Louisville has had more turnover on the offensive line from a coaching standpoint than they have had from a player standpoint. They will enter this season with four returning starters after starting last season with the same. This group has been about as stable as you can get in college football with starters being replaced by rotation players who have played plenty of snaps. There are really no questions going into the season with five starters who have at least one full season of starting experience and three players going into at least their third year of starting.
Everything starts in the middle at center and Bryan Hudson can hang his hat on being named a second-team freshman All-American as a center. That was during his time at Virginia Tech when he played the position for the first time in his life. After a full year of playing guard and center as a rotation player for Louisville, he slides into the one spot that doesn’t return the starter. Hudson looked good when he got on the field last year and I think it’s fair to wonder if the line could improve with him being a full-time starter.
The guard positions are boring but in a good way. Caleb Chandler is one of the best in the country but he’s been the starter there for four years. Adonis Boone will line up on the right side as a third-year starter. UofL knows what they’re getting here and the interior of the line is really the strength of the group. Chandler does it all as a great run blocker but also a stalworth in pass protection.
Tackle is solid but if there are any changes this season, I would expect it to be here. Trevor Reid and Renato Brown are the returning starters but both had moments last season where they were on the bench for a little more than just a rest. Reid is a freak athlete who is known for doing backflips on the field. Brown has worked on his body and looks much more the part than he did when he first arrived. Consistency is always the question with these two as Reid has been beaten in pass protection at times and Brown picks up bad penalties. If the group is to meet their lofty expectations, these two have to be at their best.
It’s been very good to hear the staff talk about the depth on the offensive line. A few years ago, they only had five guys that they were really comfortable playing and that number is apparently up to eight or nine. Michale Gonzalez will push the starters at tackle after playing a bunch of snaps last season as a rotation player. He struggled through his freshman season but also got valuable reps that will help him this season. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him push one of the tackles out of their starting job.
Luke Kandra is the seventh guy in the group and I’m really excited to see him on the field this year. Kandra was a big recruiting win a few years ago and he is now ready to be a rotation option at guard. The way the staff gushes over him, I could see him pushing Boone for snaps throughout the season but I would be surprised if he became a starter.
Outside of Kandra and Gonzalez, Austin Collins seems to be the main player coaches mention. Collins started at center against Wake Forest two years ago and really looked good once he got the nerves out. He and Josh Black are likely the last two players that the coaches feel good about playing this year and that’s some real depth for the group. All of the players have seen the field and Collins and Black both looked the part after they struggled early against Wake.
While I think the group of starters should be able to hold onto their spots, I can’t help but think that Michael Gonzalez will end the season as a starter at one of the tackle spots. This is a guy that they liked so much that they played him in game one as a true freshman last season. He is only going to be that much better this season and he played some guard this spring while Chandler was out. It feels to me like he could be the next great lineman for Louisville.