Position series: Offensive line

Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a new preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. The third day of the series takes a look at the offensive line.

OVERVIEW

One of the biggest question marks heading into the new season for the University of Louisville comes at the offensive line position.

The Cardinals do have three veterans on the line, but must replace three-year starting center Mario Benavides and Alex Kupper, who played all five positions at some point during his career with the Cardinals.

"We have a good start," line coach Dave Borbely said. "We have three veteran guys on the line, we just have to find some depth. We need some of the other guys to step up. But the veterans understand what we need to have done."

Jake Smith will start for the third straight year but is moving into the center spot, while Jamon Brown will move to the left tackle spot and John Miller will remain at the left guard position.

But Borbely is still looking at the other two positions.

"We're a long way away from where we need to be," Borbely said. "It's a little slower than we like it to be right now. We need somebody to step up like Kupper, to understand the big, big picture."

U of L coach Charlie Strong has said several times this preseason that the line needs to add more depth, noting they want seven or eight players on the line they can feel confident putting into the game.

Strong reaffirmed that on Saturday morning, noting the second-team line was "dominated" by the first team defensive line.

"We just have to have some guys step up," Strong said.

Ryan Mack and Nacho Garcia are battling for the right tackle spot, while Kam Joyer was expected to be the right guard but is injured. Chris Acosta is in that position right now, while Pedro Sibiea was moved on Thursday from the defensive line into a spot on the offensive side.

BREAKOUT PERFORMER

Jamon Brown, Junior

The former Fern Creek High School standout has already started 15 games during his career with the Cardinals.

But he will be the breakout guy this season because he's being moved to the left side – Teddy Bridgewater's blind side – at the tackle position.

The 6-foot-6, 350-pound Brown started all 13 games last season on the line, after starting two games and playing in nine as a freshman.

Borbely is counting on Brown a lot, not just on the field but also in a leadership role. He's one of the vocal leaders on the line.

SLEEPER

Chris Acosta, Junior

Even before the injury to Kam Joyer, the U of L coaching staff has been high on the play of Chris Acosta.

The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Acosta is a very physical lineman, he's strong and he's getting better and better all of the time.

"A lot of people may not have heard his name," Borbely said. "But he had a great spring for us."

Acosta is from Hialeah, Fla., and was a redshirt in 2010 before playing in one game two years ago and seeing action in five games last season.

EXTRA POINTS

*Joyer was the center for much of the spring before Smith was moved into that position. Joyer is the swing lineman when he returns and could play center.

*Sophomore Mike Romano and redshirt freshman T.C. Klusman are two guys who are also getting a look at the center position. Borbely said both guys are having a solid camp and could see some action this season.

*Borbely said the Mack and Garcia battle is a "dead heat," with Mack playing a little more in recent practices because Garcia was dinged up. Garcia was back in Saturday's scrimmage and the two splits time.

*Former Bowling Green High star Joe Manley is also a guy who the coaches have talked about perhaps getting some time.

*Walk-on Josh Stearns, a sophomore from Manual, has "done a nice job and is pretty close, but not quite there yet," Borbely said. He's a sophomore.

*Sophomore Aaron Epps is 6-7, 290 pounds and is also hoping to get some reps. He was injured much of last season.

*Sibiea (6-3, 301) is a redshirt freshman and has a chance to move up the charts after his move to offense on Thursday. He's a big, strong kid and ran some with the second-offense in Saturday's scrimmage.

Borbely said the true freshmen are "progressing," but are still freshmen. Skylar Lacy and Cameron Fraser appear to be a bit ahead of the pack.

COMING UP

*Watch later today for a feature on center Jake Smith and a look at the battle for the right tackle position between Mack and Garcia.

*The position series will continue tomorrow with defensive line.


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