Louisville's offensive line has been a hot topic all season, but the Cardinals head into the Music City with an improved line

The University of Louisville football team is preparing for the Music City Bowl next week in Nashville, Tenn., and the Cardinals offensive line have shown "major improvement," according to Bobby Petrino. Here's a closer look at the line improvement for the Cardinals.

It's been a hot topic the entire season - the University of Louisville offensive line.

With three new faces on the line to start the season and mostly young guys, the guys up front went throuhg some growing pains early on. There were penalties and mistakes as the Cardinals offense sputtered some early in the year.

But in the final few games of the regular-season, Petrino said the line has shown "major improvement."

"There have been a lot of positive things," Petrino said about the line. "They have done some really good things for us."

Offensive line coach Chris Klenakis noted that any offensive line "just don't come together over night," and the Cardinals started the season with a lot of new faces all over the line.

"It's just the chemistry has come together and getting to know one another," Klenakis said. "There's so many things you have to work on and on the line the only way to really get better is to keep working, get reps, and we have done that."

Only one player - true freshman Geron Christian - has started every game this season on the line. Christian, named an honorable mention All-ACC performer, started at left tackle the entire season.

After being used as a reserve the first three games of the season, redshirt freshman Lukayus McNeil started eight in a row at left guard before Kenny Thomas was there for the season-finale against Kentucky.

Junior Tobiah Hughley, the only lineman with more than three career starts coming into the season, started 10 games at center, while senior Aaron Epps and true freshman Kenny Thomas rotated at right tackle and Skylar Lacy and Kiola Mahoni have been at right guard.

"I think the line play was somewhat up and down but it's that way when you are really young," offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said. "When you have true freshmen all over the field you are going to have some good days and some really exciting times, and you're going to have some times when you're going, 'I have no idea what he's doing out there.'

"But they have improved and hopefully we can work them out of that more with more reps."

Klenakis said he has never had threee freshman start for him on the line during his career and he had it happen four times this season with Christian, Thomas and McNeil on the field together.

"It's my job to get them prepared and my job to keep getting them better," Klenakis said. "They are young kids but that's not an excuse. They just have to keep working hard and get reps."

The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Christian, the brother of former U of L tight end Gerald Christian, had previously been committed to Miami but flipped to U of L during last season and has been a steady force on the line for the Cardinals. McGee noted Christian has been going against the opponents eliet pass rusher and has "really developed."

"We ask a lot out of our quick tackles, there's a high expectation level for him," Klenakis said. "He has to continue to refine his technique and continue to work to get to where we want him to be. He's a good kid and works hard."

U of L's offense has improved after a slow start and has put up 350 or more yards in four straight games. The Cardinals rushed for 314 yards in the season-ending victory over Kentucky.

And a big reason for the improvement is the line.

"The Kentucky game was probably the culmination," Klenakis said. "We ran the ball and we protected the quarterback. Those are good numbers and we have improved, but we have to continue to get better.

"There's always still room for improvement."

And with such a young group, you can bet the U of L line will continue to improve.


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