For all the position concerns on a football team, none compares to quarterback.
Having lost their top two quarterbacks, Adam Froman and Justin Burke, to graduation, Louisville will have a new field general this season.
"Somebody's got to step up and go lead this football team," Coach Charlie Strong said. "The quarterback is so critical. ... It's a position that (is) the focal point of our team right now."
Will Stein, a junior hometown product out of Trinity High School, is expected to be the main man, although offensive coordinator Mike Sanford says he plans to play both Stein and true freshman Teddy Bridgewater. Sophomore Dominique Brown is third on the depth chart.
Stein and Brown were among four quarterbacks used last season, due mostly to injuries. Stein went 9-for-14, passing for 72 yards and a touchdown, in a road victory over Rutgers that made U of L bowl-eligible.
"A good team in college football always has a good quarterback so I think, if I go, the team will go," Stein said. "That's the mentality I have this year."
That may be putting a bit of pressure on himself, he says, "but I just need to be a game manager this year. That's what (quarterbacks coach Shawn) Watson always talks about — 'Don't be a quarterback; be a manager of the game.' That means completing 70 percent of the passes, not turning the ball over, just running the offense and getting the ball to the playmakers."
Exactly, Strong says.
"I don't need you to go out there and make a great play," Strong said. "Just manage the game for us and get the ball in the right people's hands."
The Cards think they have plenty of playmakers, especially in the receiving corps.
Josh Bellamy, among the receiving targets, thinks Stein is up to the task.
"Stein is hyped all the time. He always tries to get better than he was," Bellamy said. "From last year to now, his arm is so strong; stronger than he was last year.
"Sometimes (in practice) I might be coming across the middle and I see the ball just come out of nowhere and I feel like, 'Oh, man! That was Stein!'"
At 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, Stein says he can throw in the pocket. However, he thinks he's more effective on the run, rolling out.
Of course, U of L wants to run the ball, too. The shoes of departed Bilal Powell are expected to be filled by Vic Anderson and Jeremy Wright.
"I have a lot of work to do," Stein said. "Just be a better manager of the offense, not force throws. Me and Coach Watson talk a lot and one of my flaws is trying to be a Brett Favre-type, you know? ... Not force throws, just check the ball down when nothing's open or use my feet to run."
If that happens, quarterback may not be such a big concern after all.
Players to watch
C Mario Benavides: The lone returning starter on the OL, he is coming off knee surgery that kept him out of spring practice. He started 24 of 25 games in his first two seasons.
TE Josh Chichester: Used as a WR/TE hybrid in the past, Chichester will be a true tight end this season. At 6-8, he's a tough matchup and has good hands. Five of his nine career TDs came last season.
DE B.J. Butler: Played in all 13 games, including seven starts, as a true freshman last season. He made six tackles for a loss, with 2½ sacks and 23 tackles overall. He missed spring practice because of shoulder surgery.
LB Dexter Heyman: A senior leader of the defense, he played in every game last year, with nine starts. Heyman finished with 48 tackles, 4½ for losses, with two sacks.
K/P Chris Philpott: As a junior last year, Philpott made 14 of 18 field-goal attempts, with a long of 46 yards, and 40 of 42 PATs. He also averaged 40.5 yards for 37 punts, landing 13 inside the 20-yard line.