Just about every time I wrote a preview piece on the Louisville football offense or on the quarterback specifically, I always made prefaced each article by saying success was going to start with the offensive line.
Louisville football has been fortunate enough to have a lot of great quarterbacks over the last decade, but they haven’t always been so lucky to have a great offensive line. Just as we’ve seen with other teams in the past, offensive lines that aren’t up to par can 100 percent limit or stop a dynamic offense.
If Dwayne Ledford isn’t careful that will continue to be the case for Louisville as it has been in two of the the first three games this season. Against Western Kentucky, the Cards offensive line graded out as the best out at the top of all teams in college football (according to PFF CFB), setting the bar high.
Against Miami and Pittsburgh, both losses, Louisville was outmanned and outphysicaled allowing the two teams to bring down quarterback Malik Cunningham 10 times with nine more quarterback hurries, while giving up another 22 tackles for loss.
Ledford acknowledged the struggles before the bye week and talked about how his group “took things personal” when watching the film against Pittsburgh and went on to mention that the energy in the meeting room transitioned well to the practice field.
Losing to Miami and Pittsburgh, two top 25 teams and two teams widely regarded as competitors in the ACC, is no reason to believe that the season is over. Those games could’ve gone completely different with one or two plays ending with different outcomes, despite the struggles from the offensive line.
Against Georgia Tech, Ledford confirmed he plans to continue using the same six man rotation that he’s used in each of the last three weeks – which may or may not fill you with a ton confidence. However, he did mention that while the program is trying to build depth they do believe that newcomers like Trevor Reid and Kobe Baynes have proven that they are near a point where they can get in the mix.
A shortened offseason, big losses from last year, and a tough stretch of games may be the combination that was too much to overcome for this new starting group on the offensive line. That’s why Ledford giving them another week, especially coming off of a bye, makes a ton of sense.
If they allow continued pressure from all angles and give up more sacks than we may be talking about a different story where change in the rotation is a must. Hopefully going up against a team that has only accounted for six seasons through three games against Florida State, Central Florida, and Syracuse.
Last season when Louisville provided Cunningham with a clean pocket he was one of the best passers in all of college football. However so far this season that hasn’t been the case and more times than not, it’s forced him into improvising outside of the pocket which has led to bad throws on the run that end in either incompletions, interceptions, or big hits.
If Tech can produce a consistent pass rush for the first time this season against Louisville, that will tell me everything I need to know about the potential and production of the current set of pass protectors.