Louisville Progressing Through Summer With Strong Competition at Backup Quarterback

The Cardinals might have penciled in their starter at quarterback, but the competition behind QB1 during the offseason will play a crucial role this upcoming season.
Louisville graduate transfer quarterback Tyler Shough makes a pass during practice on April 12, 2024 before the Red-White scrimmage game.
Louisville graduate transfer quarterback Tyler Shough makes a pass during practice on April 12, 2024 before the Red-White scrimmage game. / Matt Stone/The Courier Journal / USA
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - While fall camp is still a few weeks away, at this point during the summer months, Louisville football head coach Jeff Brohm feels very good about the status of his quarterback room heading into the upcoming 2024 season.

For starters, Brohm and his staff are very high on Tyler Shough. The Texas Tech and Oregon transfer has displayed a high level of playmaking ability with both his arm and legs at his prior two stops, and he was by far and away the best quarterback on the Cardinals' roster during spring ball.

"We're excited about Tyler," Brohm said earlier this week. "I think he competed in the spring, did a good job, showcased his arm strength. He's learned our offense, he has it down. He studies, he's a student of the game. He's a veteran, he's played a lot of football. He's had some ups and downs, which is good that he's been seasoned. ... We feel confident about his leadership skills, what he brings to the table, and we think he can have a big year."

Related: Louisville HC Jeff Brohm Provides Summer Updates

With as is the case with every other team in the nation, the backup quarterback spot can be just as important as the starter. It's important to have viable options in case the starter isn't quite getting the job done, or worse, has to be sidelined in case of injury. Given Shough's lengthy injury history, bad luck or not, backup quarterback is going to be an important component of Louisville's success in year two under Brohm.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, they will be entering fall camp with a very strong and healthy competition for the No. 2 spot at that position.

"We'll always have competition there," Brohm said. "Sometimes you kind of gauge and see what are certain strengths of each player. ... Then unfortunately, if some someone goes down like your starter, the next guy has to be ready to go in there and win the game for you."

While Brohm hasn't declared there to be a "clear cut" No. 2 option on the depth chart, he did say that Pierce Clarkson is the one who is "the next guy in" after Shough. The former top-200 prospect played just one drive against Murray State in his true freshman campaign last year, going 1-for-2 for seven yards with a three-yard rush.

Earlier this year, Clarkson made some serious strides during spring ball both as a passer and a runner, especially in the latter half. During the spring game, he received the second-most snaps behind Shough, and went went 9-of-14 for 117 yards with a 62-yard touchdown and an interception.

"Right now, Pierce Clarkson continues to improve and get better," Brohm said. "Getting him as many game reps as we can, with a rush coming at him, he's got to make plays and be able to adjust and play on the fly. It's important, and I think we've we've done a decent job of that. But he's got to continue to keep excelling at that."

Clarkson might have the inside track to be the backup, but Brohm has also liked what he has seen out of both Harrison Bailey and Brady Allen. Like Clarkson, both players also joined the program last offseason, and got just one drive of work against Murray State during the 2023 season. Bailey went 3-for-5 for 51 yards and a touchdown, while Allen completed his only throw for seven yards.

The two also have high ceilings in their own right. Bailey, a former five-star recruit who previously played at Tennessee and UNLV, had a solid spring and was praised by Brohm for his passing ability. Allen, a former top-50 prospect who started his career at Purdue with Brohm, has been up-and-down since becoming a Cardinal but has the respect from his head coach due to his football IQ.

"Harrison Bailey has shown really good things," Brohm said. "In the spring game, I didn't give him a whole lot of opportunity to throw the ball up the field a whole lot. That was my fault. But he's had a good spring and a good summer. I think he can play effective football if we asked him to. He's not extremely mobile, but he can throw the football and he understands our system.

"Brady Allen, we've had for a while now at couple places. He continues to improve and get better. Playing fluid, playing natural and playing athletic is what he needs to work on, because he's very smart. He understands what we're doing."

Another reason that having a strong competition for the backup quarterback spot is important, especially in Louisville's case, is that all of these guys are going to play at some point. While Brohm was reluctant to take snaps away from Jack Plummer last season, traditionally, this was an anomaly from Brohm and not his typical line of thinking.

As the head man at Western Kentucky and Purdue, he wasn't afraid to trot out multiple signal callers over the course of a season. Even during the aforementioned Murray State game last year, Louisville played a whopping nine quarterbacks during that game. We might not see something that extreme this season (except maybe in garbage time against Austin Peay), Brohm says that he fully expects to have different packages for different quarterbacks.

"At some point, they're all going to play," he said. "If they prove to us they can play right now, we've been known to have multiple packages where maybe two quarterbacks play, maybe three quarterbacks play. ... Those guys have worked hard. It's hard to sit back and not get game reps and really feel extremely confident, even though all those guys are confident. But we've just got to make sure that we continue to get them seasoned up. But I think once we put them in, they'll be ready to go and they'll play well."

(Photo of Tyler Shough, Louisville Quarterbacks: Matt Stone - The Courier Journal / USA)

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Matthew McGavic


McGavic is a 2016 Sport Administration graduate of the University of Louisville, and a native of the Derby City. He has been covering the Cardinals in various capacities since 2017, with a brief stop in Atlanta, Ga. on the Georgia Tech beat. He is also a co-host of the 'From The Pink Seats' podcast on the State of Louisville network. Video gamer, bourbon drinker and dog lover. Find him on Twitter at @Matt_McGavic