The Louisville offensive line made strides in 2012 as expected. The unit was desperately young and lacking depth during the 2011 season, but that group returned almost entirely intact and was a big reason for the jump from the 103rd Offense (2011) to the 51st Offense. The Cards increased their offensive efficiency by 85.8 yards per game (or 1115 yards total) in 2012. There was a major dip in the run game once Senorise Perry went down with an injury along with some depth issues at tight end, and the O-Line did gave up quite a few tackles for loss & sacks although they did improve from a year before.
The Cards improved from 3.15 sacks allowed to 2.31 sacks allowed per game a jump from 112th to 90th. Still there is quite a bit of room for improvement when protecting Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater. Tackles for loss also slightly improved from 7.46 to 6.46 from 114th to 96th. CLEARLY these slight improvements made big impacts on the offense, BUT if the Cards can move these figures more towards the 50th ranking or better then the offense can take an even more dramatic step forward and can improve their chances of having a healthy run game AND Teddy Bridgewater for an entire season.
Chris Acosta (6-3, 275, JR) is Charlie Strong’s first offensive lineman commitment. Acosta appeared in the Kentucky game in 2012, and the Syracuse game in 2011 and is currently #2 RG behind Kamran Joyer on the most recent Louisville depth chart. Acosta could be a wild card this off-season as he is a fourth-year guy and has spent a considerable amount of time with the #1 Offense at Right Guard while Kamran Joyer has been out with an injury. I’d like to think that Chris is ready given the amount of time that he has been in the program. We will definitely get a chance to see him in 2013 as the Guard position is exceptionally thin for the Cards. Acosta being ready would be a tremendous boost.
Jamon Brown (6-6, 350, JR) played really well at Right Tackle in his first full year on the offensive line. Jamon came to the Cards from local Fern Creek and started on the defensive line. He was pressed into action out of necessity and was literally baptized by fire in the 2011 West Virginia game when Bruce Irvin beat him twice on consecutive snaps to sack Teddy Bridgewater. Those two plays were the first time Jamon Brown was featured during NFL Draft Coverage, but it won’t be the last. Jamon was really not prepared to go against Irvin, who ended up 2012 with 8 sacks for the Seattle Seahawks. Jamon will start 2013 as Louisville’s Left Tackle and physically is a big improvement from Alex Kupper. No one is likely to have the same Football IQ as Kupper, but Jamon Brown has improved rapidly during his time on Louisville’s offensive line. At 6-6, 350 lbs and plenty of athleticism; reps and understanding will be all that Brown needs to become an elite Offensive Tackle in College Football. Jamon also has excellent vocal skills and I really want to see him sing the National Anthem before a Men’s Basketball game.
Aaron Epps (6-7, 279, Soph) has been in development for a while. He came to Louisville at 244 pounds, did his time as a tight end last Spring and has been trying to grow his body to play along the offensive line. Epps actually took a few years off of football to play basketball. That plus his size and injuries has limited his contribution so far, but there is a lot of ability here. Epps can really move and he’s only about 10 pounds away from being an acceptable size. The real question for Epps is can he move as well with the added weight and will he have the strength and toughness required for the O-line. I think there is a lot of potential here with Epps and I’m excited to see where he is after Fall Camp. This is a guy who could potentially breakout at any moment and is currently listed as Louisville’s #2 LT, though I do expect Garcia or Mack to move over to the Left if anything happens to Jamon in a game.
Abraham “Nacho” Garcia (6-5, 347, Soph) played quite a bit as a true freshman in 2012. “Nacho” is HUGE and Charlie Strong says, “runs like a deer”. So naturally he’s big & athletic enough to be your starting right tackle in 2013, but he’ll have to win the job over Ryan Mack. The biggest question for Nacho is taking football and his role serious enough to focus 100% of the time. I think it’s clear that he has plenty of talent at his disposal and the real question is whether or not he’s prepared for a long-term grind of a college football season. Garcia has NFL potential, but he has quite a ways to go fine-tuning his skills. Garcia is a specimen at the Right Tackle position and could also play Left Tackle at some point for the Cards. Nacho was seen in a sling during Fall Camp with a minor injury, but has returned to battle for the RT spot. I have a lot of confidence in Dave Borbely in getting the most out of Garcia for 2013.
