April 5, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -Despite never receiving a lot of press or for that matter, any of the credit, the focus this spring for the University of Louisville football team is on the offensive line.
With so much returning on the offense this year, the Cardinals do have to find replacements at center and left tackle. Mario Benavides and Alex Kupper both graduated leaving two big holes on the line, but the Cardinals have plenty of experience behind those guys who can step right in.
"Every year you have to rebuild the team. You have to rebuild the chemistry, and we are in the process of doing that," offensive line coach Dave Borbely said. "We have a really good head start on that. We have some veteran guys in there who are still young, but have played so they are veterans."
The Cardinals are fortunate to have three players returning with an abundance of game experience. Right guard Jake Smith and left guard John Miller have been two-year starters on the offensive line and right tackle Jamon Brown played his first full season a year ago.
"The players understand the process of what I'm looking for from a leadership standpoint and an improvement standpoint," Borbely said. "Those kids are doing a really good job leading the way for this group right now."
With three key pieces in place, the coaching staff is looking for the returnees to step in and provide the leadership in this critical position on the football team. Much of what this unit relies on is chemistry and communication, and it will rely on these three veterans to make this a successful unit.
"Coach Borbely has put the target on John Miller, Jake Smith and me to bring the guys along and be the leadership in that room," Brown said. "We have stepped up and done a pretty good job so far this spring.
Replacing two key components on the offensive line presents a number of challenges, but the Cardinals are blessed to have veterans that can step in immediately. Senior Kamran Joyer has stepped in at center and had a good spring. Sophomores Abraham Garcia and Ryan Mack have both battled this spring at tackle and will be in competition until the season opener on Aug. 31.
"Guys that have improved a lot and starting to make a move, in terms of turning himself into a player is Ryan Mack," Borbely said. "He is a guy who has greatly improved. Chris Acosta is a guy most people haven't heard, but is having a great spring."
Acosta has played sparingly at right guard in his first two years in the program, but did receive the start in the scrimmage last week because of an injury to Smith. Mack received a start at tackle in the scrimmage and played well.
"We have to put the pieces together," said Brown. "We have a couple of guys who might not have a lot of experience. We are just trying to pull the younger guys along so we can mend everything together."
For a group who never receives much of the accolades, but a lot of the criticism, the offensive line will continue to be under the microscope when the team takes the field for the spring next Saturday at 1 p.m.