Those departures were compounded when the only returning starter - junior center Mario Benavides - was forced out of spring practice with a knee injury. Essentially starting over up front, Alex Kupper, who likely will start at guard next season, has stepped in at center this spring for Benavides. Seniors Ryan Kessling and Hector Hernandez have been working at tackle, with Kamran Joyer, John Clark and Jake Smith at guard.
Despite the loss of four starters, and Benavides' absence this spring, Louisville offensive line coach Dave Borbely told InsideTheVille.com following Wednesday's practice that his unit has made progress heading into next week's spring game.
Here are the highlights of our conversation with Coach Dave Borbely:
How is the offensive line coming together this spring?
"I think we're making some progress. We don't have all of our guys in there, but that's how a lot of spring balls are. Guys get hurt and we coach the ones that show up every day. I would say they have a good understanding of the scheme and what we're trying to accomplish. We probably have a better handle on it mentally than we did a year ago."
With the loss of several seniors last year, who has stepped up to provide leadership this spring?
What has pleased you the most about the performance of the line this spring?
"The best thing is we've had very few mental errors over the course the spring. It tells me the kids are putting some time and work into it and understand concepts, which is how we teach. They're starting to grasp the concept of each play and that's the part I'm probably most pleased about."
What is the biggest area that needs continued improvement throughout spring practice?
"We need to improve our pass protection. That's the biggest area we need to make a big jump on right now. Last year, we only gave up 16 or 17 sacks. We're not that proficient with it right now. Most of the time is an individual breakdown – a guy getting beat."
Who has been the biggest surprise this spring?
"The guy that really jumps to mind right now that wasn't in the mix last year is Jake Smith. Jake got a lot of practice reps last year and you can see that paid off for him and he's had a really good spring."
Do you expect to have a starting unit locked down after spring practice?
"We won't be able to come out of spring with a starting unit locked down. We'll have our starting unit, at least what I think should be our starting unit, in place when we start fall camp. The freshmen are completely unknown. That's a big unknown."