LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As we inch closer to the start of the 2022 college football season, Louisville Report will break down each individual position on the Cardinals’ roster. Next in our positional breakdown series, we take at look at the offensive line.
Position Roster Movement:
Returning (11): Kobe Baynes, Joshua Black, Adonis Boone, Renato Brown, Caleb Chandler, Austin Collins, Michael Gonzalez, Aaron Gunn, Bryan Hudson, Luke Kandra, Trevor Reid
Departing (3): Cole Bentley (Graduation), Desmond Daniels (Transfer – TBD), Tim Lawson (Transfer – Marshall)
Incoming (4): Max Cabana (HS), Makhate Gueye (HS) Izaiah Reed (HS), Sam Secrest (HS)
Projected Depth Chart:
- Trevor Reid (6-5, 307, Sr.)
- Michael Gonzalez (6-4, 305, Sat)
- Max Cabana (6-6, 292, Fr.)
- Caleb Chandler (6-4, 300, R-Sr.)
- Luke Kandra (6-4, 314, Sat.)
- Aaron Gunn (6-4, 312, R-Fr.)
- Bryan Hudson (6-4, 310, R-Jr.)
- Austin Collins (6-3, 283, R-Fr.)
- Sam Secrest (6-6, 295, Fr.)
- Adonis Boone (6-5, 295, Sr.)
- Joshua Black (6-2, 294, R-So.)
- Kobe Baynes (6-4, 293, R-Fr.)
- Renato Brown (6-4, 317, R-So.)
- Michael Gonzalez (6-4, 305, Sat)
- Izaiah Reed (6-6, 295, Fr.)
- Makhete Gueye (6-7, 270, Fr.)
Louisville’s offensive line has come a long way since the final year of the Bobby Petrino era in 2018. Scott Satterfield inherited a line that was both short on the amount of necessary scholarship numbers, and lacked the talent you need to compete in the ACC. Heading into his fourth year at the helm, not only is the O-line the deepest position on the roster, it is arguably the most talented.
The line did have a bit of shaky start to their 2021 campaign, struggling to display the level of push that was expected of them coming in. After that disappointing three-game stretch, the line took massive steps forward, and were one of the most dominant lines in the ACC.
By the end of the season, Louisville had allowed just 1.54 sacks and 4.77 tackles for loss per game. The latter ranked 31st in FBS, the former was 25th, and both were the best marks in the ACC. Considering how average this area of the field looked in the first quarter of the regular season, this was a massive improvement.
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To further explain how good UofL’s line was, let’s take a look at their grades from Pro Football Focus. Their pass block grade of 79.1 ranked 10th in FBS, with their run blocking grade of 83.4 coming in at 16th. Louisville was one of just eight schools to rank in the top 20 of both categories; joining Georgia, Kentucky, USC, TCU, Baylor, BYU and San Diego State.
The best part? Louisville only lost one player from this elite group. Starting center Cole Bentley ran out of eligibility and is now in training camp with the Arizona Cardinals, but the Cardinals in Louisville return four regular starters on the line.
The group will unquestionably be headlined by left guard Caleb Chandler. Not only was he PFF’s highest-rated offensive guard in the ACC with a rating of 87.7, but they named him as one of the top 101 players from the 2021 season. He was also recently named a First-Team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Not to be outdone, the supporting starting cast around Chandler is also elite particularly at tackle. Trevor Reid was able to build on his bridge year in 2020, starting slow but finishing strong in 2021 over at left tackle. In his second season as a starter, Renato Brown also gave the Cardinals consistency at right tackle. Over the current offseason, both players have been named preseason All-ACC selections by either Athlon Sports or Phil Steele.
But let’s not forget about Louisville’s two other projected starters on the line, Bryan Hudson and Adonis Boone. Boone made a near-seamless transition from left tackle to right guard, and is only expected to get better heading into its final season. Hudson was a plug-and-play sixth man for Louisville last year, as he was able to play pretty much every position on the line and no skip a beat. He was particularly proficient at center, where he is expected to take over for Bentley.
Behind those starters are three really good backups. Last season as a true, Michael Gonzalez was able to play both tackle spot at a surprisingly high level, and has a bright future ahead of him. In the limited reps they saw last year, guards Luke Kandra and Joshua Black excelled, and have reportedly looked very sharp in camp.
After those eight, don’t expect to see a lot of the rest of the room. Louisville has liked operating with a relatively tight offensive line rotation of seven to eight players, so the other seven lineman – who are mainly young players – will likely only see time in blowouts or because of surprise injuries.
That being said, there is promise in that group. Kobe Baynes seems to be the one most primed to make a jump sooner rather than later, but that’s because he has some experience under his belt. Austin Collins is likely going to be the backup center, and looked good in his surprise start in 2020 vs. Wake Forest. However, Hudson will eat up most of the snaps at this spot, so don’t expect to see much of him unless something goes horribly wrong.
As for guys like Max Cabana, Aaron Gunn, Sam Secrest, Izaiah Reed and Makhete Gueye, they are still a while away from seeing meaningful snaps. But each player has potential down the line in some form or fashion.
If there is * any * weakness in this line, it’s that the inside zone runs and overall protection might not be as successful as the effort on the outside considering Louisville is better equipped at tackle than on the interior of the line. But if that’s the biggest complaint, I’m sure Louisville will take it, because the Cards are still set up nicely there, too.
While guys like Malik Cunningham, Tiyon Evans, Marshon Ford and Tyler Hudson draw most of the spotlight on offense, none of those guys will be able to succeed unless aided by a good offensive line. Louisville’s offensive capabilities this upcoming season could be the best we have ever seen under Satterfield, thanks wholly in part to the O-line’s ability to keep Cunningham upright and create massive holes for the running backs.
Other Position Breakdowns:
(Photo of Louisville offensive line, Virginia defensive line: Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports)
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