I had a chance to catch up with Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson this week, and we had a terrific phone conversation touching on many aspects of the Cards' offense.
You will read plenty more in the coming week, including a profile on Watson and how he got his shot at redemption with the Cards -- though he will never say that himself. Here are a few newsy nuggets from our talk. Stay tuned to the blog for much more on Teddy Bridgewater, staff continuity and dealing with increased expectations.
Running back Senorise Perry will not participate during spring practice as he continues to rehab his torn ACL. But Watson expects to have the team's top running back available in the fall. "We'll continue to teach him in the classroom," Watson said. "I don't see him getting any physical reps in spring. We'll make sure when he rolls off the shelf he's ready to go."
The Cardinals have to replace two starters on the offensive line: center Mario Benavides and tackle Alex Kupper. Both were extremely valuable players on the offensive line, particularly Benavides, who started every game he played at Louisville. Watson says the plan is to have Kamran Joyer move to center full time. "He has become a very good football player, the lights have gone on," Watson said. "He has experience. He's played guard, he's played center in games. He's one of our five best linemen right now with those two guys gone and we're excited about what he was able to do this year. He's going to be a great candidate. Mario meant a ton to us. But Kam understands because he was in there with Mario. I see him as being a guy that can step in for us and be a big help right away."
At the left tackle spot, Abraham "Nacho" Garcia looks to be the favorite to get first shot. "Kupper played all five spots for us at one time or another," Watson said. "He's a very valuable football player. We'll never be able to replace his versatility but what we have at left tackle now is a young player in Nacho who's had game experience. That was by design, to spell Kupp, allowed us to move Kupp around. But during that process, Nacho got better and better and most importantly got out there and got confidence. We're really excited about him."
On paper, the Cardinals have the best group of receivers returning in the Big East. Only Andrell Smith leaves off the two-deep. "It’s the best group of receivers in the 30 years I’ve been in coaching," Watson said. "They’re a really talented group of kids. They’re tough. They’ve become technicians." Added into the mix in 2013 are: Florida transfer Robert Clark and Tennessee transfer Matt Milton. Louisville also got a commitment from ESPN 150 prospect James Quick.
Tight end is another position in which Watson has high hopes. He has another two transfers eligible there -- Gerald Christian from Florida and Zeke Pike, who was a quarterback at Auburn before moving to tight end. Having B.J. Butler and Jalen Harrington available at tight end or fullback gives Watson many possibilities. "My biggest challenge in the offseason is where do we put those guys and how do we use them?" Watson said. "That’s going to add another whole dimension to our offense that I’ve been wanting for two years. We’ve grown to a point, but we haven’t been able to grow all the way. With the addition of Gerald, and Zeke Pike -- the prospects of him playing that position and what he brings to the table -- it’s really exciting. We’ve got to work with it to see what it pans out to be."