LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The first four games of the season has been a rollercoaster for the Louisville football program. They went from doing some serious soul searching following their blowout loss to Ole Miss, to rebounding for three straight wins to put themselves in the thick of the Atlantic Division race heading into their next matchup against Wake Forest.
The Cardinals currently are in a nice position to try and make some noise moving forward, but it won't come easy, as they will be doing so without two of their top playmakers on both offense and defense.
Inside linebacker Monty Montgomery, the team-leader in sacks from last year's squad, suffered a torn right ACL in Louisville's week three win against UCF. A week later in their ACC opener down at Florida State, top returning wide receiver Braden Smith was also lost for the year after tearing 'some ligaments' in his left knee.
Losing both players is undoubtedly a big loss for the Cardinals, but by no means is the season a lost cause. Louisville still has playmakers that have the potential to step up in their respective places, and head coach Scott Satterfield has the utmost confidence in their ability to do so.
"We have a lot of confidence in our guys," he said. "The way that we prepare our guys, and the way they get out and play - we talk to them all the time about how they are one play away from being in game, and so you go to prepare yourself and be ready to go at every position, because you never know at what position it's going to happen at."
While it is hard to replace playmakers like Montgomery and Smith, Satterfield and the rest of the coaching staff has prepared the team for potential situations like this. The depth they have created from both recruiting, and inserting young or inexperienced players as often as they can, has put them in a place where losing a key player is not a death sentence at that position.
At inside linebacker, Jaylin Alderman has already shown what he can do against UCF, KJ Cloyd is slowly building experience, and Dorian Jones has shown potential. Plus, established veteran linebackers C.J Avery and Yasir Abdullah rallied around him at their respective positions
Moving over to wide receiver, we are starting to see guys become more comfortable in their roles. Jordan Watkins and Josh Johnson have become consistent and reliable targets, Justin Marshall looks like he what he billed as during the preseason, and Tyler Harrell finally broke through and made some noise against FSU.
There are a handful of players at both spots who have the potential to step up big time, and make sure there is not a steep production drop off. With a week of practice kicking off in preparation of Wake Forest, Satterfield is not anticipating slowing it down.
"You’ve still got to prepare the way we think that it's going to give us the best chance (to win)," he said. "I don't think that you’ve got to change your plan just because you lose a player. I think the next guy that’s coming in there, he's got to prepare just like the player did before him."
Despite the big-time injuries, Satterfield is not planning on easing up on practice. In fact, due to what the staff learned from the first three weeks - where they played three games in 12 days - they staff is applying what they learned during that period of time in order to keep players fresh.
"We learned a lot within our first three contests with those short weeks," he said. "We learned a lot of things that we could do, and so we've tweaked a little bit of the practice, but we still got to prepare the way we've always prepared. Whoever's in the game has got to be ready to go.”
Kickoff at Wake Forest is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 2 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
(Photo of Monty Montgomery via University of Louisville Athletics)
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