The buzz surrounding the Louisville program this offseason has been filled with optimism. A young team of solid recruits, the Cardinals look to build on a strong finish in 2011.
Experienced Bridgewater: Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater returns to his starting role after splitting time as a true freshman in 2011. After throwing for more than 2,100 yards and 14 scores last season, Bridgewater will look to advance his relationship with a young but talented receiving corps.
Defensive backfield: Anchored by cornerback Adrian Bushell and safety Hakeem Smith, the Cardinals will be a tough bunch to throw on. In addition, Smith is a big, physical safety, so his presence is certainly felt in run support, as well. Smith is the leading returning tackler for a Louisville defense that allowed just over 20 points per game a season ago.
Winning attitude: In coach Charlie Strong's first two seasons, the Cards were picked to finish last -- or second-to-last -- in the Big East. Both years, however, Strong led the team to a bowl, nearly winning the conference last season. Now, with more talent at his disposal, his team is picked to finish first. The Cardinals have already proven they can win in the Big East. Now is their chance to win the whole thing.
Slow starts: In both of Strong's first two seasons, Louisville has gotten off to slow starts. In his first year, 2010, the Cards dropped two of their first three games and struggled with some lesser opponents. Again, in 2011, they started slow, dropping four of their first six, including losses to Florida International and Marshall. The Cards will want to avoid another bumpy start in 2012.
Youth: Despite the abundance of talent on the roster, it cannot be overstated just how young they are. They have just nine seniors, so younger guys will be forced into leadership roles. They may take some lumps in 2012, but the future certainly looks bright.
Kicking game: Kicker Chris Philpott has graduated, leaving a group of untested kickers to lead the Cards. With Louisville expected to win the conference and go to a BCS bowl, the kicking game could play an important role in tight game situations.
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