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The Cardinal Countdown: 72 Days Until Kickoff

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NCAA Football: Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

#72 Lukayus McNeil

Class: RS Junior

Ht/Wt: 6-6/324

Position: Offensive Line

Hometown: Indianapolis, IN

Twitter: @lukayus

Thoughts: I called Lukayus “scrong” (scary strong) last year, and surprise, surprise…nothing has changed. He posted more impressive weight room numbers in the spring (330lb hang clean, 575lb squat) and is looking to solidify his role as only one of two returning starters along the line from last year.

With all the new faces up front Christian and McNeil will be relied upon heavily by Summers and Petrino to be the anchors and show the new guys what’s expected of them on a daily basis. Summers tried out McNeil at guard this spring but decided to move him back to his more natural position at tackle before the spring game. If that position holds true, and Christian keeps the other tackle spot, that means the Cards will have a brand new set of players at guard-center-guard…in other words…the only line of defense between the opposing defense and the Heisman winning QB in the backfield is the three guys right up the gut, who didn’t start a single game in 2016. Summers called out McNeil and Christian after the spring game saying they not only have to do their job this year but expand their coverage area to help backup the likes of Cole Bentley, Robbie Bell, Roundtree, and others.

If you scan through my twitter feed during last year you may see a few angry tweets as the result of a bonehead play or missed assignment but I never, NEVER, tweet at a player and I don’t recall ever mentioning a player by name negatively. Why do I mention this? Because some of you need a reminder that these young men, who play football for the school you cheer for, are actual real people, with every day issues and challenges that you not only know nothing about as a fan, but are likely more difficult than what most of us have ever faced in our lives personally. Last season Jared Shanker did a highlight piece on McNeil that really opened my eyes to the fact that we as bystanders have zero clue as to what some of these guys have to face as soon as they walk off the field, and may even be consumed with at times while the clock is still running.

I have no doubt I’ll get frustrated with the Cards play at some point this season but I’m glad I’ve reached the point in my life where a bad game or a heart-breaking loss no longer ruins my entire week. Sports are supposed to be fun, and sometimes we could all use a gentle reminder of that.

***

Game 6: North Carolina State Wolfpack

Key Player: Bradley Chubb, Senior, Defensive End

While quarterback Ryan Finley will be a big part of how successful the Wolfpack are this season, I picked Bradley Chubb as my Key player against the Cards because he was able to get into opposing backfields last year as well as anyone in the conference. Finishing with 22 tackles for loss and ten sacks in 2016, Chubb was a Top 5 player in the ACC in terms of disrupting your teams offensive rhythm, and if you haven’t noticed a trend, that is something the Cards offensive line will have to prove it can stop in 2017 in order to be successful. Now, to give credit where it is due, the Cards line last season handled Chubb fairly well, limiting him to one sack and only two and a half tackles for loss. The big asterisk in that game (as it was with many) was Lamar, who helped get the Cards out to a 44-0 lead at halftime. The impact Chubb could have in a blowout was minimized and the Cards rolled…but…in a tradition unlike any other, the NC State Wolfpack are projected to be …wait for it….a breakout team in 2017. The calendar turns but the narrative stays the same every year. Don’t get me wrong, NC State has the talent to finally turn a corner on offense and a defense lead by Chubb that can cause problems, but consider me a skeptic until they actually prove one time they can finish with better than a .500 record in the ACC.

Until then they shall be known as the NC State 76ers…because they seemed to finish 7-6 every single year.

Sweet Tweet:

We’re not sleeping Lukayus. We never sleep!

(partly because I still have nightmares from the murderbird promos)