Position series: Offensive line

Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. Our fourth installment provides a look at the Cardinals offensive linemen.

OVERVIEW

University of Louisville offensive line coach Chris Klenakis has one of the toughest jobs on the staff this season, replacing three players who started for the better part of the last four years.

But at least this season, Klenakis has enough bodies to figure things out.

"We have done a nice job recruiting and getting some guys in here who we think can do the job," Klenakis said. "We have 10 or 11 guys battling for playing time right now. It's been really good competition."

U of L was hampered by injuries and several other players who left in the coaching transition last season. But the Cardinals' have at least 10 new linemen, including six scholarship players on the roster.

Klenakis said "no spot" has been set at this point.

"That's the beauty of competition, we've been mixing and matching," he said. "I have seen improvement in fundamentals, in technique and in picking up the scheme. We just have to put it all together, but we have improved."

Aaron Epps, who started six games last season on the line, is the leader and one of two seniors on the line. Kelby Johnson, who played sparingly last season after transferring from a junior college, is the other senior.

Junior college players Kiola Mahoni and Khalil Hunter figure into the mix, while sophomore Skylar Lacy and redshirt freshmen Lukayus McNeil and Danny Burns and true freshmen Kenny Thomas, Geron Christian and Chandler Jones figure to be in the mix.

Junior Pedro Sibiea, Tobijah Hughley and T.C. Klusman continue to battle for the center spot.

BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER

Pedro Sibiea, Junior

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Sibiea came to Louisville as a defensive lineman and the previous staff had him back and forth in his first season on campus before settling on defense.

But because of depth issues, the staff last season moved him to offense. After spring ball, Klenakis came to him and talked about trying to play center. He worked on that all summer and is now "getting the hang of it," according to Sibiea.

A physical, strong player with athletic moves and great footwork, Sibiea has been working primarily as the No. 1 center and has a chance to be the starter at that spot for the Cardinals.

Look for Sibiea to be an anchor for the offensive line.

SLEEPER

Kelby Johnson, Senior

A former player at Virginia, Johnson came to Louisville last season with a lot of hype.

But the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Johnson only played in eight games and many of those snaps last season came on special teams. He wasn't a major factor on the line.

Johnson said the adjustment took him a while last season and he expects to be a starter this season.

EXTRA POINTS

***Hunter is a 6-4, 291-pound junior who could play several positions on the line as a versatile player, while Mahoni is 6-3, 297 and is getting a lot of praise from his teammates, including the defensive line.

***Bobby Petrino and Garrick McGee both said this week that Thomas and Christian were guys getting a lot of run with the No. 1 offense and Klenakis noted both are "really competitive" with the rest of the bunch. Thomas is 6-6, 350 and Christian is the younger brother of former U of L tight end Gerald Christian.

***McNeil is a 6-foot-6 sophomore from Indianapolis who has gained more than 20 pounds since his arrival at U of L. He's listed now at 315 pounds.

***Luke Schultheiss is a sophomore walk-on from Iowa Western Community College. He was recruited by Klenakis when he was at Iowa State prior to his move to U of L.

***Tyler Haycraft and Nathan Scheler are two walk-ons with potential. Both are from St. Xavier and are first-year players.

COMING UP

***Check out from today a video about the offensive line position and also the feature on potential starting center Pedro Sibiea and in the morning in standout OL leader Aaron Epps..

***Our fifth day of the position series comes with a look at the safety position.


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