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Film Room: Way too early preview of the Louisville Cardinals

Satterfield looks to rebuild the Cards

Central Arkansas v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Louisville Cardinals finished the 2018 season with a record of 2-10 and ranked 98th per the S&P+. The administration fired Bobby Petrino and hired Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield as a replacement. Coach Satterfield’s Mountaineers were 11-2 and ranked 29th per the S&P+ last season.

The Cardinals are ranked 87th in the pre-season per the S&P+ and have struggled to recruit in the last few years under Petrino. Coach Satterfield had done a great job of developing and deploying talent at App State, but will now have to acquire as well as Kentucky and the ACC for talent.

Since Howard Schnellenberger took over the Cardinals in 1985, every Louisville head coach has manaed a double-digit win season except for Ron Cooper (1995-1997), Steve Kragthorpe (2007-2009) and Bobby Petrino version 2.0 (2014-2018). Schnellenberger, John L. Smith, Petrino 1.0 and Charlie Strong all found success at least for a season as the head football coach at Louisville.

Personnel and Scheme

Scott Satterfield hitched his wagon to freshman quarterback Taylor Lamb back in 2014 and it paid off for the young head coach. Satterfield, who took over the Mountaineers when they were still at the FCS level as part of the Southern Conference, ushered ASU into the FBS with Lamb as his star. Lamb delivered winning seasons and bowl games by throwing for over 9,000 yards and 90 touchdowns and rushing for over 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns with only 32 interceptions thrown in four seasons.

Once Lamb, who was part of 37 wins in four years including a 3-0 bowl record, graduated- everyone thought ASU would backslide without their star QB. Instead, the Mountaineers finished 11-2 last season on the arm and legs of quarterback Zac Thomas. Thomas, only a sophomore at the time, threw for 2,039 yards while averaging eight yards per attempt. He also tossed 21 touchdowns with only six interceptions while running for 500 yards and 10 touchdowns, too.

Expect Satterfield to deploy a similar system to the one he used at App State. A year ago, four different players ran for 400-or-more yards for ASU while eight different players had double-digit reception totals, too. Coach Satterfield’s offenses like to spread the football around and take advantage of mismatches using motion and the triple option from the shotgun.

Satterfield’s personnel grouping is commonly an 11 personnel (one running back, tight end) set. At ASU, that “tight end” would line up all over the field between being in the backfield as a fullback, on the line as a tight end, or in the wing off the tackle’s hip. The quarterback battle at Louisville comes down to highly touted but struggling Jawon Pass, run-first QB in Malik Cunningham, and freshman Evan Conley out of Marietta, GA.


In the GIF below, ASU dials up a play-action pass and a smash concept to the right side of the field. In the smash concept, the #1 receiver (outside receiver) runs a hitch while the #2 receiver (in the slot) runs a corner route. They really just run a fade that replaces the #1 over the top but it works the same way. Penn State’s safety is too far away to chase down a receiver who is out past the numbers and in the back corner of the end zone.

Motion and play-action

Later in the game ASU goes full Satterfield, there’s a tight end on the right and a slot in motion overloading the left side; they play-action pass and take a deep shot after looking to swing to the motioning receiver. It’s all about getting more targets than defenders to a side and confusing coverage via window dressing when you’re the less talented team.

Motion and the running game

In the running game, App State likes option plays and they like designed handoff plays that look like their option plays. In the GIF below, they wind up in a 3-back look after the motion which lures defenders to the left, but they’re running a zone dive back to the right with a lead block from the fullback. It’s a similar idea to what Navy and Georgia Tech were doing for years with their zone dive, but in Satterfield’s scheme the tailback gets a lead block.


Obviously, Louisville can be a good program in the world of college football. While most of their success came in lesser leagues (read: Big East and CUSA) the Cardinals can find success in the ACC. I think the Satterfield hire was perfect as he’s proven he can build a program, he can compete with Power 5 teams when he has lesser talent, and his scheme and style match well to an underdog approach.

However, there’s no way Louisville should compete with Miami in year one. The Cards are talent depleted, young, and were demoralized by Petrino’s staff. The ‘Canes and Cards play on November 9th in Miami- and ESPN has the Hurricanes with an 82% win probability while Bill Connelly gave Miami an 87% win probability in his team preview. The Cardinals will be good again, it just won’t be in year one of the Satterfield Era.

Prediction: Miami by 20