By Jody Demling - Cardinal Authority

Cardinals Authority provides a closer look at the Louisville offensive line position

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 latest installment provides a look at the Cardinals offensive line.

OVERVIEW

It was the position with the most criticism last season for the Louisville Cardinals - the offensive line.

But there was a reason - inexperience. The Cardinals line battled through the mistakes and inexperience and coach Bobby Petrino said "showed major improvement" by the end of the season.

Now, a year later and the line is expecting big things.

"It's a lot different," line coach Chris Klenakis said. "We don't have to take the time and re-teach everything. The guys can continue their progressions and the next day we can start from there. Last year, we had to keep going back.

"We only had two guys coming in last year who had played (college) football. We didn't use that as a crutch or a excuse but that's behind us now and now all of those guys have played and we're going to use that and build on it."

Senior Tobijah Hughley is a former walk-on who has started 24 games during his career and will anchor the line from the center position.

Early in fall camp, sophomores Geron Christian - who started every game as a true freshman - and redshirt sophomore Lukayus McNeil have been playing the tackle spots. Senior Kiola Mahoni and senior Khalil Hunter - who were both newcomers from the junior-college ranks last season - have been playing the guard positions.

But there's now depth at the position with sophomores Kenny Thomas and Danny Burns, redshirt freshman Chandler Jones and juniors Linwood Foy and Toriano Roundtree among several others.

"We're getting where we need to be," Klenakis said of the depth. "The guys are working hard out there."

BREAKOUT PERFORMER

Lukayus McNeil, Sophomore

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound McNeil has been the talk of the camp on the line and not just by the staff but his teammates with tight end Keith Towbridge predicting that McNeil will have a "really great season," because of his athleticism and energy.

McNeil made a block 10 yards down field in a drill on Tuesday and the entire offense erupted in cheers.

After using a redshirt in the 2014 season, McNeil made his debut against Clemson last season and played in 11 games. He ended up making nine starts and was among those that were the most improved on the team.

McNeil will not only become one of the team's elite players but will start getting some pro chatter by seasons end.

SLEEPER

Khalil Hunter, Senior

Hunter came in from a junior college last season and struggled. He only played in two games and from our understanding had a hard time catching on - like most newcomers to the offense.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Hunter wasn't listed on the depth chart prior to fall camp but is running as the starter right now in the weak guard position for the Cardinals. He's physical and uses his hands well at the point of impact.

Hunter could help the line make a big jump this season with his consistent play.

EXTRA POINTS

----Chandler Jones, who was a redshirt last season, will play this year for the Cardinals and Klenakis said he's made major improvements since arriving on campus last fall.

----Two walk-ons - Tyler Haycraft and Nate Scheler - will likely both see the field. The former St. Xavier linemen came in with last year's class and early on the staff was excited about their potential. These two guys will play, while Klenakis is excited about the future of a new walk-on - Max Martin, who was a standout at Trinity High School.

----Klenakis said sophomore Danny Burns has "transformed his body" and is working his way into some reps.

----True freshman Robbie Bell has come in and will be one of the backup centers for the Cardinals. With Hughley manning the position, it's likely that Bell will be able to redshirt - which is what the staff wants to do with him.

----Junior college transfer Linwood Foy is better than anticipated. He's a super athlete in a big man's body and will see the field.

----Matt Cohen is a fifth-year transfer from Lehigh. He's a 6-foot-6, 285-pound lineman who will wear No. 73.

----James DeMatto, a true freshman from Kell, Ga., has quit the team.


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