August 11, 2015 Louisville, KY. (Analyzed Sports) By: Dalton Pence
UofL-UK-WKU-Indiana College Football Preview
Coming off a 9-4 record in their first season in the ACC, the Louisville Cardinals are looking for an even better season in 2015. With key departures, Louisville looks to advance forward with more experienced returners and new additions.
Quarterbacks– The favorite for the starting job is Reggie Bonnafon at the moment.The 6’3 209 Ib sophomore from Trinity High School in Louisville, Kentucky is a dual threat passer who can make plays with his legs. Coach Bobby Petrino claims that Bonnafon has gained more confidence and has improved his decision-making. Kyle Bolin looks to be the main contender while Will Gardner tries to prove himself coming off of an ACL injury last year. Newcomers Lamar Jackson and Tyler Ferguson are also in the mix.
Running Backs– The word coming out of spring practice is that junior Brandon Radcliff will start at running back. Sophomore L.J. Scott and freshman Jeremy Smith will also receive touches in the backfield, but don’t be surprised if Malin Jones, a transfer from Northwestern, shows up on the field as well.
Wide receivers and Tight Ends– With Devante Parker, Eli Rogers, Kai De La Cruz, Matt Milton, and Gerald Christian graduating, Louisville has big holes to fill. Junior James Quick and transfers Ja’Quay Savage (Texas A&M) and Jamari Staples (UAB) look to be the next stars. Incoming freshmen Emonee Spence and Devante Peete will be key competitions as well. Keith Towbridge will be the main candidate to replace Mr. Irrelevant Gerald Christian.
Offensive Line– The Cardinals lost three starters to the NFL- Jamon Brown, Jake Smith, and John Miller. Center Tobijah Hughley and tackle Aaron Epps are the only returning starters. The biggest question for the Cards entering training camp is who the other starters will be. Pedro Sibiea, Khalil Hunter, Kiola Mahoni, Lukayus McNeil and freshmen Kenny Thomas, Geron Christian, and Chandler Jones will all be given an equal chance to compete.
Front 7- Seniors De’Angelo Brown and Sheldon Rankins will lead a strong D-Line along with the TCU transfer and Big XII Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 DE Devonte Fields. Junior Keith Kelsey and senior James Burgess return to form one of the nation’s scariest line-backing cores.
Defensive Backs– Georgia transfer Shaq Wiggins along with Trumaine Washinton are the favorites for the two starting corner positions while fellow Georgia transfer Josh Harvey-Clemons and veteran Chucky Williams look to be the main candidates to replace NFL-bound Gerod Holliman and James Sample at safety.
PREDICTION- With their second season in the ACC, look for Louisville to be legitimate contenders in the conference behind Clemson. Key departures slow down the forward motion, but the future looks bright. Projected record: 9-3
This season for the University of Kentucky might be the most important year of Head Coach Mark Stoops’ tenure to date. The hype of recruiting classes and improvement turning into losing seasons has turned all the lights on Stoops. In two seasons with the Wildcats, he has posted a 7-17 record. With the departure of OC Neal Brown, the Cats have brought in Shannon Dawson, the West Virginia OC, to help the Air Raid offense skyrocket. With returning experience and quality youth, the Kentucky Wildcats could return to a bowl game for the first time in 4 years.
Quarterbacks-The quarterback battle for the Wildcats is mainly between two guys: Jr. Patrick Towles and So. Drew Barker. Towles, the starter last year, might have the odds in his favor going into the year because of experience.
Runningbacks-Fortunately for UK, standout Stanley “Boom” Williams will be returning for his sophomore year. After a promising freshman campaign, Williams is poised for another quality season. Expected to join him is Jojo Kemp, a junior who led the team in rushing as a freshman.
Wide Receivers and TEs- Junior all-purpose receiver Ryan Timmons tops the returning core. Wideouts Blake Bone, Garrett Johnson, and Jeff Badet look to make impacts on the football field too. Dorian Baker rounds out those expected to compete for reasonable time this season. As for TE, experience might not be so abundant. Look for freshman C.J. Conrad to maybe sneak into the starting role come Week 1.
Offensive Line- This core might be the strongest on this UK team. They return four starters, led by Jr. Jon Toth and veteran Sr. Jordan Swindle.
