Louisville's Micale Cunningham changes habits to become a better quarterback


Micale Cunningham changed his habits to become a better quarterback.

When quarterbacks coach Frank Ponce arrived at Louisville as a member of Scott Satterfield’s coaching staff, Cunningham and other signal callers were asked if they would make the decision to be a productive quarterback at the Power-5 level.

A poised quarterback with a pocket presence was the necessary criteria to lead to production.

Cunningham has the speed and athleticism to be a run-first quarterback, but Ponce wanted the Montgomery native to understand that throwing the ball would be just as valuable.

The 6-foot-1 quarterback’s understanding of the offense and position began in the film room.

“I think the biggest thing has been his study habits as a quarterback from when we first got here to where it is now,” Ponce said. “The poise that he developed throughout the year, becoming a better student of the game and understanding the offense created a lot of confidence.”

After being listed second on Louisville’s depth chart in the first two games of the year, Cunningham became the team’s starting quarterback following Jawon Pass’s season-ending injury. As a redshirt sophomore, Cunningham set a school record for passing efficiency while throwing for 2,065 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Cunningham still utilized his mobility, rushing for 482 yards and six touchdowns, but his commitment to the passing game helped expand his production as a quarterback.

“He chose to be a better passer, to have a better presence in the pocket,” Ponce said. “Malik from day one showed that he had the potential to be a great passer. He has great touch on the football, especially with the deep ball. His accuracy has developed immensely in the short game.”

With proven ability as a dual-threat quarterback, Cunningham opens Louisville’s offense to more possibilities.

“It does wonders for our offense, especially in the passing game,” Ponce said. “As a defense you think he is going to take off running, but he is not. He is looking to pass first, he is throwing the ball extremely well.”

After a season that ended with Cunningham being named Most Valuable Player in the Music City Bowl in a Louisville victory over Mississippi State, the quarterback has tried to stay grounded. Ponce tells Cunningham that work ethic will prove how good he is.

Ponce said Cunningham needs to continue to develop his poise and throwing ability to improve as a quarterback.

“He is playing with a lot of confidence, his understanding, just knowing what he is doing,” Ponce said. “The biggest thing going into this 2020 season is to develop that.”