Story was updated after initial publish as new information was released.
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 still 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’s MVP 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.
Mike Romano (6-4, 281, Soph) will have a chance to win the Center job as Mario Benavides departs. The Center position is likely to be hotly contested and will be vital to Louisville’s success in 2013. I’m interested to see if Romano is up to the task as he was the #1 Center during 2012 Spring Drills with Benavides sitting out. At that time I felt like there was still quite a bit of room for improvement in terms of strength and awareness, but Mike was in his first Spring Game at the time. After a 3 Fall Camps, 2 Springs, and a lot of conditioning Mike has an excellent chance at securing the spot in Fall 2013. I’ll be watching. Romano signed with the Cards over Central Michigan, Marshall, Memphis, and Southern Miss and did see action against Temple in 2012.
*Romano is OUT for Spring Practice per UofL.
Kamran Joyer (6-3, 270, SR) filled in nicely at guard when John Miller went down with an ankle injury. Joyer played quite a bit during 2012, even for a spell at tackle and is quite versatile. He isn’t the biggest offensive lineman, and he was actually looked at for the Center position for a long time. Joyer is now expected to be the answer at Center as he just has one year remaining.
NOTE: Shawn Watson recently said that Joyer is expected to be Louisville’s Center in Spring 2013. Mike Romano is OUT for the Spring so Joyer is going to have a great opportunity to win the job and Watson expects him to.
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’s the one player I don’t think is a risk at all of moving around. Miller can be a next level player and is really effective at neutralizing his man and getting to the next level. He’s also a very good pass protector. I like his game a lot.
Abraham “Nacho” Garcia (6-5, 352, 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 left tackle in 2012 and he probably will be. I’m interested to see how well Nacho does as a full-time starter. 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 would be a major upgrade physically at the Left Tackle position and we’ll see if “Nacho’s” brawn makes up for Kupper’s brains. I feel really confident in Dave Borbely getting him ready.
Jake Smith (6-4, 314, 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. I know there was some talk early on about possibly trying Jake at Center for 2013 and that may still happen, but I personally think Smith will remain at Right Guard. Just don’t be surprised if he takes some reps there in the Spring while the coaching staff pushes Kamran Joyer & TC Klusman at Center. Jake, though, is Louisville’s RG in 2013.
Jamon Brown (6-6, 337, 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 could very well start 2013 as Louisville’s Right Tackle, but I heard that the staff may also be tried at Center. Brown might be the biggest Center ever, but he really can move and it might actually work. But if he stays at RT the Cards will have less movement from 2012 to 2013. So we’ll see what happens. Jamon also has excellent vocal skills and I really want to see him sing the National Anthem before a Men’s Basketball game.
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 depending on who wins the center position definitely will be in the mix for a starting role. If not start, Mack will definitely play and provide depth throughout the season. Having a guy like Mack around is a luxury as he would definitely start at most programs and might be a reason why the coaches may try Jake Smith or Jamon Brown at Center in an effort to get him on the field. Mack is currently listed #2 at RT for UofL.
Aaron Epps (6-7, 274, 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 has limited his contribution so far, but there is a lot of ability here. Epps can really move and he’s only about 15 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 him this Spring. This is a guy who could potentially breakout.
Note: Epps is questionable for Spring Practice per UofL and is currently listed #2 at LT.
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 we will see where Petersen is in his development this Spring. Chase did not see action in 2012 and came to Louisville over North Texas, Southern Miss, & Tulane after committing to the Steve Kragthorpe staff.
Chris Acosta (6-3, 280, JR) is Charlie Strong’s first offensive lineman commitment. Acosta appeared in the Kentucky game in 2012, and the Syracuse game in 2011 and has been a tackle since his arrival at UofL. Acosta could be a wild card this off-season as he is a fourth-year guy. It remains to be seen whether or not he will be able to play a permanent role on the O-Line.
Chris Walker (6-3, 306, SR) did not see game action in 2012 is a walk-on from Ballard.
Josh Stearns (6-1, 285, Soph) saw action in the Temple game is a walk-on from Manual. Per UofL, Stearns is questionable for Spring Practice.
David Noltemeyer (6-4, 298, JR) did not see game action in 2012 transferred from Kentucky and is a St. Xavier product.
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 in 2012 and he’ll play in the NFL. 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.
