CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On some level, Louisville football has always been lying in wait for the return of Jeff Brohm. The hometown native who played quarterback for the Cardinals and even returned for a stint as an assistant coach has remained close with the community throughout his coaching journey. Head coaching stops at Western Kentucky and Purdue meant he was never too far, and the ground swell of local support always seemed to make a return to lead the Cardinals seem like a matter of time.
As Scott Satterfield's relationship with the program and community eroded following a strong start, it was worth considering whether Louisville might make a move to try and bring Brohm home. But Satterfield made it easy on the Cardinals, choosing to leave his post for the vacancy at Cincinnati. With no buyouts or hard feelings to hinder the move, Louisville delivered what so many fans had been pining for in recent years. Jeff Brohm is home, and now he's got the full support of a school and community hungry to see Louisville compete with the best in the ACC.
The desire for excellence at a place like Louisville can translate to more investment and increased resources, and Brohm has recognized the opportunities to build out a roster for immediate success. Combine the infusion of new talent with a favorable roster, and there's a lot of positivity around Louisville being one of the great success stories in the ACC in 2023.
That's real pressure that Brohm can feel on a deep level, because he feels those people who are investing financially and emotionally deserve a return. Simply put, he doesn't want to disappoint everyone who believes in him.
"When it comes to coming back to where I'm from and where I played at, it's a great honor. It's a great opportunity," Brohm explained at ACC Football Kickoff. "At the same time, yeah, it requires some pressure. I don't want to let people down. There's a lot of people that may think a certain way about me, and I want to make sure we build on that."
A roster reset, courtesy of the portal
Any coaching change is going to spark a good bit of roster turnover with the modern transfer rules, but where Brohm has threaded the needle by retaining some key pieces from last year's team while bringing in more than two dozen players from the portal, almost all of whom will be expected to either start or be key contributors in 2023. Louisville's 25-player transfer portal class ranks No. 12 nationally and No. 3 in the ACC, according to 247Sports. It includes quarterback Jack Plummer, who ran Brohm's offense at Purdue, plus one of the top wide receiver talents in the portal in Jamari Thrash from Georgia State, a handful offensive linemen with starting experience and some quality rotation pieces for the defensive backfield.
The first message Brohm brought to the new roster, both for the players from last year's team and the new additions, was one of potential. In the portal, he sold the opportunity to come be a part of a special Louisville culture. It's a city that rallies around its university for sports fandom with no pro team in town. It's also a program with proven NFL success stories; Brohm boasts that the highest-paid quarterback (Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson) and cornerback (Green Bay Packers' Jaire Alexander) in the NFL both came out of Louisville.
The other message was of creating honest competition throughout the depth chart. Nothing is promised, but everything can be earned.
"When it comes to our football team and adding pieces, it's about being honest," Brohm said. "It's about understanding that our goal is to build a championship-level team, and for our really good players on the team, they know that in order for them to play well and have success, they can do it a lot better with really good players around them.
"So you just try to piece that together," he continued. "Our guys know that the best players are going to play, but if you are ready to play, and you can contribute, we're going to get you on the field as well, and you can prove to us that you should earn more playing time."
A favorable schedule for success
As if the new coach and an impressive transfer portal haul aren't generating enough buzz, there is also an expectation for some immediate success due to a schedule that appears to be one of the more favorable draws in the ACC. The Brohm era will begin with a Friday night game against Georgia Tech that has been moved to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which should allow for plenty of Louisville fans to make the quick flight down to Atlanta. Two weeks later, there is another neutral-site game on the schedule against Indiana at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, which should be even more manageable for Louisville fans to create a welcoming environment for the team.
Thanks to those two neutral-site games, Louisville will only play three true road games in 2023: At NC State, at Pitt and at Miami. The Cardinals even have a stretch in the back half of the schedule with a residency of sorts, playing three straight home games against Duke, Virginia Tech and Virginia. For the purposes of capturing the excitement that Brohm has generated, there are nine opportunities for fans have an impact on the game day environment.
Then there's the actual ACC conference draw, which does not include Clemson, Florida State or North Carolina. Those schools will return to the slate in 2024 thanks to the league's 3-5-5 scheduling model, but for Brohm's first year at the helm the stars have aligned to give the Cardinals a win total worth boasting about.
The oddsmakers set Louisville's 2023 win total at 8.0, with the prospect of nine wins being slightly more favorable than seven. Even meeting, but definitely exceeding, those expectations will put Louisville in a position to finish as one of the top four or five teams in the division-less ACC.
Looking for urgency and resiliency
Brohm doesn't bring in more than two dozen transfers if he's working on a multi-year rebuild plan. His actions have already indicated that he wants to compete immediately. If you didn't pick up on what the Cardinals staff has been up to in the last seven months, he's willing to lay it out more explicitly.
"In today's age of college athletics it's about winning now," Brohm said. "It's about doing it, in my opinion, with our current football team and any new pieces we've added, and we want to do that in Year 1, and it's important that you do that."
And while it's Year 1 for Brohm and Louisville, he is feeling the perspective that comes with a decade of coaching experience. There's urgency to win now, but there's also the knowledge that there will be setbacks in the climb.
"I just think the fact that I'm fortunately going on my tenth year as a head coach, you've been battle-tested. I've been in some tough football games where we found a way to win against opponents that maybe we weren't expected to win against," Brohm said. "[At Purdue] we found ways to get to Big Ten Championship Game at a place that had not done that ever before, and then we found ways to get up on off the ground when we got knocked down when we shouldn't."
Louisville is buzzing for the Jeff Brohm era, and he's responded with efforts to deliver results right away. Now, he's hoping the message of competitiveness and resiliency will pay off in a team that the Louisville community can be proud of -- and in doing so, return the investment they've made in him.