In our positional preview series, we’ve talked about the guys who get most of the publicity, but now it’s time to focus on the big guys up front. As with most teams, the offensive line seems to only be the topic of discussion when things go badly, but make no mistake, the O-line is the most important unit on the offensive side of the ball.
Why? Well, it’s quite simple. If they don’t block people, you don’t score. The Louisville offense has a ton of talent and a load of potential, but if the offensive line can’t block anyone and keep Teddy Bridgewater on his feet and off his back, all that talent and potential won’t matter. The big hogs don’t get talked about a lot, but they are as critical as any other unit to the team’s success.
Currently, the starting offensive line consists of Alex Kupper at left tackle, John Miller (no relation) at left guard, Mario Benavides at center, Jake Smith manning right guard, and Jamon Brown at right tackle. Benavides is clearly the glue that holds this group together. Mario is a senior, a bonafide leader on the team, and a legitimate NFL prospect. He battled injury problems last season, but is healthy and ready to go in his final campaign as a Cardinal. If he can play the whole season, the offensive line will unquestionably be better for it, and I think Mario will improve his NFL stock.
One of the guys I am really excited about is right tackle Jamon Brown. The 6-6, 340-lb Brown is a local boy from Fern Creek high school and originally came to Louisville as a defensive lineman. He made the switch to offense early last season and after struggling initially, showed great promise. His size is clearly tremendous for an offensive lineman, but he has good athleticism and has gotten great reviews from the Spring practice into Fall camp.
At the guard spots, John Miller (no relation) and Jake Smith are solid. Both are sophomores who gained valuable experience last season. Smith started all 13 games, while Miller (no relation) started 10 games during the 2011 season. These guys will combine for a lot of starts before their time is up. Senior Alex Kupper is just steady. The Louisville Trinity product is kind of like a Doug Beaumont of the offensive line. He did everything he was asked, whether it be at the center position or tackle, Kupper did his job and was reliable. I see no reason why that won’t continue this year.
Behind the starters, the Cards have a lot of depth, just not a ton of experience. In fact, according to the UofL depth chart, every single back-up along the O-line is a redshirt freshman, except for left guard. At that spot, junior Kamran Joyer backs-up John Miller (no relation). So from that standpoint, keeping the starters healthy is a bit of a concern, but you could say that for nearly every team in the country.
As I said earlier, this year’s UofL offense has the potential to be explosive, but it’s up to the big guys up front to block people and keep Teddy Bridgewater upright. If they do that, this could be one of the best Louisville offenses we’ve seen in years.
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