The Louisville Offensive Line in 2015 was YOUNG and influx throughout the season. The Cards do lose T.C. Klusman, Pedro Sibiea, Aaron Epps, Skylar Lacy, and Kelby Johnson as players who have left the program with significant game experience. But there is a lot of reason for optimism because the Cards played 3 FRESHMAN for long stretches during last season and the expectation is that experience will allow for a big step forward along the O-Line in 2016.
The front line of UofL Football was 124th (of 128th) in Sacks Allowed per game & 119th in Tackles for Loss Allowed per game in 2015. Additionally UofL was just 64th in rushing in 2015 despite having a running quarterback in Lamar Jackson gaining 960 yards.
Geron Christian was THE surprise of the season playing the weakside (LT) spot for the entirety of the season as a true freshman. How far has Geron come from a year ago? That’s the big question. We all saw the raw potential, but how much better can Christian become after an off-season of training and learning the system ALONG with developing more cohesion with the rest of the offense. Geron Christian’s potential is OFF THE CHARTS so you’ll have to excuse our personal excitement for his sophomore year. We do expect some mistakes at the toughest position on the field, but we think Christian is sitting on a monster season.
The other expected starters are Center Tobijah Hughley, Kiola Mahoni & Lukayus McNeil. Hughley returns for his senior season and will be a 3-year starter for the Cards after formerly being a walk-on and now stands as a Team Captain. Hughley absolutely needs to settle down on some of his pre-snap penalties that have drawn the ire of the fanbase, but if you turn on the tape its easy to notice Tobijah Hughley playing remarkably well down the stretch of last season, particularly when Kiola Mahoni emerged at guard in favor of Skylar Lacy vs. Kentucky & Texas A&M. Mahoni missed the Spring after a hand injury but really came on strong at the end of last season and seemed to have a lot of awareness and mobility at Guard that UofL needed. Lukayus McNeil will move from Guard to Tackle after the coaching staff felt that he played somewhat out of position last season. Bobby Petrino regularly mentions Lukayus as someone who he believes will have a big year for the Cards…and it’s usually a good idea to listen to the head coach. These 3 guys along with Geron Christian are likely 4 sure fire starters for the Cards.
The lone remaining position that seems to be wide open for competition is at guard where Kenny Thomas, Chandler Jones & Khalil Hunter are going to battle it out. There isn’t a BAD option here, but all 3 players are a little different. If you listen to Chris Klenakis he’ll tell you that Senior Khalil Hunter is the most athletic lineman that he has, so that’s a key indicator of where he is with Hunter. Bobby Petrino said on Tuesday that right now it’s between Khalil Hunter and Kenny Thomas and that Thomas would also work some at Tackle like he did a year ago as a freshman too. Chandler Jones sat out last year as a redshirt freshman and he could certainly factor here as well but clearly has less experience than Hunter or Thomas as a result of that redshirt.
We’ve also got our eye on Toriano Roundtree at Tackle who has a lot of length and mobility. Last year it looked like Toriano needed to add some strength to his lower body while he was redshirting. Additionally Danny Burns also has done a lot of conditioning and lost some weight. We’ll see if the Redshirt Sophomore can begin to round into form.
My Predicted Offensive Line Depth Chart
Geron Christian (6’6, 314, Soph)
Toriano Roundtree (6’6, 300, RS-Soph)
Tyler Haycraft (6’3, 290, Soph)
Kiola Mahoni (6’3, 308, Sr.)
Chandler Jones (6’4, 310, R-Fr.)
Tobijah Hughley (6’3, 295, R-Sr.)
Nathan Scheler (6’1, 280, Jr.)
Kenny Thomas (6’6, 325, Soph)
Khalil Hunter (6’4, 304, Sr.)
Lukayus McNeil (6’6, 316, R-Soph)
Danny Burns (6’6, 310, R-Soph)
Robbie Bell (6’5, 288, Fr.)
James DeMatto (6’3, 275, Fr.)
Just two incoming freshman in 2016. Robbie Bell & James DeMatto have bright futures at Louisville, but 2016 is different than 2015 and it isn’t expected that a freshman is going to be able to crack the rotation and burn the redshirt. We expect both players to really work on playing college football and great ready to factor in the Spring of 2017. DeMatto was a late addition because he was an expected ‘greyshirt’ for the Cards so he hasn’t been going through the team workouts or in the meeting room all summer so a learning curve is expected for James. Bell has been here all summer and we expect that he’ll hit the ground running but still a likely redshirt for the Cards.
Max Martin (6’3, 293, Fr.)
Thomas Nauert (6’2, 256, Soph)
Chaz Ray (6’3, 320, Soph)
Luke Schultheiss (6’1, 280, Jr.)
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