Front 7- Replacing Ze’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree will be difficult, but seniors Josh Forrest and transfer Melvin Lewis will lead the charge along with Louisville native Jason Hatcher (Trinity High School; Jr.) and So. LB Ryan Flanagan.
Defensive backs- A.J. Stamps, the explosive safety, will be returning and leading the Cats once again, for his senior season. Blake McClain and Marcus McWilson also return and will join Stamps in attempting to shut down the opposing passing game.
PREDICTION- With returning veterans and promising newcomers, Kentucky is poised to show improvement. Look for them to compete in games better than they did last year. However, the SEC will also be very strong and it might take another year for postseason play to take place in the Stoops’ era. Projected record: 5-7
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
The Hilltoppers had one of the most explosive offenses to watch last year under Head Coach Jeff Brohm in his first season. They have some departures, but what is scary about them is who they have returning. This could very well be a record season for the Tops.
Quarterbacks– Arguably the strongest position that the Toppers have, there is very little of a quarterback battle. The 6th year senior Brandon Doughty, who has broken many Conference USA and school records throughout his lengthy career, will be leading the Toppers for one more season.
Running-backs– Leon Allen and Anthony Wales will provide the 1-2 punch in the backfield, but look for Wales to get more time early on as Allen may face suspension due to some behavior isses. Allen rushed for a team high 1,542 yards last season and found the endzones 13 times.
Wide Receivers and TEs-Western returns their best receiver from a year ago: Jared Dangerfield. Last season as a junior, he reeled in 114 catches resulting in 1,592 yards. They also return Jr. Taywan Taylor, who is also expected to put up big numbers along side Dangerfield. Returning at TE is Tyler Higbee, one of the Conference USA’s top receiving tight ends.
Offensive Line– For the O-line, three starters return and expectations for the line are very high. Returners include veterans Forrest Lamp and Brandon Ray.
Front 7- The Topper defense was absolutely atrocious last year as they came in at #120 in total defense in the nation. However, they return 7 starters. Look for an improved defense, led by senior linebackers Nick Holt and Dejon Brown.
Defensive Backs- Returning for WKU is interceptions leader S Brandon Leston and standout CB Sr. Wonderful Terry. Also set to contribute are S Marcus Ward and CB Forrest Coleman.
PREDICTION- With a firepower offense and an improving defense look for WKU to light up the scoreboard and have only a couple L’s in the loss column. Projected record: 10-2
This season will be a rather critical one as HC Kevin Wilson is rumored to be on the hot seat. Coming off a 4-8 season and losing key players such as all-purpose back Tevjn Coleman to the NFL, the Hoosiers could be in for yet another rough season.
Quarterbacks- Coming off injury is Sr. Nate Sudfeld. Showing his passing talents in the pocket have made him the favorite to land the starting job for the Hoosiers.
Runningbacks- The harsh reality is there is no more Tevin Coleman, however there may be light at the end of the tunnel. IU gained a transfer from UAB: Jordan Howard. He found the endzone 13 times off of 1,600 rushing yards in the Blazers’ last football season.
Wide Receivers and TEs- There is no doubt that Zach Fuchs will spend the most time at tight end this season. A pair of transfers. Marqui Hawkins (UAB) and Camion Patrick (JUCO), are expected to be the top wideouts along with slot J-Shun Harris.
Offensive Line- The O line will have to step up again to protect QB Sudfeld, but if the core showed the improvement that they did last season, then that shouldn’t be a problem. Top returners include Dan Feeney and Jason Spriggs.
Front 7- The defense was far from impressive last year and the overall Hoosier success will depend partly on the development of the defense. Key returners include So. Tegray Scales, Jr. T.J. Simmons, and Clyde Newton. Look out for outside linebacker Dameon Willis as well; he has shown promise in the spring.
Defensive Backs- There’s no question that the Indiana secondary struggled a lot last season, but returners Donovan Clark, Rashard Fant, and Chase Dutra look to lockdown passing and prove doubters wrong.
PREDICTION: With a tough Big 10 conference, the Hoosiers will likely struggle due to departures and opposing offenses. Indiana will have to post a great non-conference record to even have a chance to make a bowl game. Projected record: 4-8