A Heisman hopeful is nothing without his offensive line
By Sam Draut–
The offensive line is the biggest question mark heading into the start of the 2013 season. Center
Mario Benavides and tackle Alex Kupper were lost to graduation, two players who combined for over
60 starts. Running Game Coordinator and Offensive Line coach Dave Borbely has been forced to
reshuffle the group that returns three starters from last season.
Junior Jamon Brown will start at left tackle, junior John Miller at left guard, junior Jake Smith at center,
junior Chris Acosta at right guard, and sophomore Nacho Garcia at right tackle.
Smith has logged 25 starts in the past two seasons at right guard, but moved to center at the end of
“It’s not too much different than guard, as far as steps go, I don’t feel like I’m too much different of a
player, I enjoy playing center, but there’s not too much difference,” Smith said.
Brown is entrenched in protecting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s blindside, starting all 13 games
last season, while next to him, Miller has started 21 games in the past two years.
On the right side, new faces and competition headlined fall camp. Acosta has solidified his spot on
the line despite appearing in just two games.
“The way Chris is playing right now is like night and day from last year, he has really come along and
the light bulb has really clicked for him,” Smith said.
Garcia and sophomore Ryan Mack have competed for the starting spot at right tackle. Mack
appeared in all 13 games last season, while Garcia saw action in 6.
“Nacho is a really big guy and he is tough to move…he’s really strong and he is really explosive,”
“I really like our starters, our starters are really good, we’ve got guys like Ryan Mack coming along
and of course Chris Acosta has become a starter and he’s really improved,” U of L offensive
coordinator Shawn Watson said.
Depth remains a question mark because experience is limited after the first unit. The development of
younger players will be critical through the 12 game season.
“I like our younger players that we are developing. T.C. Klusman, Cameron Fraser, guys that are in
our two deep are developing,” Watson said. “They we’re either A in high school last year or B on the
scout field being redshirted. They need the obvious; they need time, with every day of practice they
Establishing a strong running game and protecting Bridgewater is the primary focus this season.
Bridgewater was sacked 31 times last year, but when he is given time in the pocket, the Cardinal
offense can become lethal.
“We need to do our job, for young guys, you go through a lot of growing pains, but that’s the way it
is everywhere,” Smith said. “The fact that we have one of the best quarterbacks in the country back
there makes the stakes a little higher, but at the same time it’s about everybody doing their job.”