Miami and Louisville will go head to head Sept. 1 as both teams begin their seasons with new quarterbacks.
Canes head coach, Al Golden, announced on Sunday that true freshman Brad Kaaya would start as the quarterback for the Canes’ first game. Louisville’s newly reinstated head coach, Bobby Petrino, named redshirt sophomore Will Gardner as their under center.
Gardner saw action in six games in 2013 by going 5-for-5 with 42 passing yards as Teddy Bridgewater’s backup.
Miami fans got a bit of their worries lifted Monday when Petrino announced one of the Cardinals’ best receivers, DeVante Parker, would be out six to eight weeks due to a broken bone in his left foot during practice last Friday. Parker caught 55 passes for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013.
Kai De La Cruz replaces Parker on the depth chart, whose own college career has been abbreviated by redshirting and injuries.
Louisville previously lost its two leading receivers, Parker and Damian Copeland, from the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Miami, however, is seeing the return of tight end Clive Walford for his senior season. He caught four passes for 82 yards at the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Defensively, Miami has an older and experienced unit, especially in the secondary. Even Dallas Crawford looks promising, despite being switched from backup running back to starting strong safety. Seniors Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister and junior Raphael Kirby lead a ferocious linebacker core that’s played together for two seasons.
The big man for the Cardinals is Lorenzo Mauldin, defensive end-turned-linebacker. Mauldin racked up 9.5 sacks for a loss of 64 yards and 13 tackles for a loss for 72 yards.
Louisville’s defense was ranked 2nd in the nation by USA Today. As they return most of their starters from last season, this could be bad news for Miami’s premiere running back, Duke Johnson.
Johnson carried an average of 3.5 yards in 2013 against top-10 defenses Florida State and Florida. During the FSU game, he was on pace for a 100-yard game before his season-ending ankle injury
The biggest question will revolve around the changes at quarterback for both teams. Will Brad Kaaya be able to fill big shoes? Can Will Gardner emerge from Teddy Bridgewater’s shadow in his first real test as starter?
Miami will play against Louisville at 8 p.m. on September 1 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KT.