January 29, 2016

Nearly all of the offense returns for 2016 season

"L.J. Scott (no. 27) running the ball while playing in a regular season football game for the University of Louisville VS Murray State on 9-6-14 in Louisville, Kentucky at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium."

By Annie Moore–

2015 was the year of young talent and hopes for the future. 2016 is the year those hopes come to fruition with Lamar Jackson at the helm. Jackson isn’t alone. He’s joined by nine other returning starters on offense. With several other familiar faces returning, Louisville’s offense can rise to the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Quarterbacks

After a season on the quarterback carousel, Jackson said everything needed to prove his case as the go-to guy next season with his remarkable performance in the Music City Bowl. Jackson set the Music City Bowl record rushing for 226 yards and two touchdowns and added two more in the air for a total of 453 total yards.

He also set the Louisville career rushing mark in the first quarter. He ran for 126 yards in the first 15, including the play of the game, a 61-yard touchdown run. After the bowl game, Coach Petrino talked about Jackson demonstrating the practice habits of a seasoned veteran.

“What I’m most proud about Lamar (Jackson) is over this preparation, he worked really hard,” Petrino said. “He was up there for extra hours by himself watching video, taking notes, really trying to really learn what it takes to be a quarterback. He did a great job executing our run game, running the ball himself. I was happy with the way he threw the football, and it was a great win.”

If having the epitome of a dual-threat quarterback returning for his sophomore season isn’t exciting enough, sophomores Reggie Bonnafon and Kyle Bolin will be in backup once again, with both expanding the possibilities for Bobby Petrino on offense.

Wide receivers

The young receiver core of last season, returns almost in its entirety and with more experience.

Jamari Staples returns for his senior season after leading the Cards with 638 receiving yards last season. Also returning to finish his senior year strong is James quick. Quick had 39 receptions for 624 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Other familiar names fans will see on the depth chart are Jalyen Smith, Traveon Samuel and Ja’Quay Savage, to name a few. Those three combined for 688 yards and three touchdowns. After the Cards’ bowl win, Quick said the game helped establish some confidence and momentum in this young receiving core.

“Basically it just builds our confidence,” Quick said. “And for the young guys, they’re coming into the Winter with confidence. They want to come in and get balls and play. Everybody’s just going to be more confident coming back.”

Tight ends

 Cole Hikutini and Keith Towbridge return for their senior season after playing key roles in Petrino’s offense during their junior campaigns. Hikutini lead the tight ends with 347 yards and three touchdowns last season. Jackson spoke of his teammate after the Music City Bowl win.

“He’s a great athlete,” Jackson said. “He’s not just a tight end. He can be a receiver too, and he’s got speed, so we just go from there.”

Also returning is the young gun of the tight end trio, Micky Crum. Crum had 14 receptions for 163 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman.

Louisville’s offense line will see the most attrition during this offseason with several seniors headed out, including team captain, offensive tackle Aaron Epps.

But on both sides of the ball, there will be plenty of familiar faces this upcoming season. With Petrino at the helm and Jackson under center, Louisville’s offense will be a force to be reckoned with in 2016.

Offensive line

Louisville’s offensive line will see the most attrition during this offseason with several seniors headed out, including team captain, offensive tackle Aaron Epps.

Kenny Thomas and Geron Christian started as a true freshman during the year at tackle and guard, respectively.

Tobijah Hughley returns for his senior year after starting at center for a majority of the past two seasons.

Kiola Mahoni and Khalil Hunter both started games in 2015.

But on both sides of the ball, there will be plenty of familiar faces this upcoming season. With Petrino at the helm and Jackson under center, Louisville’s offense will be a force to be reckoned with in 2016.

 

Photo by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal

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