It’s mid-July, you know what that means. We are 54 days away (as of posting) from the start of the 2022 Louisville football season, and it’s time to breakdown the roster and what to expect.
First up… the Louisville offensive line.
What has been a weak point of Louisville for nearly the last decade, ended up being arguably the most important strength of the team last season. Louisville gave up just 20 sacks last season (25th in FBS), the fewest since 2010. They also allowed 65 TFLs in 2021, marking only the second time in the last decade that the Cardinals allowed fewer than 70 TFLs in a season.
The Football Outsiders advanced metrics for offensive lines skewed very favorable for Louisville as well. The Cardinals were ranked in the top half of the FBS in all but one advanced statistic provided by Football Outsiders, including 34th in opportunity rate* (51.9%) and 37th in sack rate** (5.4%). Louisville also led the ACC in yards per carry with a 5.45 average (fifth in FBS).
One area that could stand to improve for Louisville is their power run game, especially in short yardage situations. Per Football Outsiders, Louisville had a 57.7% power rate last season (power rate is the percentage of third and fourth down carries, two yards or less, that result in a first down or touchdown). While 57.7% sounds good on paper, that ranked 115th in the FBS (UCF and Duke, for example, were fourth and 56th in that category with 85.7% and 72.1%, respectively).
Louisville only loses one starter from last season’s group (Cole Bentley), but the replacement does have plenty of experience behind him. Offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. also departed in the offseason to take the same position at North Carolina, with Nic Cardwell taking over after two seasons at Appalachian State.
* – opportunity rate is defined by Football Outsiders as the percentage of all carries that go 4+ yards.
** – sack rate is defined by Football Outsiders as the percentage of all non-garbage time pass attempts that result in a sack.
2022 Projected Starters (left tackle to right tackle): Trevor Reid, Caleb Chandler, Bryan Hudson, Adonis Boone, Renato Brown
All of that being said, Louisville’s offensive line should be one of the best in the ACC in 2022. The projected starting five has over 130 combined starts between them, with each starting at least 15 games entering this season.
The left side of the line is as strong as it gets with the returning Trevor Reid and Caleb Chandler at tackle and guard, respectively. Chandler earned First Team All-ACC honors from the conference and is getting preseason All-American consideration from Walter Camp, ESPN, and Phil Steele among others. He is Louisville’s most experienced player on the line (40 career starts) and their most talented; a ferocious run blocker and a quality pass protector inside. Another strong year from him could make him an All-American candidate at the end of this season, and possibly a top guard in the 2023 draft class.
Trevor Reid improved a lot at left tackle over the course of the season, and is another player that is solid in both run and pass. He’s a fantastic athlete that can get to the second level and create space for Louisville on outside zones that they love to run. Reid can make a run at all-conference honors this season with another strong outing, especially if he can continue his development as a pass protector.
Bryan Hudson enters at center to replace Cole Bentley, and Louisville is fortunate to have an experienced guy like him coming in there. He previously earned second-team freshman All-American honors from The Athletic in 2019, playing center at Virginia Tech. However, he has experience at guard as well from both his days in Blacksburg, and currently with Louisville. Hudson is a better run blocker currently, so with a trio of him, Chandler, and Adonis Boone inside, that could give Louisville incentive to run inside zone more often this season.
Boone is a versatile offensive lineman that can play on either side of the line, but with Reid and Chandler manning the left side, he easily fortifies the right guard position. He and Michael Gonzalez are versatile lineman that can slide in anywhere and keep things steady for the Louisville front. He’s a strong pass blocker inside with good run blocking to boot, and a consistently solid player.
Renato Brown completes the lineup at right tackle, returning as a run blocking force at the position. He has a lot of upside as a pass blocker as well, which could give him draft consideration in 2024 if he can improve there. Hudson and Brown figure to be returning starters for Louisville on the line in 2023.
Key Reserves: Michael Gonzalez, Austin Collins, Luke Kandra
Two players often came off the bench last season as sixth and seventh offensive linemen to spell others; the aforementioned Bryan Hudson, and true freshman Michael Gonzalez.
With Hudson moving to a full-time starting role, Gonzalez figures to be the sixth man on the Louisville offensive line, so to speak. He had really impressive spurts as a run blocker in 2021, and has the potential to be a game changer in the coming years. Gonzalez has great quickness and can work his way to the second level quickly. He’ll likely be a full-time starter at tackle next season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have starts in 2022.
Austin Collins made one start at center in 2020, and figures to be the backup at that spot behind Hudson. Luke Kandra will likely be a backup at both guard spots this season, and play inside in a role similar to Hudson last season. I would also say Kandra has a chance to take over as a starter next season at one of the guard spots, likely left guard. Having Gonzalez and Kandra spell the starters would give Louisville the seven offensive lineman that Scott Satterfield wants to rotate in various lineups.