Louisville spring practice preview: Cardinals look to add victories, focus in 2017

Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

Offensive newcomer to watch

G Cole Bentley: Bentley, a true freshman who enrolled in January, is exactly what Louisville has been missing on its offensive interior: a mean-as-hell, physical run blocker. Bentley could be Louisville’s answer at right guard or perhaps even at center because he’s quick for a player his size. With two spots open, it’s hard to envision the returning depth being good enough to keep him off the field long.

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Defensive newcomer to watch

S C.J. Avery: The starter at his spot is gone and the new coordinator is bringing in a system designed to maximize guys just like Avery. Avery’s speed in picking up the defense will determine just how long it takes him to become a defensive fixture. His combination of size (6-1, 210) and speed will make him an instant-impact player in Louisville’s overhauled secondary.

Offensive veteran on the spot

WR Reggie Bonnafon: Bonnafon finally was just a wide receiver last year after being converted from quarterback, and at times, he showed he can be effective working the middle of the field. With James Quick’s graduation, there’s a clear need for a dependable slot receiver. But if Bonnafon, a senior, can’t distance himself from Traveon Samuel and the other returning challengers in the spring, he’ll risk being buried on the deepest position on the team.

Defensive veteran on the spot

S Dee Smith: Smith was a highly touted prospect out of high school who saw playing time as both a true freshman and sophomore in nickel and dime packages as well as in relief of injured starters. But when multiple players went down late last season, Smith (and the others at strong safety) struggled. He’ll get a fresh start with a new defensive coordinator, and he’ll need it to hold off Avery and redshirt freshman P.J. Blue.

Notable players who will miss spring practice

The only current player we know will miss spring is outside linebacker Trevon Young. Young still is rehabbing the hip he seriously injured in the Music City Bowl after the 2015 season. Louisville could sorely use his pass-rushing skills with the loss of Devante Fields, but it likely won’t be until the fall that coaches get their first look at him in more than a year.

RELATED: Notable conference games in the ACC this season

Also of note

Spring game: April 15.
Season-opening game: vs. Purdue in Indianapolis on September 2.

(You can follow Mark Ennis on Twitter @MarkEnnis)

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