive line. Benevides has started 24 of Louisville’s last 25 games.
RBs Victor Anderson (the 2008 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year) and Jeremy Wright are the key returners in the backfied as the Cardinals look to replace the production of Bilal Powell, who ran for 1,405 yards and 11 TDs last year.
Louisville ranked 10th nationally in pass defense, allowing an average of 167.4 yards per game in 2010. The Cardinals were 14th nationally in total defense (311.7 ypg).
S Hakeem Smith — the 2010 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year — was 10th in the BIG EAST in tackles last season. He is the key man in a secondary that will replace both starting cornerbacks from a year ago.
LB Daniel Brown (54 tackles) and LB Dexter Heyman (48 tackles) return as starters, while LB Preston Brown is expected to step in at the strong-side spot.
The defensive line relied on a number of young players last year and should be an area of strength thanks to the return of three starters. DE B.J. Butler had 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a freshman and will be a player to watch.
K/P Chris Philpott ranked seventh in the BIG EAST in scoring (6.4 ppg) last season and was eighth in the league in punting (40.5 ypp).
RB Jeremy Wright averaged 30.6 yards on kickoff returns, good for second in the BIG EAST.