Louisville football: 3 things to watch against Wake Forest

Malik Cunningham #3 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Malik Cunningham #3 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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Louisville football
Jalen Mitchell #15 of the Louisville Cardinals. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Which young skill players will step up?

As mentioned above, the Louisville football team will be without Tutu Atwell this weekend and will be sending off Dez Fitzpatrick into the sunset after senior night this Saturday.

What does this all mean?

Well, a changing of the guard is occurring within the football program before our eyes. Javian Hawkins already opted out earlier this season. Now, the program is set to lose its two best receivers in Atwell and Fitzpatrick.

There will be plenty of young players with the chance to make a name for themselves in advance of the 2021 season this weekend. The household names have left their mark on the program and now they are reaping the rewards by giving themselves a shot at the NFL.

Expect to see a heavy dose of Braden Smith, Jordan Watkins, and Josh Johnson this weekend. Each of them have had their moments over the course of the season and, while Dez Fitzpatrick should get the send-off he has earned, the coaching staff sure would like to see some of what may be to come in 2021.

Smith is a junior college transfer that has seen his fair share of snaps and has nabbed 24 receptions on the year for over 300 yards. He is an explosive player that takes the top off of defenses.

Watkins is a true freshman that has flashed despite just six receptions this year. I would expect that the coaches would like for him to have a big day this weekend. Another young player with speed.

Johnson is the old man of the group. The redshirt junior has not seen a lot of playing time. He has only only seen offensive snaps in one game this year. In that game, he caught four balls for 40 yards. He is known for his ability after the catch.

At running back, the reins will likely be passed to Jalen Mitchell with Hawkins opting out and Maurice Burkley out for the rest of the season due to injury.

Mitchell has been impressive in the time he has seen in the back half of the season. He is a strong runner with adequate burst and speed that will have a chance to show fans what they can hope to see from the running back room over the next couple of years.

There could be others. But these seem like the players most likely to contribute in the absence of Atwell this weekend. Any other players making a significant contribution in this game would be a major surprise.