Skip to main content

Five Questions Heading Into Louisville's 2024 Spring Practice

Here are the five of some of the biggest questions surrounding the Louisville football program as they prepare to begin spring practice:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As quickly as the previous year ended, preparation for a new season of Louisville football will soon be beginning.

Later today, the Cardinals will be returning to the practice fields of the Trager Center and kicking off spring practice - their second under head coach Jeff Brohm. Spring ball kicks off on Tuesday, Mar. 19, and will conclude on Friday, Apr. 19 with the program's annual spring game.

As you can imagine, it has been an extremely busy offseason. While Louisville does lose a handful of playmakers, they were able to retain several of their top players from last season, while simultaneously bringing in a myriad of talent via the transfer portal and the high school ranks.

Heading into Brohm's second season as the head coach, there is no shortage of storylines. Here are our five biggest questions surrounding the Louisville football program heading into the start of spring practice:

Who gets a head start in the battle for backup quarterback?

For the second season in a row, there is once again going to be a new starter at quarterback. Jack Plummer has officially run out of eligibility, and now he is off to the next stage in his career.

While there is going to be a new starter, there shouldn't appear to be that much of a discussion on who Plummmer's heir apparent will be. Tyler Shough is coming in as a seventh-year graduate transfer after three years at Texas Tech, and he provides the most playmaking ability out of anyone on the roster right now.

That being said, we likely won't get to see much of him in the spring. He is coming off of broken fibula suffered last season with the Red Raiders, and Jeff Brohm stated last month that he still isn't 100 percent healthy. Plus, given Shough's recent injury history, there's a chance Louisville could need some extended play from their backup quarterback in 2024.

Louisville likely won't officially designate a backup until the end of fall camp later this year, but spring will be an excellent time for someone to establish themselves as the frontrunner for QB2. Brohm noted last month that they want to "continue to progress" highly touted sophomores Pierce Clarkson and Brady Allen, as well as veteran walk-on Harrison Bailey "as fast as we can." 

How will the retooled wide receiver and tight end rooms impact the passing game?

While Plummer was far from perfect as a passer during his final year in college, his supporting cast of pass catchers didn't do him a ton of favors, either. The only consistent option in the passing game last season was wide receiver Jamari Thrash, and when he was limited with a wrist injury in the second half of the season, no one on the roster - wide receiver or tight end - really stepped up in his place. By the end of the year, Louisville wound up with the No. 56 passing offense in the FBS at 236.6 yards per game - well below what is typically expected from a Jeff Brohm offense.

Because of that, Brohm and his staff made a concerted effort to surround their next quarterback with plenty of weapons. For starters, Louisville brought in three tight end transfers with pass catching experience to upgrade a position that had little impact on the passing game This includes an all-conference performer in Mark Redman, and a former four-star prospect in Jaleel Skinner. Plus, returner Nate Kurisky had a strong end of the 2023 season, and the staff is still high on the ceiling of Jamari Johnson.

At wide receiver, the Cardinals added one of the top wideouts in the portal in Caullin Lacy, a former five-star recruit in Ja'Corey Brooks and a D2 all conference player in Antonio Meeks. Chris Bell and a few receivers are also coming back, but this is a position to monitor when the spring transfer window rolls around.

Throw in talented true freshmen such as wide receivers Joseph Stone Jr. and Shaun Boykins Jr., plus tight end Dylan Mesman, and Louisville is set up to have a much more efficient and productive passing game in 2024. It will all have to come together for all parties involved, but the Cardinals appear to be in good shape when it comes to slinging the rock next season

Will the running back position be just as productive as last season?

With the various struggles of the passing game last season, Louisville had to lean on their running game more so than expected. However, it was a position that wound up having one of the best one-two running back punches in the ACC.

Jawhar Jordan was on a tear to open up the season, and before a hamstring injury, he was on pace to perhaps be in the running for the Doak Walker Award. When he went down, Isaac Guerendo picked up where he left off, and had an incredible end-of-season stretch. When everything was said and done, the duo ran for 1,938 yards and 24 touchdowns, while catching 43 passes for 480 yards.

Of course, both Jordan and Guerendo are now preparing for the NFL Draft next month. With those two moving on, Louisville dipped into to portal to grab their presumptive RB1 and RB2, landing former MAC Offensive Player of the Year Peny Boone from Toledo and former Miami pseudo-starter Donald Chaney Jr.

It will be a slightly different approach to running the ball next season. Jordan and Guerendo more so relied on speed and agility to make their plays (although the latter was a more well-rounded back), while Boone and Chaney are bruisers to the core.

However, both were still very productive at their previous spots. Then throw in the fact that Maurice Turner and his track speed should be a good change-of-pace back, the three younger guys and their untapped talent, and the various additions on the offensive line, Louisville should in theory still have a rushing game that needs to be accounted for.

What is the ceiling for the incredibly deep defensive front?

Heading into the 2024 season, Louisville is in a very good spot at most positions when it comes to pure talent. No area of the field arguably has the most talent on the Cardinals than that of their defensive line.

For starters, they are returning one of the best players in college football in All-American defense end Ashton Gillotte. Louisville also has several impact lineman from last season coming back, such as fellow edge rusher Mason Reiger, plus interior linemen Jermayne Lole, Ramon Puryear and Dezmond Tell.

On top of that, Louisville added multiple high-end transfers across the line. Harvard nose tackle Thor Griffith, Tennessee defensive end Tyler Barron, and FIU defensive tackle Jordan Guerad are all four-star transfers according to On3.

Louisville's defensive line had a strong middle of the 2023 season, but were slow to start and didn't end the year on a good note. But when you add together the productive returners and impact newcomers - as well as a linebacking corps the more than exceeded expectations - the Cardinals have the potential to have one of the best defensive lines/front sevens in the ACC - if not all of college football.

Can the secondary's roster turnover help them take a collective step forward? 

For as good as Louisville's defense was last season, most of it was because of how well they bottled up the run. When it came to their ability to defend the pass, the Cardinals were very hit or miss, especially down the stretch when Virginia, Miami and USC all lit them up. Louisville finished No. 9 in rushing defense, but just 57th against the pass.

The Cards do bring back some quality pieces in this area of the field though. Quincy Riley is one of the best cornerbacks in the ACC, safety Devin Neal stepped up to be an All-ACC player last season, and safety M.J. Griffin will be coming back from injury after he was one of Louisville's best defensive backs in 2022.

But there has been some roster turnovers in this area of the field. Jarvis Brownlee, Storm Duck and Cam'Ron Kelly all declared for the draft; while Josh Minkins, Derrick Edwards and Marquis Groves-Killibrew entered the portal.

That being said, Brohm and Co. have done a great job replacing those that departed. Cornerbacks Corey Thornton (UCF) and Tahveon Nicholson (Illinois) are both four-star transfers per On3, Tamarion McDonald and Wesley Walker were both productive starters at Tennessee at STAR and safety, and Blake Ruffin was an FCS All-American safety at Eastern Illinois. Can this combination of returners and newcomers help them become more consistant? We shall see.

(Photo via University of Louisville Athletics)

You can follow Louisville Report for future coverage by liking us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

Facebook - @LouisvilleReport
Twitter - @UofLReport
Instagram - @louisville_report

You can also follow Deputy Editor Matthew McGavic at @Matt_McGavic on Twitter