Kamran Joyer (6-3, 282, SR) filled in nicely at right guard when John Miller went down with an ankle injuries during 2012. Joyer played quite a bit last season and is quite versatile, even filling in at tackle for a few plays. Kamran isn’t the biggest offensive lineman, and he could be the back-up Center behind Jake Smith in an emergency. Joyer is now Louisville’s #1 Right Guard after playing a lot of Center during Spring Drills when Joyer and Jake Smith switched positions. Joyer has missed a considerable amount of time in Fall Camp with a leg injury, with Chris Acosta filling in as a replacement. The coaching staff hasn’t seemed too alarmed and expects Joyer to be available against Ohio.
Ryan Mack (6-5, 310, Soph) played in every game 2012 and even started the South Florida game at Right Tackle. Mack can play guard or tackle and is battling Nacho Garcia for the Right Tackle position. I expect Ryan to win the RT spot, but if he isn’t the #1 RT, he will still definitely play and provide depth throughout the season. Mack has been a luxury for the Cards as he definitely would have started earlier at most programs. I really am looking for Ryan to win the RT spot (Garcia was seen in a sling early in Fall Camp and has been limited) as we’ve been hearing about and seeing Mack’s potential for a long time now. Mack is physical and has great size for the position. The Right Tackle battle is the one to watch this Fall, we’ll see who wins soon.
John Miller (6-2, 321, JR) is VERY good. I expect Miller to really breakout in 2013 even more so than he did in 2012. Miller’s biggest problem since he’s been a Card? Keeping people off his ankles. He’s had some tough breaks with getting his ankles rolled and it’s caused him to miss some time. Miller will be at LG and he can be a next level player, he just needs to STAY HEALTHY. John is really effective at neutralizing his man and getting to the next level on pulls, he is great in space. He’s also a very good pass protector. I like his game a lot.
David Noltemeyer (6-4, 297, JR) did not see game action in 2012 transferred from Kentucky and is a St. Xavier product.
Chase Petersen (6-4, 295, Soph) is a player that everyone was very excited to see sign a NLI. Petersen greyshirted out of the 2010 class and after two solid years in the program Petersen is #3 on the depth chart at Left Guard. Chase did not see action in 2012 and came to Louisville over North Texas, Southern Miss, & Tulane after committing to the Steve Kragthorpe staff, but was a signee of Charlie Strong’s first class.
Mike Romano (6-4, 293, Soph) is a player we have been hearing about for a long time. He’s a red-shirt sophomore that was thought to be the heir apparent of Mario Benavides Center. Early reports out of Fall Camp are that he’s still competing for the job as a player that is still in development. Right now Romano is listed #3 on the depth chart at Center behind Jake Smith and T.C. Klusman. I expect that the battle behind Jake is extremely close, and Romano is entering his 3rd full season with the Cards. Romano signed with the Cards over Central Michigan, Marshall, Memphis, and Southern Miss and did see action against Temple in 2012.
Jake Smith (6-3, 312, JR) was Louisville’s stalwart on the offensive line in 2012. Jake is very steady and is an excellent run blocker. Jake will tell you that he isn’t the best in pass protection and there were some break downs in the Syracuse game on his side. But overall I think Jake had an excellent sophomore campaign. Jake is very easy to talk to and one of the most likable people you’ll find in athletics. After spending his first two years starting at Right Guard Jake will make the move to Center to replace the now departed Mario Benavides. I’m not sure if Jake’s natural position is Center, but the move is definitely the best thing for the team. Jake is best in space and the Center position will give him plenty of opportunity to showcase that part of his game. Very excited to see Jake in the middle.
