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Louisville Football Position Preview: Offensive Line

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Louisville’s offense was great last year but the Offensive Line has some things to improve on.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Music City Bowl - Mississippi State v Louisville Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Louisville led the nation in tackles for loss allowed last season. If you looked at all the other stats or watched the games, you’d be shocked to know that. Louisville was explosive on offense and they had a really strong running game. It could’ve been even better. Dwayne Ledford and his players have repeatedly pointed out that reducing the amount of negative plays has been a major focus this off season but he’ll have to do that with two new starters.

Mechi Becton leaves a symbolic hole at Left Tackle but with the time he missed last year, Adonis Boone was able to get plenty of snaps. Boone played some Guard last year as well, so he has the experience you want for a guy taking over an important position. While Louisville’s rushing attack was “left handed” last season with Becton being so good, we could see a more balanced attack this season. Boone is a drop-off compared to Becton and it’s just right to point that out. However, he brings some experience and the fact that he was a lock to take over the position means that he has spent the spring and summer working with the starters. That will help this transition and could lead to an improvement if they mix things up more.

The left side of the line will also feature a player that I believe could be the next NFL draft pick for Louisville. Caleb Chandler is my pick for the guy who has a big year and becomes a popular draft topic. Chandler has the athleticism you need in the zone scheme and he got better as the year went on last season. Another thing to keep in mind is that Louisville used pulling Guards a good amount later in the season and Chandler was really good when asked to do so. It’s another sign that we should see some new wrinkles in the offense this year.

The Center position battle wasn’t won in camp last year but Cole Bentley really came on about halfway through the season and took hold of the job. Bentley has taken some time to get everything down at the Center spot after playing Tackle in high school and Guard early on at UofL. One thing that stood out to me last year was how improved he was when it came to blocking in space. It was a flat out weakness that has become something that he showed he could do well last season. He’s under control and comfortable out in space and he has also shown that he can really get moving when he’s out there.

Robbie Bell is returning for his fifth year and I don’t think another player worked harder this off season when campus was closed. Bell has put on 11 pounds since last season and I would imagine at least most of it is muscle. He posted workouts on social media daily like most of the players but you could really see his body change. Bell has struggled in his career with firing off the ball as well as being pushed back into the backfield. It was a glaring issue when he was a freshman playing but with the added muscle, you would hope that it will be a thing of the past.

Dwayne Ledford hasn’t named him the starter but as of now it sounds like the Right Tackle spot is Renato Brown’s to lose. Brown was the guy in the spring and the two guys who probably had the best chance to beat him didn’t arrive until the fall. Brown got to play in four games last year and he has said that it has helped him a lot now that he’s practicing with the first group. It also helps him a lot that he is lining up next to a veteran like Bell. I’m sure there are questions being asked during practice but more importantly is being able to fix things on the fly in games. Instead of having to wait until they get to the sideline, Bell can point out mistakes after the play.

Depth is still a concern for Louisville but the Tackle spots are very strong in my opinion. They have four guys they have to feel good about. Cam DeGeorge transferred in after being a multi-year starter at UConn. I still think he has a chance to beat out Brown for the starting spot but he has also been playing some Guard and might be an option as a sixth lineman for the group. Trevor Reid is listed as the backup at Left Tackle for now but I think he can play either side. The most interesting thing about him to me is that he is a freak athlete like Mechi Becton. He’s not as big as Becton but that athleticism should make him a very valuable player in this scheme where you have to get out in the open field to make blocks.

The interior backups are all freshmen but two of those players have been here for over a year. Jackson Gregory and Josh Black are said to be interchangeable at Center and Guard but I would imagine that both will be options at Center while Luke Kandra will be the first option to back up both Guard spots. Kandra was a high priority target for Ledford as a recruit and according to the 247 ratings he is one of the highest ranked players UofL has landed since joining the ACC.

With Tyler Hayrcraft landing a spot on the Giants practice squad, this next comment is going to sound crazy. The Offensive Line could be better after losing two NFL players from the group. Just as we all talk about a second year with the same Defensive Coordinator, it’s important for these guys to be in their second year under Ledford. They’ve been able to work their bodies to better fit what they’re going to be doing and they know exactly what Ledford expects of them. The mistakes should decrease and if we’re being completely honest, that’s the key to the improvement.