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Key Matchups: Purdue Boilermakers

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We start this season looking at how Purdue will try to exploit UofL’s offensive line issues.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

GELEN ROBINSON VS. KENNY THOMAS

I think it’s safe to say that I need to be sold on the improvement of the offensive line before I buy into it. One of the reasons I’m skeptical is the fact that the guys replacing the three seniors that moved on are unproven. Kenny Thomas is not only just unproven, he also couldn’t take over either of the guard spots last year when given the chance. I think it’s natural to wonder if he struggles again this year. New coaching will help just as some system adjustments will, but he’s still the focus for me.

Glen Robinson’s son will be moving from defensive end to tackle. He put on some weight but Robinson was one of the few guys that jumped out to me when I watched Purdue’s defense from last year. Anytime you have a guy move from end to tackle you hope that he keeps his quickness and “get off”. If Robinson is able to do so, he could be a test for Thomas as the same type of guy UofL’s line struggled with last year in pass protection. However, Thomas’ size could really help in when it comes to opening up holes for the running game.

MIKE SUMMERS VS. NICK HOLT

The most obvious evidence that Louisville fans can get that the offensive line has improved is if we see them have to adjust mid-game. What stands out from last season’s line issues was the fact that as the game got away from them, nothing was adjusted to help them out. Nick Holt is going to test that theory early and often on Saturday. He’ll bring pressure until Louisville can prove they can handle it and then he’ll bring more.

The next question is what will/can Summers do to handle the pressure Holt will dial up? Does his history with Bobby Petrino allow him input on the play calls when things aren’t going according to plan? Does he change personnel? Do they just keep chugging along like they did last year?

I get the feeling that Summers, his line, and Petrino all one to prove a point from the offset this season. Holt will empty his clip but I think Louisville will be prepared and they’ll have a game plan that will counter that pressure. Screens, power runs, play-action off of those power runs, and rollouts are all options that I think we will see if Holt’s blitzes get home. Purdue is the perfect opponent to learn if there’s true improvement with the offensive line and I think they’ll pass the test.

TRUMAINE WASHINGTON VS. PURDUE’S DEEP PASSING GAME

No one is going to choose to throw at Jaire Alexander this season. That’s likely in part because he’s an All-American but also because the guy on the opposite side of the field is much easier to go after. Louisville’s coaches decided during fall camp that Cornelius Sturghill would be better utilized on offense. That leaves the second cornerback spot to be manned by veteran Trumaine Washington. “Tru” had a disappointing season last year even though Shaq Wiggins missed a lot of time with an injury putting Tru firmly in the #2 spot. Clemson picked on him over and over again and beat him for two easy touchdowns.

During the only open practice this fall fans got to witness Bobby Petrino give Tru some on the spot coaching that I would hope he took to heart. After he jumped a short hitch route, Petrino walked over to him and told him that if he kept jumping those routes they’re just going to go over your head. Washington is the type of player that likes to gamble and likes to bait. Sometimes it works and sometimes Deon Cain runs right past you for a deep touchdown.

Jeff Brohm never shied away from pushing the ball down the field at Western Kentucky and I think he’ll look for big plays this weekend also. When he goes for those plays he’ll almost certainly target Washington on those play calls. Obviously you want to avoid one of the best corners in the country, but you also need to hit those big plays. He could try to get an inside receiver against a safety or a tight end down the seam, but I think he’ll go down the sideline with a speedy receiver like Gregory Phillips.