Josh Stearns (6-1, 285, Soph) is a walk-on from Manual who saw action in the Temple game and was recently mentioned by Offensive Line coach Dave Borbely as a player who is ‘coming on’. Stearns is the #2 RG behind John Miller, and is someone to keep an eye on. Don’t discount walk-ons, always remember the Alex Kupper route.
Chris Walker (6-3, 299, SR) did not see game action in 2012 is a walk-on from Ballard listed as the #3 RG for the Cards.
Mario Benavides was an outstanding Center for the Cards. Always a great interview, very personalable, and very aware of his body. He didn’t have a single botched snap during the rain-soaked 2012 season and I’m absolutely shocked he is not in an NFL camp. It’s going to be hard to replace him.
Alex Kupper was the “Swiss Army Knife” of offensive lineman. He literally played Tackle, Guard, and Center during 2012 and his teammates dubbed a “genius”. Kupper is a former walk-on turned Sugar Bowl Champion starter. It’s a great story we aren’t likely to hear repeated for a long time and Alex is currently in training camp with the Houston Texans.
Sid Anvoots redshirted in 2012 and has seen his football career come to an end due to injury. Terrible news for a guy we were all excited to see after his commitment to the Cards because Louisville had Frisch’s Big Boy.
Chandler Bridges (6-3, 285, FR) comes to the Cards from Flowery Branch, GA and had an offer from Southern Miss. He’s a bit of an enigma in terms of finding game-film on-line due to an ACL injury during his junior season. Bridges could factor in as a guard or tackle until the staff really decides to place him. I do like that Bridges looks a lot like Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of “Thor”. So he at least has that going for him.
Cameron Fraser (6-4, 262, FR) comes to the Cards as a part of the 2013 signing class. Fraser came in light but he’s definitely going to play at some point during his time as a Cardinal, the question is: “how soon?” Fraser is an obvious candidate at Tackle and that’s a position where Fraser will have an advantage of red-shirting the 2013 season. Although, Fraser has seen significant reps with the #2 Offensive line at tackle during Fall Camp. Personally I think red-shirting on the Offensive Line is the most important position to use red-shirts as the physicality uptick from high school to college is often difficult. It’s more mental than physical with true freshman but true freshman usually do need the regimented conditioning to further help with the transition. We will see if the staff can keep the red-shirt on Fraser in 2013. Fraser chose Louisville over offers from Arkansas and South Florida and was the 4th best Offensive Lineman in Alabama for the 2013 class.
Tobijah Hughley (6-3, 280, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 and walked on to the Cards from Lexington Lafayette is consistently mentioned as someone in the mix at Center.
T.C. Klusman (6-3, 272, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 from Cincinnati Elder and is currently the #2 Center on the depth chart behind Jake Smith. Klusman can play several positions on the offensive line but I think is the perfect size at Center. The Cards do have a bit of a problem at Guard at the moment and TC has moved over to play on the second unit at the guard spot during Fall Camp. There is plenty of time for T.C. to make an impact, let’s hope UofL doesn’t NEED him in 2013 but instead gets him time whenever it makes sense. Klusman chose Louisville over NC State & Pitt.
Skylar Lacy (6-6, 320, FR) is another great example of tapping into the Indianapolis market. Skylar is another obvious Tackle candidate that is going to benefit GREATLY from a red-shirt sesaon…..if the staff can keep that red-shirt on him. Lacy can move and is already a very good run blocker from the attitude that he plays with. Lacy needs to fine tune his body and work on the fundamentals of playing offensive line, particularly in pass-protection. He can be a good one as he has a lot of the tools and came to the Cards with A LOT of size. Was the #2 offensive lineman in the state of Indiana’s 2013 class, and chose the Cards over Cincinnati. Lacy has taken significant reps with the #2 Offensive Line.
Joe Manley (6-6, 326 RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 after coming to the Cards from Bowling Green High School and is someone I really expect to contribute in a big way during his career as a Cardinal. Manley can play Tackle or Guard and is currently listed #3 at Right Tackle. Manley will be someone who needs to keep working on his craft and coach Borbely will likely have him ‘on call” in case of emergency in 2013. Joe will get on the field during 2013, and I’m sure he is anxious after sitting out 2012. Manley chose the Cards over Illinois, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt.