Joe Manley (6-6, 334, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 after coming to the Cards from Bowling Green High School. Joe will likely give some major competition to the #1s in 2012 and can play Tackle and Guard. If Jamon Brown ends up playing Center then I think Manley gives Ryan Mack a run for his money at RT, but I think he’ll need to wait his turn or be ready if an injury happens to get a starting spot at either of the guard spots. Manley will definitely play a key role for the Cards during his career and I expect him to factor in 2013, I just am not sure how much. We’ll know more after Spring. Manley chose the Cards over Illinois, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. Currently Manley is listed #3 at RT for the Cards headed into Spring Practice.
T.C. Klusman (6-3, 270, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 from Cincinnati Elder and is someone I’d like to see try Center. Klusman can play either guard or tackle but would but the perfect size right now to play Center. More than likely though Klusman will probably be a Tackle and will need to continue to let his body develop before being able to compete at this level at tackle. Lots of time with T.C. to make an impact. Klusman chose Louisville over NC State & Pitt.
*A recent release from UofL and Shawn Watson comments were that T.C. will work at Center and will challenge Kamran Joyer during Spring 2013. Mike Romano is out for Spring 2013 so Klusman will get a lot of great reps.
Sid Anvoots (6-2, 308, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 could also be the answer at Center. Sid is either a Guard or a Center and came out of Bishop Chatard in Indianapolis as a fantastic run blocker. If any player can beat out Mike Romano and give the coaches reason enough to keep Jamon Brown at Tackle Sid would be my pick. Folks should watch Sid very closely in the Spring to see if he is up to the task. 308 lbs is a little heavier than I like my Centers, but in the end it is all about mobility and if Anvoots can move at that weight then let him enjoy his Frisch’s Big Boy in peace.
*A recent UofL release stated that Anvoots will work at Guard this Spring.
Henry Vincent (6-5, 270, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 and walked on to the Cards from Louisville Holy Cross.
Tobijah Hughley (6-3, 280, RS-FR) redshirted in 2012 and walked on to the Cards from Lexington Lafayette.
Cameron Fraser (6-5, 295, FR) comes to the Cards as a part of the 2013 signing class. I really like Fraser’s size and athleticism, he’s definitely going to play at some point during his time as a Cardinal, the question really 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. 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. Fraser chose Louisville over offers from Arkansas and South Florida.
Skylar Lacy (6-6, 290, 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. 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.
Chandler Bridges (6-4, 270, FR) comes to the Cards from Flowery Branch, GA and had an offer from Southern Miss. I’m going to be very honest here and say that I can’t find much on him. He’s a bit of an enigma in terms of finding game-film on-line and therefore I can’t form much of an opinion on him. Louisville’s O-line depth is such right now that we’ll have plenty of time to evaluate first-person the true freshman when the time comes as all 3 are likely redshirts. I do like that Bridges looks a hell of a lot like Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of “Thor”. So he at least has that going for him.
The Center position is the one to watch in 2013. Louisville has answers at Guard and Tackle and can do a lot of plug & play options shuffling players around. But the Center position is different. It’s the direct connection from the line of scrimmage to Louisville’s skill positions and the closest gaps to the Quarterback. The Cards MUST find someone who can THRIVE in this role. It’s a big deal. I would prefer to have Mike Romano or Sid Anvoots win the job so that the idea of putting Jamon Brown at Center goes away. I’m honestly shocked that the idea even came up, but it is probably a thought to get the 5 best lineman on the field.
The offensive line really needs 8 players who the coaches can trust to do their jobs. 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 and for the first time in about 4-5 years Louisville has depth upfront. The future is bright on the offensive line. I’d really like to see the running game become more consistent BECAUSE of the offensive line and not the running back 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, Sid Anvoots, Henry Vincent, 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, Sid Anvoots, Henry Vincent, Tobijah Hughley, Cameron Fraser, Skylar Lacy, Chandler Bridges,
2015: Mike Romano, Nacho Garcia, Ryan Mack, Aaron Epps, Josh Stearns, Joe Manley, T.C. Klusman, Sid Anvoots, Henry Vincent, Tobijah Hughley, Cameron Fraser, Skylar Lacy, Chandler Bridges,
2016: Joe Manley, T.C. Klusman, Sid Anvoots, Henry Vincent, Tobijah Hughley, Cameron Fraser, Skylar Lacy, Chandler Bridges
2017: *Cameron Fraser, *Skylar Lacy, *Chandler Bridges (*if red-shirt is used)
Next Release: Defensive Line March 6, 2013 8:30