BIGEAST.org will be previewing all eight BIG EAST teams leading up to the start of the season. Team previews will be released in inverse order of the preseason media poll - today's preview will be of the Louisville Cardinals, who were picked first.
Louisville returns 17 starters from a 2011 team that won a share of the program’s second BIG EAST championship.
The Cardinals won five of their last six regular-season games in 2011. Louisville was 3-1 on the road in BIG EAST play.
Each of Louisville’s six losses was to an opponent that played in the postseason last year.
The Cardinals play four of their last six games at home this season.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, who started the last 10 games of the 2011 season, was the unanimous choice as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year last season.
C Mario Benevides (34 career starts) leads a veteran offensive line that has two players who started all 13 games last year (OT Alex Kupper and OG Jake Smith).
Louisville returns its top two receptions leaders from last year — WR Eli Rogers (41 catches) and WR Michaelee Harris (37 catches). WR DeVante Parker, who had a team-high six touchdown receptions, also returns.
RB Dominique Brown — who began his career as a quarterback — is expected to handle the bulk of the rushing duties in 2012.
Louisville returns nine starters from a defense that ranked 10th nationally against the run (103.5 ypg) and 14th in scoring (19.2 ppg) last year.
The Cardinals have two All-BIG EAST First Team selections returning in the secondary. S Hakeen Smith is a two-time All-BIG EAST pick and was the 2010 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. CB Adrien Bushell earned postseason honors for the first time last year.
LB Preston Brown (84 tackles in 2011) and LB Daniel Brown (39 tackles) return, but the Cardinals will need someone to step in for All-BIG EAST Second Team LB Dexter Heyman, who led the team with 90 stops last year.
The Cardinals have four regular starters returning on the defensive line. DT Roy Philon leads the returning linemen with six tackles for loss last season.
Louisville will feature new men at kicker and punter this year. K/P John Wallace, a redshirt freshman, is the early favorite at both spots.
The Cardinals allowed a total of seven yards on punt returns in 2011.