The Louisville Cardinals have set the bar of expectations extremely high for 2013 following a strong run in 2012 that resulted in a huge upset win over the Florida Gators in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The stage is set for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to make a Heisman Trophy run and the Cardinals can leave the Big East on top. But first, they will have to find some answer for their offensive line this spring.
Much of the Cardinals’ success was keyed by their ability to keep Bridgewater upright last season. It will be a big key again in 2013, but there will have to be some new faces stepping up in big places. Charlie Strong has the benefit of returning three starters off of last year’s line in left guard John Miller, right guard Jake Smith and right tackle Jamon Brown, but loses two major contributors from last year in Alex Kupper and Mario Benavides.
Kupper held down the blind side at left tackle for the Cardinals while Benavides led the line as center and was named a finalist for the Rimington Award. They leave some massive shoes to fill next fall, but their replacements will be key to maintaining the success Louisville has cultivated over the last couple of seasons.
Kameron Joyer is the leading candidate to take over at center and Abraham “Nacho” Garcia has the inside track to take over at left tackle. They will have a lot of responsibility as they make the move into the starting lineup put onto their shoulders, as they take over in two of the most critical positions on the offensive line. The experience around them will have to pull them along quickly this spring to keep the Louisville offense from skipping a beat.
The talent and experience are in place for Louisville to make another run to a BCS bowl game, but the ability of their new offensive linemen to step up will go a long way in determining if they are able to capitalize on that potential.