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2018 Louisville Football Preview: Offensive Line

Coach Summers - Media Day-2

Last Season: After spending the prior two seasons as one of the worst teams in pass protection, Louisville’s offensive line had better results in 2017. The Cardinals finished 104th in the country in sacks allowed (33), which is a 30% drop from 2016.

Where it shined, though, was in run blocking. According to footballoutsiders.com, Louisville was the #1 team in the country in these categories:

  • Adjusted line yards (136.1; more on this statistic here)
  • Passing down line yards per carry (4.61)
  • Opportunity rate (49.5% of all of Louisville carries went for 5+ yards)

Louisville did have one weak spot in its run blocking stats, though. They ranked 72nd (66.7%) in power success rate, which as footballoutsiders.com explains, is the percentage of all carries in third-and-short (or fourth-and-short) situations that convert into first downs or touchdowns.

Personnel wise, only one starter (Geron Christian) has to be replaced on the offensive line)

Predicted Starters, left tackle to right tackle: Mekhi Becton, Lukayus McNeil, Cole Bentley, Kenny Thomas, Linwood Foy

Fortunately for Louisville, they have sophomore Mekhi Becton ready to take over Christian’s vacated spot at left tackle. Becton possesses imposing size (6’7″, 355 lbs.) and had a really solid freshman season at right tackle in 2017, earning Freshman All-American honors with 247 sports. Analytically, he was usually among the top freshmen weekly per PFF, which is impressive considering the rankings consisted of highly-touted players like Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger.

Anyway, Becton has a quick first step and great athleticism for his size. It’s not easy for a true freshman to come in and have production, but he especially held his own against some of college football’s elite at Clemson and Florida State. Bobby Petrino has touted Becton as possibly the best offensive player on his roster, and he may very well be. Becton is projected as a top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, one that may pan out to be true if he continues his development.

Joining Becton as returning starters from last year will be guards Lukayus McNeil and Kenny Thomas, both of whom bring at least two years of experience at the position. Both also have experience starting at tackle, which could fill a void if injuries occur at the line or they need someone with more experience to anchor the right tackle spot. McNeil has been one of Louisville’s best blockers in the running game, and pairing him with Becton to form a strong side in the offense is more than ideal.

With Becton, McNeil and Thomas securing three of Louisville’s five spots on the offensive line, this leaves two up for grabs. One should go to sophomore Cole Bentley, who should start at either guard or center. Bentley made three starts last year, and during those games helped the team average 594.7 yards per game and 351.7 rushing. He plays with a mean streak and quickness that especially shows on running plays, making him an ideal interior lineman in Petrino’s system. He has experience at guard, but has held the starting center role since the spring and likely will hold it for this season.

If Bentley ends up as the starting center, the favorite to start at right tackle should be senior Linwood Foy. Foy has played in nine games in his career, and spent most of his time in JUCO as a right tackle. His tape showed some versatility in handling pass rushers outside and was able to wedge blockers inside to create big off-tackle runs.

Key Reserves: Robbie Bell, Toryque Bateman, Caleb Chandler

However, If Louisville chose to start Cole Bentley at guard, then Robbie Bell would likely return as their starting center in a lineup of Becton, McNeil, Bell, Bentley, and Thomas. That gives Louisville its most experienced lineup possible. Robbie Bell made all 13 starts last year at center, making him the most experienced backup in Louisville’s two-deep lineup.

Expect Louisville to start playing Toryque Bateman and Caleb Chandler in due time. Both redshirted last season, but were part of Louisville’s 2017 recruiting class that featured a lot of big-time offensive line recruits. Bateman likely has a future as Louisville’s right tackle in 2019 opposite of Becton, while Chandler will likely play inside at guard.

Outlook: In 2018, Louisville has a healthy mix of veteran and young linemen that could be one of the top units in the conference. Lukayus McNeil and Kenny Thomas return as some of Louisville’s most experienced players, while Mekhi Becton and Cole Bentley could potentially be all-conference players. If Becton can continue his development under Mike Summers and Bobby Petrino, he could end up as a top-tier prospect in the 2020 or 2021 NFL Drafts.

There are some concerns surrounding their depth at the position, as only Robbie Bell as substantial experience among the reserves. But as it stands, Louisville’s offensive line should be at its best in run blocking once again. It might not have another 1,000 yard rusher this season, with an expected even rotation in their running back group. But should still be one of the better units in the ACC.

Where this unit will need to improve on, though, is in pass protection. Lamar Jackson was able to bail the offense out many times with his world-class athleticism, and sometimes turning impossible situations into a big play. Figuring out life after Lamar Jackson has been the main talking point for Louisville football heading into 2018, but it’s for good reason; he did so much for their offense, and it’s not easy to replace that.

But that is where Louisville is in 2018. Pass protection will be a focal point as Louisville transitions to a more traditional spread offense with Jawon Pass starting. It will especially be prevalent, as Louisville faces several teams like Alabama, Clemson and Boston College with elite front sevens. A quick passing game, combined with more reliance on the running game, could be enough to erase some of the lofty sack totals from previous seasons.

But it will need to be better, as the competition Louisville faces in 2018 will be exactly that: better.

Nunnsense | Give The O-Line Some Credit – UofL Leads Nation In First Downs

Nunnsense

Robbie Bell - offensive line

The biggest question going into this football season for the Louisville Cardinals was the offensive line. The Cards finished the 2016-17 season allowing 22 sacks in the final three games, finished 126th out of 128 in sacks allowed (47) and allowed the most sack yards in the country for the second straight year.

