Fortunately for Kragthorpe and offensive line coach Brent Myers, Louisville has junior center Eric Wood, an All-American candidate, to build around. Tackle George Bussey and guard Danny Barlow also return to anchor the left side of the line.
On the right side, seniors Breno Giacomini and Marcel Benson are currently running with the first string at tackle and guard, respectively. Both have great size (Giacomini is 6-7, 330, Benson 6-6, 310) and plenty of game experience. How those two blend with Wood, Bussey and Barlow will be a key focus throughout spring practice.
"It's coming along real well," said Wood of the offensive lines progress this spring. "They (Benson and Giacomini) have game experience and it's not like they're just hopping in there out of the blue. Marcel hopped in all last year and Breno's been on the field for three years now. So they're comfortable out there and we're comfortable with them in there."
Besides developing chemistry with the two new starters, Wood and his O-Line mates are also making the adjustment to Myers new blocking schemes and techniques. That adjustment, according to Wood, is a major focus this spring.
"For me personally, I think picking up the new techniques that we're being taught – they're a little different than coach Summers – and it'll take through spring ball to get used to them. But by fall camp it won't be anything that will be hard to handle," Wood said.
Though the project starters along of the offensive front appear solid, developing depth this spring will be crucial to success on the field next season. Mike Donoghue, a 6-2, 300 pound sophomore, could push either Benson or Barlow for a starting job. Beyond Donoghue, though, Myers is dealing with a group long on talent and size and short on game experience.
"I think we've got a lot depth," Wood said. "We've got a lot of young guys who need to come along a little bit more, but we've got a couple of key backups who can back up a lot of positions on the offensive line. Even the starters aren't set in stone so the competition is great for the offensive line."
Wood pointed to Donoghue and redshirt freshman Josh Byrom as reserves to keep an eye on this spring.
"Mike Donoghue is definitely looking impressive out here and he may crack the starting lineup before spring ball is over," Wood said. "Josh Byrom coming off his greyshirt is also looking real good. Other than that everyone else is kind of coming along, but those two are definitely sticking out."
During the first week of spring practice, it's clear Kragthorpe and his staff want to find players they can count next season. That's why practice has been as physical as it has since the pads went on Sunday. That approach suits Wood just fine.
"It's great coming out here hitting and going live tackle and live cutting," Wood said. "It's a lot of fun coming out here. This gives the new coaching staff a chance to see who can come out and play when it's with live bullets. If we were out here doing fundamentals, you don't know if someone can handle the pressure. This way the coaches can try to separate people early."
Since cracking the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman two years ago, Wood has helped the Louisville offense rank among the nation's best while winning 21 of 25 games in the process. The experienced Wood expects the Cardinals to continue their winning ways next season, even with two new starters on the offensive front.
"We just want to get back to a BCS bowl," Wood said. "Around here we're about winning games. Our coach who left won a lot of ball games around here and we've got a coach who came in that has also won a lot of games. We think we'll get back on top like last year."
With Eric Wood returning to anchor things up front, another Big East title is a distinct possibility.