Kobe Baynes – Offensive guard
Texas State, Duke, Syracuse, Florida State, Kansas, Boston College, and Louisville. Aside from being the nightmare of lists, that group of schools all have one thing in common that defines their offenses this season: the inability to protect the quarterback.
There’s been a lot of talk over the last few days about whether or not Louisville football will have to make a change at the quarterback position at some point this season. Regardless of your stance on Malik Cunningham and if you believe he’s the guy to help things get turned around, one thing is undeniable; no quarterback can succeed as long as the offensive line continues to struggle.
Whether it’s Jawon Pass, Evan Conley, Tee Webb, Scott Satterfield, Teddy Bridgewater, Justin Burke, or any other Louisville quarterback of the past or present, no one is going to be able to overcome having only seconds to diagnose a defense and find a receiver before pursued by opposing pass rushers. They just aren’t. No matter how good your quarterback is, bad offensive line play can derail it all.
So back to that list.
Through the early stages of the season, seven schools across the country have given up a total of 14 or more sacks. That’s not the group you want to find yourself with, especially when you have one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
Louisville has primarily played six offensive linemen this season, including two new starters in tackles Adonis Boone and Renato Brown, as well as newcomer Cam DeGeorge who has played at both guard and tackle. They have been average to okay, but nothing more; typically struggling to keep defensive lines at bay leading to sacks, turnovers, errant throws, and three and outs.
Pass rushers from Western Kentucky, Miami, Pittsburgh, and even Georgia Tech have all had luck getting past Louisville’s line, and it’s led to 14 sacks and countless other hits. Those hits seemingly have thrown Cunningham out of rhythm.
It’s time for change on the offensive line. Heading into the game with Georgia Tech, I wrote that it was time for Louisville to make changes upfront after two straight weeks of pass rush after pass rush getting to Cunningham and stunting the Louisville offense. Now after what we saw against the Yellow Jackets I’m even more convinced that the first thing that has to be addressed for Louisville is the o-line.
Enter Kobe Baynes, a name that offensive coordinator and o-line coach Dwyane Ledford dropped last week when talking to the local media ahead of Georgia Tech. At 6’4, 305 pounds, Baynes possesses good size, speed, and athleticism, and even better power; something Louisville desperately needs right now.
No one single player on the Cards’ line has been so visibly awful that it’s worth yanking them right then and there, but that doesn’t mean changes shouldn’t be made. 14 sacks is a lot through four games and no matter how many excuses you come up with or reasons why they happened, things can’t continue at that pace.
Building quality depth and getting a look at what else you have is crucial, and if Ledford is as high on Baynes as he and others have said, now is the time to figure that out. Sure, playing against a stout defensive line is one hell of a “baptism by fire,” but when you have the physical traits and ability to play at the level Baynes does, maybe UofL can roll with it.