After just one game, the question seemed like it had its answer – And it wasn’t the answer we had hoped for. The big guys up front had five false start penalties in the first 16 minutes vs Purdue and finished with nine. They also added another penalty for an illegal snap. The “Here we go again” chorus starting ringing loudly through the Cardinal fan base. Read the rest of this entry

Post Practice Interviews: 10-24-17

Reggie Bonnafon

Coach Nick Petrino, Reggie Bonnafon and Robbie Bell spoke with the media after practice today.

Press Release

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Outside of a 34-point fourth quarter in last season’s football matchup, Louisville and Wake Forest have played a couple of games down to the wire.

 

The Demon Deacons led the Cardinals last year 12-3 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium before Louisville exploded for a 44-12 win. In 2015, Lamar Jackson threw two touchdown passes and Louisville forced five turnovers in the second half in a 20-19 victory over Wake Forest in its first trip to Winston-Salem.

In their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Cardinals battled to a 20-10 win at home in 2014.

“Wake Forest is a tough team,” quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino said. “It seems like it’s the same guys we’ve been playing for the last couple of years. They have the same guys on the defensive line and the same guys in the secondary. They are a well-coached team, and their two defensive ends are two of the best in the ACC.” Read the rest of this entry

Louisville Vs Boston College Photo Gallery

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The day started with the jersey ceremony for Card forever Anthony Floyd. Then Card forever, Eric Wood, spelled out the C-A-R-D-S cheer. Louisville scored early and looked good because Boston College entered the day scoring 16.3 points per game and were 121st in the country in scoring before Saturday. But the Card defense gave up 45 points, 555 total yards (364 of those rushing yards). AJ Dillon ran for more yards (272) than any other Louisville opponent had before. Lamar was 19 of 39 passing for 332 yards and 2 passing touchdowns. He rushed for 180 yards on 22 carries and scored 3 rushing touchdowns. Dez Fitzpatrick finished with 7 catches , 127 yards and a touchdown.

Here are some pictures of the day…

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Midseason Highlight Photo Gallery

The football season is at the halfway point. The Cards are 4-2 and still have 6 very winnable games remaining in the regular season. I think it’s time to look back at some of CSZ’s best photo’s from this season including a few from media day. Enjoy… Read the rest of this entry

Nunnsense: Louisville vs Purdue Was A Win-Win

Robbie Bell

It appears that most everyone survived the trip to Indy. So now that we are past opening weekend and back to our regular work week hustle, we can take a quick look back at the victory over Purdue before we start to focus on North Carolina and their stupid basketball logo on a football helmet ( I’ll stop there before I say something to make Jordan cry).

I’m a positive, glass half full kind of guy. Therefore, I didn’t find any real long-term negatives from this victory. Read the rest of this entry

Post Practice Interviews 8-22-17

Robbie Bell and Kenny Thomas spoke with the media after Tuesday’s practice. They talk about the progress the O line has made since last year, the improved pass and run blocking as well as the learning experience.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Heading into fall camp looking to fill three positions on the offensive line, the University of Louisville football team had few experienced options to occupy those vacancies.

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Louisville Football Preview: Offensive Line

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Last Year: It was a brutal finish for the Louisville offensive line in 2016. The Cards ranked 126th in sacks allowed (47), including an FBS-worst 33 on road/neutral site games. The team had a very bad stretch towards the end, with 27 sacks allowed in the final four games (including 11 at Houston and eight versus LSU). Since Bobby’s return to Louisville, the Cardinals have allowed 131 sacks, one of the worst in the FBS in that span.

In the offseason, Mike Summers was hired from Florida to become the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Louisville. Former O-line coach Chris Klenakis moved to tight ends coach this season.

Projected Starters: Geron Christian, Lukayus McNeil, Robbie Bell, Kenny Thomas, Cole Bentley/Mekhi Becton

If you look at the numbers, it was essentially a tale of two seasons for the offensive line. In five of the first six games, Louisville only allowed one sack in each of those games; other than the Duke game, the offense looked in sync and nearly unstoppable.

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Nunnsense: 5 Offensive Newcomers That Can Make An Impact In 2017

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    We all know that towards the end of last season some deficiencies were exposed. Along with addressing those deficiencies, Bobby Petrino will need to replace some key parts that graduated. I believe coach and his staff have done a great job in recruiting to those immediate needs. Couple those recruits with a few guys who red-shirted last season and you have a boat load of talent just itching to get on the field. I want to point out 5 guys that could make an immediate impact in the 2017 season. ( Not all guys on this list are “newcomers” but none have played a game as a Cardinal)

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#ULCardsCamp Officially Opens With Two Practices On Wednesday

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(Photo Cred @UofLFootball)

PRESS RELEASE

Rocco Gasparro

Head coach Bobby Petrino pleased with the team after first day of practice

Louisville, Ky. — Winners of eight of its last 10 games last season, the University of Louisville football team returned to the practice fields on Wednesday for a pair of practices as the 2016 season officially opened. 


As has been tradition during head coach Bobby Petrino‘s tenure, the newcomers and a select number of second-year players worked out in the morning, while the veterans came out in the afternoon for a separate practice.

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List of football commits, their ratings, and class rankings

Photo: CardinalSportsZone.com

Photo: CardinalSportsZone.com

This is a page that you can view anytime by clicking the “Football Recruiting” tab, but I wanted to bring it to the front page to give people an update since we have had a couple of commits lately.

The Cards have 14 commits for the 2016 class right now. I have listed their star ratings from Rivals, 247 Sports, ESPN, and Scout. At the bottom of the page, you can view the class rankings from each of the four major recruiting sites.

Commits (13)

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