The Edge: In the trenches

Kentucky's biggest question on offense - an offensive line that replaces three starters - will match up against Louisville's biggest question mark on defense - an undersized, and inexperienced defensive line. Who has the edge?

UK O-Line v. UofL D-Line:

There has been a lot of discussion about the offensive line for UK. They've lost Zipp Duncan, Christian Johnson, Jorge Gonzalez, and Justin Jefferies from 2009 and the returning starters are Stuart Hines at RG and Brad Durham at RT.

Most of the replacements are obvious for UK and while there is reason to be nervous from a personnel standpoint, there is not a reason to be nervous from a coaching standpoint.

Mike Summers was hired as the offensive line coach and in my opinion is the best offensive line coach in the country (please prove me wrong Dave Borbley). Maybe it's nostalgia, or maybe it's just the mean offensive lines, and polished offensive linemen that continually came out of UofL during the Petrino era.

UofL's defensive line has severly disappointed since the beginning of 2007. Getting pressure has been a major topic of discussion and the lack of sacks the past three seasons has been abysmal. In my opinion, turnovers start with pressure. It hurries the offense and forces mistakes, without pressure turnovers don't happen. Turnovers are a big part of winning football games.

For 2010 there is a lot of promise, but a lot of doubt, and not a lot of size. Unfortunately, UofL will have to rely on individuals who have not met expectations, have been developing, or newcomers. Earlier in camp Charlie Strong said that Greg Scruggs is entrenched at the starting defensive tackle position. Having the former defensive end now starting at defensive tackle has been drawing such high praise from the coaching staff is either A) Really Good OR B) Really Not So Good. We'll find out if Scruggs has truly developed and found his place on the gridiron after starting all 12 games in 2009 at defensive end.

The opposite tackle position for UofL, the Nose Guard, was apparently open for competition and it would be hard to peg a starter. The players mentioned are Tim High, Roy Philon, Randy Salmon. Also Brandon Dunn has drawn praise from coaches as well. Bottom line you'll need 5 defensive tackles during a 12 game season at the very minimum. Honestly, none of these guys have performed at this level - at this position - so the interior defensive line is the most obvious place for offenses to attack. Clint Hurtt coupled with Charlie Strong do seem up to the task of getting the players ready, and knowing your weakness is a huge step in masking it.

At defensive end, the news is a little better. I think we'll see both Malcolm's (Tatum and Mitchell) playing quite a bit, along with Rodney "Big Pretty" Gnat finally letting his star shine. Will Savoy also cannot be forgotten, and BJ Butler will probably see action in pass rush situations initially with a growing role as the season goes on.

Tatum took about 5-6 games to catch on last year, and Mitchell is a big secret from what I can tell. Still you'll need to have 4-5 defensive ends over the course of the year. Defensive line depth is so important in college football and unfortunately UofL doesn't have a lot of proven talent (well none really) at the defensive line position. If this unit plays well this year Clint Hurtt should probably win praise.

Because depth is an issue across the defensive line, it makes Pat Moorer that much more important. Conditioning guys to play four quarters and conditioning guys to not get injured is going to play a huge role in the success of this unit. Also, size is not the only variable to the defensive line. I've always felt footwork and the proper use of leverage helped players much more than 30-40 lbs. Donovan Arp was a good example of that. Arp played at UofL around 270 and was always disruptive and even played in the NFL for a while. Obviously having size helps but it doesn't mean you can't be productive without it.

The Edge: Kentucky. Isn't this interesting? UK's biggest question mark matching up against UofL's biggest question mark. I rate UK's O-line above the UofL D-line simply because of past performance. UofL's defensive line is undersized and has consistently under-performed over the past three seasons. Meanwhile, the UK offensive line has thrived and while they are replacing three starters the guys stepping in have been in the program and are now under the tutelage of Mike Summers.

UofL O-Line v. UK D-Line

The UofL offensive line has been dubbed one of the strongest units if not the strongest unit returning in 2010 for the Cardinals. Dave Borbley steps in to replace Brent Myers, who largely underperformed in developing players while at UofL. Borbley comes in with a great reputation and it will be interesting to see how the offensive line has progressed in terms of discipline in regards to penalties.


Byron Stingily leads an offensive line that Charlie Strong believes is the strength of the team.

Also, I expect Mike Sanford's offense to require quite a bit more movement from the offensive linemen than what Louisville fans are used to. Expect a lot of moving pockets, pulling guards, and offensive linemen getting downfield opening up holes.

Byron Stingily has retained his position at LT from a year before when he made 11 starts. At times, Stingily seemed to make the "mental error" particularly pre-snap. If you remember last year Greg Tomczyk started the first four games at RT, but Jeff Adams finished up the remaining eight. Tomczyk will start, but I would say either would be adequate and the back-up would likely shore up both tackles positions in the two deep if injury occurred.

Mark Wetterer started 11 games at RG last season. Wetterer has been solid at this position and has drawn some praise from the coaching staff. At LG it gets a little more tricky as UofL will be replacing Abdul Kuyateh. While losing Kuyateh won't be hard, choosing his replacement might be. Conrad Thomas, who has moved up the chart under Strong's staff, will start at RG.

Mario Benavides actually was the most reliable offensive lineman for UofL last year in terms of health and making starts. Benavides started every game for UofL last year and was the only offensive lineman to do so. That said, Benavides made a lot of freshman mistakes but also showed a lot of promise. Benavides will need to continue his progression and get downfield and take on linebackers more often in this offense. Also, it will be interesting to see how much UofL operates out of the shotgun. Personally I believe the majority of our plays will require a shotgun snap, so that part of Benavides' game needs to be on par and I think it will be.

For UK, their defensive line loses Corey Peters, which is quite a big loss. The Atlanta Falcon was a major presence inside for UK last season. However, Peters is the only departure from last year's 2 deep and DeQuin Evans returns after leading the team in sacks (6).

Ricky Lumpkin has quite a bit of experience playing inside and we all know that Taylor Wyndham can lay the wood (Tebow), but Wyndham will probably find himself with the second unit as Donte Rumph has finally found his way to campus and might be UK's next dominant defensive lineman. I have felt in the past that the linebackers were meant to make plays in the UK defense, but that also could have been by design since the UK DTs have been so good for the past 3-4 years that they were constantly demanding double teams.

Overall, I think UofL's offensive line may rate a slight edge over UK's defensive line. Although, if the UofL players do not adjust to the new responsibilities in the new offense it may not matter. This match-up will have a lot of my attention on game day.

The Edge: Louisville. Louisville's offensive line brings back a lot of starts and experience and while the Wildcat's defensive line is not sub-standard I think the UofL offensive line will get the best of them on gameday.

Part Three of a five-part breakdown of the Governor's Cup game.


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