By Brad McGuffin —
Lamar Jackson has dominated preseason talk about football for the past two years. With the Heisman winner departed for the NFL, the wide receivers now occupy the hype as the strongest position group on the team.
Opposing defenses will have a difficult time finding ways to stop Louisville’s “Big Three”: Senior Jaylen Smith, junior Seth Dawkins and redshirt sophomore Dez Fitzpatrick.
The trio of receivers is deep, physical, fast and talented. Last season, they combined for 2,321 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns.
Smith heads the receivers with a name that fans have heard the most. The senior led his group in 2017 with 980 yards receiving despite a wrist injury that kept him out three games. He finished the year with seven touchdowns.
After a recent appendectomy on Aug. 3, Smith was back on the field less than three weeks later and says he will be ready for the Alabama game. If he can stay healthy, the Mississippi native will most likely break into Louisville football’s all-time top 10 in receiving yards and touchdowns.
“I don’t have any doubts that I will be ready to go,” Smith said. “I will be running continuous reps and back-to-back deep plays to get myself in shape.”
With nine of the group’s 20 touchdowns last season, Fitzpatrick returns from an impressive freshman year.
One week ago, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit mentioned the redshirt sophomore as a “breakout star” and not without reason. The underclassman has all the tools to be the Cardinals’ next big player, so look for him to be one of the top targets for quarterback Jawon Pass.
Dawkins rounds out the trio of receivers. As a sophomore, he closed the season with 42 receptions for 642 yards and four touchdowns. Expect the junior to up those numbers in 2018 as he brings two years’ experience to the table.
Besides the “Big Three” this year, the offense will have talent spread all over the field. A couple of incoming freshmen have the potential to make immediate impacts, as long as head coach Bobby Petrino gives them the chance.
Freshman Chatarius Atwell has turned heads since stepping foot on campus in January. With great showings in both the spring and fall, expect to see him on the field early this season.
Jatavious Harris is another incoming freshman and four-star recruit that Louisville fans should become familiar with soon.
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Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal