THE OFFENSIVE LINE SHOULD SEE A SHAKEUP
If there's an area on this team that has consistently struggled over the last few years it has been the offensive line. Questions surrounded the group this fall but I don't think that any imagined that 16 games into Bobby Petrino's second tenure that we would still be fielding an offensive line made up of 80% Charlie Strong recruits. The fact that Petrino has brought in 5 JUCO offensive linemen makes that even more surprising. There are 5 offensive linemen left on the roster from Strong's time here and with the issues we've seen it a little concerning that the JUCO guys the staff recruited for their system weren't able to beat out Lacy or Sibiea or supplant a former walk-on in Hughley.
The 2014 season led off with questions about the offensive line when Petrino decided against keeping the starting line from the Russell Athletic Bowl together. Jake Smith was moved to guard and replaced by Hughely with Chris Acosta being benched. The line wasn't amazing with those five guys starting but the group allowed a respectable 26 sacks in 2013 with Abraham Garcia and Kamran Joyer being mixed in at tackle and guard respectively. Garcia transferred when Petrino took the job and Joyer graduated. That still left the exact opening game lineup from 2013. Why make the change and go with an inexperience center? Also how was Ryan Mack a serviceable tackle one year and an absolute liability the next? I'm not saying I have the answers or if the questions are really the right questions to be asked. But, we're not far away from the halfway point of year two and the offensive line has been the center of the offensive issues for most of that time.
So will we see Petrino's JUCO players finally see the field? He spoke this week about getting Kiola Mahoni some game reps as well as redshirt freshmen Lukayus McNeil. What about Khalil Hunter who was highly recruited last year or Kelby Johnson who is on the verge of finishing his career without playing significant minutes? I wouldn't be surprised to see true freshman Kenny Thomas get a chance to show what he can do also. At this point I think it's important to find the best five guys possible to get on the field together. If the five that have been playing are that best five, the line doesn't just have to worry about 2015. They'll return four of the five starters in 2016.
CORVIN LAMB COULD PROVIDE A SPARK TO A LACKING RUNNING GAME
Corvin Lamb is one of the fastest players on Louisville's roster. He showed that with his great kick return against Miami last year. What he hasn't been able to do is show his speed from the offensive backfield. Louisville's running backs aren't the issue with the lack of a running game, but each back does posses a similar skill set. Lamb is a step in a different direction. When you struggle to run the ball between the tackles plays tend to naturally bounce outside as well as the play calls in general. Screen plays tend to be called to help keep the defense more honest also. Lamb is the guy in this group of running backs that might have more success getting the edge on the outside and turning the corner. At this point we know that he's healthy enough to return kicks, so he can also carry the ball out of the backfield. We also know that what the offense has tried so far hasn't consistently worked. Why not try to change up the pace with a back that can run past people as opposed to running through them?
THE STARTING QUARTERBACK HAS TO BE SETTLED AFTER THIS WEEK
The starting quarterback should've been settled this fall but I think we can all understand that these guys all have things they do well that make it hard to separate from the others. The issue I have with it is that an offensive coach with the experience Petrino has should have a much easier time figuring out which guy gives him the best chance to win. We've now seen three different starters this year and to be honest none of the three have had enough time on the field to fully command the offense.
The last drive last Thursday didn't bother me because of the sack that Bolin took or the desperation heave on the last play. It bothered me because no one seemed to know what to do from the first snap of the drive. That situation takes practice and the entire group looked like they hadn't had the time in practice to really get it down. Is that the case if Bolin is the guy from day one? Who knows, but if we would have been watching a quarterback in his fifth straight start and he can't manage a two-minute drill the issues with this offense are much worse than we're seeing now.
Judging by Lamar Jackson's Twitter feed, it appears that he will be the starter this weekend. If that's the case it needs to be the case going forward. Personally, I like him better in the package that was used last week because it helps to solve the issues on third and short. But beggars can't be choosers and if they settle on Jackson as the guy it's better than going back and forth like we've seen so far this year.