July 16, 2017

Football position breakdown: Offensive line

By Dalton Ray–

Our position breakdown is in full swing after taking a look at the tight ends last week.

The offensive line has been Louisville’s weakness since coach Bobby Petrino’s return. In his fourth year back, not much has changed. Looking to address the offensive line woes, Petrino hired former o-line coach Mike Summers back to the staff.

The Cards return two starters on a unit that allowed the nation’s second most sacks, 47, and 83 tackles for loss. Over the last two seasons, U of L has started 13 different starters, allowing 91 sacks and 180 tackles for loss.

Louisville addressed the offensive line in this year’s recruiting class, but the newcomers likely won’t make a large impact in year one. Both of the tackle spots are positives for U of L, but the interior is littered with inexperience and question marks.

Expected starters (left to right): Geron Christian, Cole Bentley, Robbie Bell, Kenny Thomas, Lukayus McNeil

Christian has started 26 straight games. The junior earned an All-ACC honorable mention as a freshman and third team honor last season. At 6-foot-6, 315 lbs., Christian’s draft stock is starting to rise as he one of the ACC’s top tackles.

Bentley is a true freshman and is the most surprising starter. From Belfry High School, Bentley’s athleticism and aggressiveness earned him a starting spot. Bentley will go through growing pains but his playing style will give him an edge.

Bell redshirted as a freshman and at 6-foot-5, 305 lbs., he has a great frame to anchor the line. Good hand-striking is one of Bell’s strengths but lowering his pad level will be an ongoing adjustment.

Thomas moved to guard this spring and has six career starts. His powerful hands and 6-foot-6, 333 lbs. frame make him a great fit for an interior lineman.

McNeil has 21 career starts and his ability to play multiple positions allows Louisville to be flexible. Arguably the most athletic lineman, McNeil has great toughness with excellent acceleration off the ball.

Key backups: Ronald Rudd, Danny Burns, Nathan Scheler

Rudd is a huge, figuratively and literally, land for U of L from the junior college ranks. The guards are a question for the Cardinals and Rudd is on the outside looking in. His pass blocking skills make him a strong candidate to step into the starting role if called upon.

With questions at the guard spot and the ability of McNeil to move around, Burns may have a chance to step into a starting role if McNeil slides inside. Burns has the size, 6-foot-6 and 325 lbs., but his technical skills have held him back in his first three years.

Scheler battled with Bell for the starting center spot this spring. If Bell struggles, Scheler will likely take over the snaps. Scheler, 6-foot-1 and 290 lbs.,  is a walk-on from Louisville’s St. X.

Photo by Laurel Slaughter / The Louisville Cardinal

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