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2022 Louisville Football Position Breakdown: Quarterback

The Cardinals head in the 2022 season with one of the best signal callers in the ACC.
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As we inch closer to the start of the 2022 college football season, Louisville Report will break down each individual position on the Cardinals' roster. We kick off our positional breakdown series with the most important spot on the field: quarterback.

Position Roster Movement:

Returning (3): Evan Conley, Brock Domann, Malik Cunningham
Departing (1): T.J. Lewis (Transfer - Georgia Southern)
Incoming (1): Khalib Johnson (HS)

Projected Depth Chart:

  1. Malik Cunningham (6-1, 190, R-Sr.)
  2. Evan Conley (6-2, 212, Jr.)
  3. Brock Domann (6-2, 227, Jr.)
  4. Khalib Johnson (6-2, 210, Fr.)

Breakdown:

The conversation at quarterback undoubtedly starts with Malik Cunningham. He was Louisville's heart and soul on the offensive side of the ball, and is one of the best returning quarterbacks in the ACC.

Cunningham completed 62.0 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards and 19 touchdowns to only six interceptions, while also rushing for 1,031 yards and 20 touchdowns. His 20 rushing scores was good for fourth in the nation, he became the 14th player in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards, and was just one passing touchdown shy of becoming the ninth member of the 20-20 club.

It goes without saying that Cunningham can beat defenses in a multitude of way. He demonstrates way above-average arm strength, did a much better job with decision making than he did in 2020, can extend plays with his legs and is deadly on play action. He probably would have generated more national buzz had it not been for an elite crop of quarterbacks in the ACC, as well as a 6-6 regular season for Louisville.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Cunningham doesn't have his flaws. Overthrows weren't a regular occurrence with him last season, but they seemed to appear at the worst possible times, like when a receiver was wide open. While he did a much better job of navigating the pocket and not scrambling early, there is still some room for improvement here.

One way that head coach Scott Satterfield and quarterbacks coach Pete Thomas worked with Cunningham on this, is that he was instructed to not run at all during spring ball. The only way he could use his legs, was if it was to scramble to throw. Cunningham used this time to work almost exclusively on his abilities as a pocket passer.

Getting the additional reps in not only helps Cunningham hone in on his accuracy and get more comfortable with his reads, but it builds up much-needed chemistry with the wide receiver room as well. Three of his top four receivers from last season are gone, but the program does return breakout candidates Ahmari Huggins-Bruce and Braden Smith. Not to mention that transfers Tyler Hudson and Dee Wiggins have loads of potential as well.

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Barring any sort of injury to Cunningham or a fourth quarter/second half blowout, the other three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster won't see that much playing time in 2022. But the likely backup quarterback, again, will be Evan Conley. He had to miss spring ball because of an injury, but is slated to make a full recovery and return.

Conley has shown big game moments in the past (2019 at Wake Forest is what comes to mind for most people), but didn't show much of that in the two big opportunities that presented themselves to him in 2021. He had to take over for a series against both Wake Forest and Clemson when Cunningham had to make brief exits, but he went a combined 0-4, with the offense coming to a complete and total stop on both occasions. Time will tell if he can round back into his 2019 form.

Domman is another viable option as the backup to Cunningham. The former JUCO product saw the field just once last year, at Duke, but had the advantage of getting nearly all the backup reps during spring ball with both Conley, and incoming freshman Khalib Johnson, out or limited due to injuries.

Speaking of Johnson, don't sleep on him making a run at the backup spot, either. His senior season film at Clay-Chalkville show a cannon of an arm, and a phenomenal ability to navigate the pocket and keep eyes down field. Once Cunningham's time at Louisville is done, next season, there very well could be an intense Johnson vs. Pierce Clarkson quarterback battle.

Overall, Louisville has to feel great about the state of the quarterback spot, at least to a degree. Cunningham is one of the best signal callers in the ACC, and if things break both his and UofL's way, he could be a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy - or at least be a finalist. There is a talent and ability drop-off after him, and that is cause for some concern given Cunningham's injury history, but all three backups are capable of serving their purpose when their number is called.

Other Position Breakdowns:

(Photo of Malik Cunningham: Jamie Rhodes - USA TODAY Sports)

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