Pedro Sibiea (6-3, 301, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 comes to Louisville from Homestead, FL (south of Miami). Pedro actually grew up in the USVI and it was very entertaining watching his tweets regarding Louisville’s winter. Sibiea was to be a 3-technique defensive tackle but has made the move to Offensive Guard during Fall Camp and has already seen time with the #2 group. Sibiea comes to Louisville with offers from Cincinnati, Florida, Minnesota, and South Florida. I’m interested to see how Sibiea fits in right away. He grew his body quite a bit since his arrival and should give the position immediate athleticism.
Going into Spring Practice the Center position was the one to watch. Moving Jake Smith to the middle and plugging in Kamran Joyer at Right Guard filled that spot and thus far has been the right answer. I REALLY like Louisville starting 5 + whoever loses the Mack/Nacho battle. The real question behind the first 6 offensive lineman is…….where is the depth? Right now it is hard to find, but the Cards do have PLENTY of young talent that is waiting to be developed, it’s just not ready yet.
The offensive line really needs 8 players who the coaches can trust to do their jobs. Right now the Cards have 6 and the Joyer injury really has caused quite the stir among fans. A team can get away with 7 if they are lucky with injuries, but injuries happen at the point of attack in football. It’s just the way it will always be. Almost all offensive lineman play with bumps and bruises throughout the season by the nature of the position, but it’s the injuries that limit a player to do their job that matter and require depth. Good offensive lines don’t rotate, they don’t substitute players in and out for endurance reasons because the timing of the offense literally relies on all 5 of the players to work as one unit. After losing two 1st-Team All Big East selections in Kupper and Benavides the starting unit is solid for the Cards, UofL just needs to find some depth.
One thing to watch will be the offensive line contingency plans. If Joyer goes out, does Chris Acosta really play RG? Or does Ryan Mack slide over with Nacho Garcia at RT? If Jake Smith goes down, do the Cards go with TC Klusman or Mike Romano? Or do they move Kamran Joyer over and use Mack and RG with Nacho at RT?
The future is bright on the offensive line, but I’d really like to see more answers and players READY NOW. A few injuries and this group gets thin pretty fast. I would really like to see the running game become more consistent BECAUSE of the offensive line and I’d also like to see the tackles behind the line of scrimmage and sacks minimized to a more respectable level in 2013.
2013: Kamran Joyer, Chris Walker, John Miller, Jake Smith, Jamon Brown, Ryan Mack, Aaron Epps, Nacho Garcia, Mike Romano, Chase Petersen, Chris Acosta, Josh Stearns, David Noltemeyer, Joe Manley, T.C. Klusman, Pedro Sibiea, Tobijah Hughley, Cameron Fraser, Skylar Lacy, Chandler Bridges,
2014: John Miller, Jake Smith, Jamon Brown, Mike Romano, Ryan Mack, Aaron Epps, Nacho Garcia, Chase Petersen,Chris Acosta, Josh Stearns, David Noltemeyer, Joe Manley, T.C. Klusman, Pedro Sibiea, Tobijah Hughley, Cameron Fraser, Skylar Lacy, Chandler Bridges,
2015: Mike Romano, Nacho Garcia, Ryan Mack, Aaron Epps, Josh Stearns, Joe Manley, T.C. Klusman, Pedro Sibiea, Henry Vincent, Tobijah Hughley, Cameron Fraser, Skylar Lacy, Chandler Bridges,
2016: Joe Manley, T.C. Klusman, Pedro Sibiea, Tobijah Hughley, Cameron Fraser, Skylar Lacy, Chandler Bridges
2017: *Cameron Fraser, *Skylar Lacy, *Chandler Bridges (*if red-shirt is used)
Wide Receivers 8/23/2013 at 8:00 a.m.