Ron Dugans believes that Louisville can field an improved group of receivers this fall. But that's mostly based on faith this spring.
Like several other positions for the Cardinals, receiver has been thinned by graduation and injuries. Most days this spring, Dugans is working with only five or six wideouts.
"We've got about half the receiving corps," Louisville's second-year receivers coach said. "Guys have to suck it up, because there's not much rotation going on."
The good news for the Cardinals is that reinforcements are on the way this summer from incoming recruits and those recovering from injuries. The bad news is, there's not much experience on hand.
Louisville's leading returning pass-catcher is Josh Bellamy, a senior who is only in his second year with the program after transferring from junior college. Slowed by a concussion in the opener against Kentucky, Bellamy caught 29 passes for 401 yards and five touchdowns last season.
"I had an OK season, but not as good as I wanted," he said. "This year, I feel like I'll have a pretty good one."
Dugans has challenged Bellamy to be a leader this spring and not just with his words. Bellamy is already one of the loudest guys on the team who likes to jaw with the defense during practice. Dugans wants him to lead more by example, and that starts with improving his downfield blocking, which was lacking a year ago.
"He used to get on me every day about that," Bellamy said. "After every game, I would be the topic of every meeting."
The only returning receivers to catch more than one pass last year are Andrell Smith (25 receptions for 377 yards) and Damian Copeland (8 for 113). But both are hurt and not practicing this spring, along with redshirt freshman Michaelee Harris.
That leaves a skeleton crew populated by the likes of sophomores Kai Dominguez and Jarrett Davis, redshirt freshman Stephan Robinson, walk-on junior Scott Radcliff and early enrollee Charles Gaines. Gaines has turned heads with his speed, but he has also gotten a look at cornerback this spring.
"That's up to the head man," Dugans said when asked where Gaines' future lies. "He's showing flashes on both sides of the ball. Hopefully he'll stay on the offensive side of the ball, because we need him."
Two of Louisville's top incoming recruits are receivers Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker, both of whom will get a chance to compete for playing time this August. Veterans will be hard to find, but the Cardinals hope more talent makes up for that. Head coach Charlie Strong said last year's team lacked deep threats who could stretch the field in the passing game.
"Some of the defenses kind of sat up and squatted on us last year," Dugans said. "If we have to work underneath, then that's where yards after the catch comes in, and I've been harping on that this spring."
Dugans has been harping to just a handful of guys. He hopes to have a lot more ears listening to his message by this summer.