Jamon Brown, John Miller, Jake Smith, Ryan Mack, Chris Acosta, Mike Romano, Joe Manley, David Noltemeyer
Louisville is replacing 143 starts between Jamon Brown, Jake Smith, and John Miller who have been CONSTANTS on the offensive line over the past 4 seasons. The Cards are going to have to replace starters at both guard positions and and it’s left tackle.
Ryan Mack transferred out of the program and also had a lot of experience at guard and tackle at various points of his career. Chris Acosta provided depth and played a great during the 2012 & 2013 seasons. In all, the Cards lose a great deal of experience and production on its offensive line.
Aaron Epps (6-7, 287, Sr.), Kelby Johnson (6-7, 301, Sr.), T.C. Klusman (6-3, 288, Jr.), Skylar Lacy (6-6, 306, Soph), Pedro Sibiea (6’3, 299, Jr.), Tobijah Hughley (6-3, 295, Jr.)
Aaron Epps replaced Ryan Mack at tackle during the season and steadied the unit. The offensive line was considerably better once Epps was added to the mix. Aaron has great quickness on the line and has added a great deal of weight since his arrival at UofL.
When Louisville was searching for solutions on its offensive line during the season, many wondered why the answer wasn’t coming in the form of Kelby Johnson who played at Virginia as a true freshman and Coach Petrino made a priority coming out of Junior College in the 2014 class. It’s a good bet that the coaching staff will push Kelby to win a tackle position this Spring, but he’ll have competition in the newcomer group.
At Center, it will be interesting to see the battle between Tobijah Hughley and T.C. Klusman. T.C. added 12 pounds from the start of the 2014 season until the newest roster release. Hughley was given his scholarship at the start of the season and did a nice job at Center but was sometimes overpowered at the point of attack. Hughley also added weight, up 7 pounds. This will be an open competition through Spring and into Fall Camp.
The answer to replace Miller & Smith at guard could be with Skylar Lacy & Pedro Sibiea. Lacy started the Florida International game and drew praise from his coaches and teammates throughout this past Fall Camp. Skylar with a Spring and a Fall Camp might be ready for 2015. Sibiea is very athletic and was moved from defensive tackle to the offensive line a few times since he’s been a Cardinal. Folks around the program have touted Pedro as a ‘raw talent’ that just needed coaching. Sibiea has had that and Louisville needs a guard. We’ll see if he can win the job.
Jimmie Terry (6’4, 363, Fr.), Lukayus McNeil (6-6, 295, Fr.), Danny Burns (6-6, 310, Fr.), Khalil Hunter (6-4, 290, Jr.)
Jimmie Terry redshirted his 1st season with the Cards after signing with Louisville in the 2014 signing class out of Madison Central (MS). Terry is a HUGE guard prospect that Coach Petrino took on as a project based on potential after other high major programs stayed away. Word also has it that Jimmie Terry is a bit of a hot head and likes to fight, so he’ll have to get that worked out before going onto the field as a walking personal foul. He’s one to watch, particularly if he shows discipline and cuts weight with the summer roster release.
A great many people expect that Lukayus McNeil will come in and win a starting tackle position for the 2015. Actually a lot of people thought he might do that as a true freshman. In the end, offensive line is the most difficult position to make an immediate impact and the coaching staff red-shirted him. Lukayus chose the Cards over Oklahoma, NC State, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin. Watch to see where McNeil fits in this Spring.
Another candidate coming at tackle coming off of his red-shirt freshman season is Danny Burns. Danny was a clear redshirt candidate (as most OL prospects are) and Burns spent his 1st semester in college losing 29 pounds. One thing that stands out about Burns, he has incredibly long arms which is great for a tackle. It’s too hard to say how far along Danny might be until Spring practice begins, but he chose the Cards over Iowa State, Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska, Pitt, and West Virginia.
Khalil Hunter is a junior college prospect from Eastern Arizona CC who is expected to come in and make an impact. Most people project Hunter as a Tackle, but I’m inclined to think Khalil might come in right away and play guard. Hunter was supposed to be accompanied by running back Tim Cook, but a credit transfer issue forced Cook to re-open his recruitment. Hunter chose the Cards over Georgia & Missouri.
WHO MAY BE COMING?
Chandler Jones (6-4, 310, Fr), Kenny Thomas (6-6, 330, Fr), Geron Christian (6’4, 305, Fr.) + More Prospects?
By the nature of the position Offensive Line is probably the most difficult position for freshman to come in and make an immediate impact. Still the Cards have some real talent currently committed along its front line that should provide depth and will at some point be impact players. The first of those is Chandler Jones from McEachern HS in Powder Springs, GA. Projected as a guard, Jones is a 3-star prospect from the Atlanta area and chose the Cards over offers from Michigan State, Mississippi State, Purdue, Syracuse, and NC State.
Another guard is a Cardinal legacy product Geron Christian, brother of now departed Tight End Gerald Christian, from Trinity Catholic in Ocala, FL. Geron is also a 3-star prospect with offers from Arkansas, Miami, and Mississippi State. Geron’s senior year was MUCH improved over his junior season indicating a high ceiling and a current upward trajectory. We’ve also seen how athletic his brother can be, so Geron is a very interesting prospect at the guard position.
From Prattville, AL the Cards got another big body from the talent rich state thanks to the hard work and evaluation of LD Scott when Kenny Thomas pledged to the Cards in December. Kenny held offers from Virginia Tech, Kentucky, Minnesota, and and Mississippi State. Thomas has the prototypical size for a Tackle prospect and should factor at some point during his career.
I expect the staff will try to find 1-2 more talented offensive lineman this recruiting cycle, perhaps even a 5th year Guard that is transferring out of another program. It seems like the Cards have more probable answers at tackle than the guard position, so there may be some shuffling of positions or some late additions to try and shore up the line for 2015.
BEST GUESS DEPTH CHART
1) Aaron Epps
2) Kelby Johnson
2) OR Danny Burns
1) Lukayus McNeil
2) Kenny Thomas
1) Skylar Lacy
2) Jimmie Terry
3) Geron Christian
1) Khalil Hunter
2) Pedro Sibiea
3) Chandler Jones
1) Tobijah Hughley
2) T.C. Klusman
I like the potential of this offensive line. The 2014 version showed significant improvement in the 2nd half of the season and the good news is that a lot of these players were in the program last season. The bad news is that there is very little experience returning that will be counted on to start the season……. vs. Auburn. It’s a big concern and while a lot of people are projecting Khalil Hunder at tackle (and he could very well end up there) I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at guard during Spring Drills if for no other reason that his presence at guard could potentially be the difference in 1-2 wins in 2015.
But that’s all assuming Lukayus McNeil is the player that we’ve heard about and have yet to see. Also, can Kelby Johnson compete for a spot in 2015? Where are Skylar Lacy, Pedro Sibiea, and Jimmie Terry on the readiness scale? Can T.C. Klusman give Hughley a run at Center? Or do the coaches try and solve their guard issue with Klusman at that position?
The offensive line is a big deal in 2015. We’ve got to watch it.