2003 Preview: Offensive Line

With fall practice rapidly approaching, ITV begins its preseason preview of each of the units, beginning with the offensive line. ITV's Steve Richey provides an upclose look at the unit and talks with Offensive Line Coach Mike Summers.

Last season at this time the Louisville coaching staff had to replace three offensive linemen, which they did by inserting two freshmen and one transfer. At the same time, the offensive line was getting to know a new offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. Because of the youth, inexperience and coaching philosophies the guys up front struggled throughout the 2002 season and took most of the criticism for Dave Ragone getting sacked 43 times.

Travis Leffew, Jason Spitz and Will Rabatin had to step in and learn in a trial by fire. An offensive line has to gel and work together to become a unit and the group did not have that luxury as the prepared to face the season. This year the depth and experience will be much improved and that should will make a big difference during the upcoming football season. Coach Bobby Petrino's philosophy should also ease the weight from the being completely on the shoulders of the offensive line. "All eleven guys on offense are responsible for keeping the quarterback clean," Petrino said days after he was named the Cardinals head coach.

Another factor that played a part of the offensive line's struggle last fall was the Louisville running game, as is was not consistent enough to take pressure off of the passing game. The Cardinals averaged 3.1 yards per carry, which put the offense at second or third and long much of the season, allowing the defense to take advantage of the one back set and an inexperienced offensive line.

Coach Summers instructs the line
during the spring game
This year Louisville has two seniors, a junior and two sophomores anchoring the line and that should pay big dividends this fall. You often hear the saying that you can't teach experience. Well, because of their experience last year this group now has recorded some quality game action. With Offensive Line Coach Mike Summers at the helm, a new offense that features a two back set, and an expected improved running game, I believe Cardinal fans are in store for much improved offensive line play.

The depth chart currently has the following first and second units:
(The starters that are listed below average 303.6 pounds)

Offensive Line Depth Chart | First Unit
Player Year Pos. Hgt. Wgt.
#69 Jason Hilliard Jr. RT 6'6 340
#66 Jerry Spencer Sr. RG 6'2 302
#68 Dan Koons Sr. C 6'5 286
#59 Jason Spitz So. LG 6'4 300
#78 Travis Leffew So. LT 6'4 290

Offensive Line Depth Chart | Second Unit
Player Year Pos. Hgt. Wgt.
#79 Renardo Foster r-Fr. RT 6'6 310
#71 P.J. Tavarcsky r-Fr. RG 6'3 290
#53 Michael Sturgeon Jr. C 6'1 305
#60 Chad Pinkston Sr. LG 6'0 306
#75 Bubba Marshall So. LT 6'4 293

Coach Summers (ITV)
Coach Summers will take over an offensive line that will have to come together as a unit quickly since the Cardinals will go on the road for the first 2 games of the season, facing rival Kentucky and Syracuse. Since he joined the staff early this year he has had the opportunity to look over last year's game film and work with them this spring. ITV had a chance to talk to coach Summers about the offensive line and the up and coming season.

ITV: I am sure by now you have analyzed the film from spring, how do you feel about the offensive line going into fall practice?

Coach Summers: I am very pleased with the progress of the offensive line. I think they have bought into what coach Petrino has brought into the offense and the different blocking schemes. They had picked up the run blocking schemes very well and I could see a big difference from the first practice in spring to the spring game.

ITV: Last year Louisville had to replace three offensive linemen from the previous year, this year you have a number of returning players that have experience. How do you feel about the experience going into this season?

Coach Summers: It's nice to have a guy like Dan Koons who has had 4 to 5 years of experience at his position as your anchor of the offensive line. We may have a few guys that may be new to start again this season, so game experience is going to be needed to develop as a unit. As each games goes along the better we will get as a unit.

ITV: Tell me about the center position and what rolls that position plays.

Coach Summers: The center position is a lot like the quarterback. The quarterback has to read the defense to see what coverage they are in, the center has to see how the defensive line is lined up and then give the blocking assignments to the rest of the offensive line for the play that is called. It's a key position and it is nice to have a guy there with experience.

ITV: Renardo Foster moved from the defensive line about half way through spring ball; tell me a little about Foster and how well has made the transition.

Coach Summers: Renardo is a very talented, exciting young man. I wish I would have had him all spring, but we only had him for part of spring pratice. He needs some time to develop and get some game experience, but will be a good offensive lineman.

Jason Hilliard (ITV)
With fall practice just a few weeks away, it will be exciting to see these guys get ready for the Kentucky game. I have had the opportunity to see them work this summer in the weight room and run some cone drills on the practice field with Coach Mike Kent and they are all working hard to prove to Coach Petrino that they can be a vital tool to the success of the offense this fall.

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