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The Cardinal Countdown: 79 Days Until Kickoff

Charlotte v Louisville Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

#79 Kenny Thomas

Class: Junior

Ht/Wt: 6-6/333

Position: Offensive Line

Hometown: Montgomery, AL

Twitter: @Kenny79

Thoughts: I know, I know. Even though this is the first offensive lineman on the countdown most folks are already tired of talking about the offensive line, because to put it bluntly, they have been the target of the majority of the criticism the last two seasons. Warranted? That could be debated I assume, but the results spoke loud enough that Petrino was forced to make a coaching change along the line and heavily recruit that position group last year.

If we go back to 2015, Kenny Thomas was supposed to be one of the O-line saviors. The 6-6, 330lb+ true freshman played in seven games, and although he struggled at times, you could see the raw talent he had up front, and we all thought that if Coach K could get Thomas, Christian, and McNeil to gel, we would have a solid O-line base for the next three years, at least. Then 2016 happened and things up front, quite frankly, did not improve. From a statistical standpoint they allowed more sacks last year (47) than all but two Division-I teams and they were 94th in the country in “tackles for loss allowed”(83). On the non-measureable side of things, i.e. the eye test, let’s just say those poor numbers weren’t shocking to a lot of people who watched the games every week. If you didn’t read my 2016 Season Recap we can no longer be friends. Sorry, them’s the breaks kid. But, lucky for you I allow my non-friends to also read my work, and in that recap I highlight some of the O-line struggles and some of the more popular “solutions” to fix the O-line, including my own. It’s worth your time.

Now that I’ve covered the generalities of the offensive line, what happened to Kenny Thomas? A guy I had high hopes for after 2015 struggled to crack the rotation up front last year and I was baffled as to why. There were enough head scratching moments in 2016 that if Thomas was a viable alternative he should have earned his starting position back (he only started one game last year) or at a minimum been playing significantly more than he was. I won’t pretend to know what happened on the practice field every day, or weight room, or classroom even, but I find it hard to believe that we had our “best five” out there last year and that didn’t include Thomas. If there was an off the field issue or an issue with motivation I sure hope that gets resolved because we need Thomas to play above his head in 2017 for the Cards to have a shot at a special season.

During the spring Thomas appeared to getting the first team reps nearly every day which is encouraging for me, but we’ll see how the PT is disbursed once the true freshman get on campus and start showing off what they can do in the fall. As much as it’s been a topic of discussion I think most fans understand that nowhere near 100% of the blame goes on the line. Challenging play calls, Lamar holding onto the ball too long, wideouts not fighting to get open, etc all adds up over time and typically reflects poorly on only one group on the stat sheet. We all know things need to improve to take that next step and I believe the addition of Coach Summers, along with some new blood mixed in with the more experienced players like Thomas, could result in drastically improved play. At this point I’d settle for “moderately improved” play, but why not shoot for the stars?

***

Rumor on the street is that some folks don’t particular enjoy reading about offensive linemen every day. There is a term for that, you are O-Lineaphobic, and although this is a welcoming community, it is a problem that should be addressed. With that said, to spice up the O-line posts I will highlight a “key player” for each team on the schedule this year every day I cover an offensive lineman. It will allow the daily readers to get some bonus content and also provide a gateway for the “anti-O-line” crew to still click on the post and get hit with some knowledge. Why would I sign myself up for this additional work on top of the player post every day, you may ask? Because I’m an idiot. Please enjoy.

Today, the focus will be on the season opener, my alma mater, Purdue.

Game 1: Purdue Boilermakers

Key Player: David Blough, Junior, Quarterback

Last season, on a 3-9 Purdue football team, under the tutelage of a coach who was ultimately fired, David Blough lead the Big Ten Conference in passing yards per game and was second in the conference with 25 passing touchdowns. Yes, you read that correctly. Although Blough was at the top of the Conference in numerous passing statistics some of that was due to the fact that Darrell Hazell seemed to absolutely hate running the football. Blough racked up big numbers last season, but not all of them positive, as he also topped the conference in interceptions and was next to last in passing rating.

Enter one Jeffery Scott Brohm.

Brohm has had a Top 10 quarterback (statistically) and a Top 5 offense in each of the last three seasons at WKU. So can he turn David Blough into another Brandon Doughty and Purdue into a Top 10 offense? I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but his track record proves that even when undermanned and undersized he can still stack points on top of points. Blough loses his top three receivers from last year and Purdue’s O-line isn’t exactly stellar so there will be obstacles without a doubt, but betting against Jeff Brohm to field a potent offense would have lost you a lot of money the last few years. First game of the season I’d expect Blough to still be a little rusty with the new offense but don’t be shocked to see him put up some yards and points against a good Louisville defense. If Blough plays well I think we could have a ballgame at halftime, with Louisville’s talent pulling away towards the end. If Blough plays poorly…it could get ugly…quick.

Sweet Tweet:

Since LJ Scott isn’t a Card anymore we’ll have to go with a Kenny Thomas retweet on this one…too funny not to share.