Re-tooling OL Cards' No. 1 spring priority

When spring practice begins Wednesday at Louisville, piecing together a quality offensive line will be the Cardinals top priority. Though the Cardinals must replace three starters, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is excited to see how his young, but talented offensive linemen respond to the challenge.

The number one priority for the Louisville football team this spring will be piecing together an offensive line that can keep quarterback Brian Brohm off the turf, and open holes for all-star running back Michael Bush next season.

The Cardinals lost three starters from what arguably was the top offensive line in school history last year. First team all-Big East selections Jason Spitz and Travis Leffew have both departed, creating significant voids to fill up front. Tackle Jeremy Darveau also graduated.

"I think there's going to be great competition up front this spring," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said Monday. "The key is getting them in the right positions. That's the thing we're probably the most concerned with going into spring."

Brohm, who will spend the spring rehabilitating his knee after off-season surgery, is looking forward to watching the developments during the next few weeks up front.

"It's going to be very interesting to watch this spring," said Brohm. "It's hard to replace Jason Spitz and Travis Leffew, but I think we've got some guys who can take those spots."

Petrino welcomes back two starters, center Eric Wood and guard Kurt Quarterman. The Cardinals also expect Renardo Foster, a former starter who injured a knee during the 2004 season, to return to the lineup at tackle.

Wood started all 12 games as a redshirt freshman, and the 6-4, 296-pound sophomore appears ready to assume a leadership role on the line this spring.

"He's the leader of the group," Petrino said. "It's going to be very hard for anyone to beat him out at center this spring."

Foster and junior college transfer Marcus Gordon will compete for one tackle position. Gordon, a 6-6, 316-pound junior, redshirted last season after transferring from Highland (KS) C.C.

"Renardo will go full speed Wednesday," Petrino said. "He's almost back to just about 100 percent. Before his injury, he ran a 4.9 forty, and ran a 5.1 the other day. He's working on his flexibility now."

"Marcus has a lot of athletic ability," added Petrino.

Marcel Benson and Breno Giacomini will compete for the weak tackle position. Benson, a 6-6, 318-pound junior college transfer from San Diego, California, might have the upper hand in the race to replace Travis Leffew.

"Marcel traveled to the away games last year, and took all the reps with the 2's," explained Petrino. "He does a nice job in pass protection, and has great lower body strength. He only needs to improve his upper body strength."

Giacomini played tight end the past two seasons, and will make the transition to tackle this spring.

"Breno has grown into a tackle over the winter," Petrino said. "He's up over 290 pounds right now."

George Bussy and Danny Barlow will battle for Spitz' old position at guard. Bussy, whom Petrino tabbed as a player to watch closely this spring, came to U of L as a walk-on after a standout career at Louisville Western High. He stepped in last year for Jeremy Darveau, and acquitted himself very well.

"I'm very high on him," Petrino said. "He can play tackle, but I would like to see him play guard because he's so quick and athletic."

Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye said he expects big things from the 6-2, 280-pound Bussy.

"I can see it in him that he wants it bad," Okoye said. "He might even be better than the (players we lost)."

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