Louisville football preview: Cardinals 2017 schedule, roster and three things to watch

Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson returns to lead Louisville in 2017. Here are three things to look for this spring from the Cardinals.

Louisville heads into the 2017 season looking to build off a 9-4 year led by defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

Jackson's record-setting season propelled the Cardinals to a 9-1 start, but Louisville lost its last three games to Houston, Kentucky and LSU. Bobby Petrino has built a team capable of winning the ACC championship, but the Cardinals will have to adjust after the late-season slide. Bringing Jackson back is a heck of a start.

MORE: Stacking up Heisman hopefuls in 2017

The Cardinals are ranked No. 12 in Sporting News' Way-Too-Early Top 25, and here's a preview of Louisville's 2017 schedule, roster and biggest questions entering the season.
When is Louisville's spring game?

Louisville's spring game is Saturday, April 15 at Papa John's Stadium in Louisville, Ky. Time and television coverage has yet to be determined.

2017 Louisville football schedule

Sept. 2: vs. Purdue (Indianapolis)

Sept. 9: at North Carolina

Sept. 16: vs. Clemson

Sept. 23: vs. Kent State

Sept. 30: vs. Murray State

Oct. 5: at N.C. State (Thursday)

Oct. 14: vs. Boston College

Oct. 21: at Florida State

Oct. 28: at Wake Forest

Nov. 4: BYE

Nov. 11: vs. Virginia

Nov. 18: vs. Syracuse

Nov. 25: at Kentucky

Dec. 2: ACC championship game

2017 Louisville recruiting class

The Cardinals did not have a Top 15 composite recruiting class. Louisville ranked No. 32 on 247Sports.com team rankings for 2017. Four-star running back Colin Wilson and four-star safety CJ Avery were the highest-ranked recruits in this class.

2017 Louisville roster

Louisville's spring and fall roster will be updated here.

Three things to watch

1. Where can Jackson improve?

Jackson totaled 3,543 passing yards, 1,571 rushing yards and 51 total TDs in 2016, but he completed just 48.4 percent of his passes in those three consecutivelosses. Louisville also replaces three starters on the offensive line, and the Cardinals brought in Florida line coach Mike Summers this offseason to deal with that. Jackson should continue to develop as a passer with a third year in Petrino's system.

2. Who is the supporting cast?

Can this offense be the same machine that averaged 42.5 points per game last season? Running back Brandon Radcliff, receivers James Quick and Jamari Staples and tight end Cole Hikutini also are gone, so Jackson will be working with a new cast of playmakers. That likely means a committee at running back, though Wilson will be a running back everybody is excited to see in that offense. Jaylen Smith averaged 22.2 yards per catch with six TDs last season and could be in for a monster year. Those are the positions to watch in the spring.

3. How will the DC swap work out?

Louisville swapped defensive coordinators with Mississippi State this offseason. Todd Grantham left for the Bulldogs, while the Cardinals brought in Peter Sirmon to run the defense. Devonte Fields and Keith Kelsey were among the key losses on that side, but Sirmon should bring the same aggressive style on that side of the ball.

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