LOUISVILLE, Ky. --- Finding five starters on the offensive line is one of Charlie Strong's priorities during training camp. After all, protecting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is kind of a big deal, especially after taking some shots and playing injured towards the end of last season.
"Progress has been a little slow honestly," said UofL offensive line coach Dave Borbely after Monday's practice, the 6th practice thus far for the Cardinals. "We're a long way away from where we need to be."
Right tackle is the most open competition on the O-line right now, with redshirt sophomore Ryan Mack battling true sophomore Abraham "Nacho" Garcia. Local media have dubbed it the "Mack & Cheese" competition.
Monday, Mack seemed to be leading that competition, with Garcia unavailable to the media due to an undisclosed injury.
Garcia left the practice field with his left arm in a sling.
"It's right there. You got to go grab it," said Mack about the competition, and with Garcia sidelined for at least some of practice, he recognized that time as a chance to stand out.
"I got to take this opportunity, can't let it slip away," said Mack. "If he's down, I'm the next man up anyway. I got to go take it right now."
"For both of those kids, every rep they can get is key," said Borbely. "Ryan's been here a year longer. So, he's got a little more experience under his belt. Going against our defense, particularly, because we have some really good players over there. Every snap (Mack or Garcia) can get is really critical."
Therefore, advantage Ryan Mack, with Garcia banged up Monday. Regardless, the clock is ticking for the offensive line to solidify starters.
"I would say by the middle of next week for sure, because you're right. We've had a group working together," said Borbely about when starters will be chosen. "We've ruled a few guys in and out."
Right tackle is the question (if at all now, with Garcia hurt). It would be a surprise if these players did not make the 1st-team, at this point - Jamon Brown (left tackle), John Miller (left guard), Jake Smith (center), and Kamran Joyer (right guard)
Borbely and Mack said Saturday's scrimmage will likely determine final decisions on a 1st-team O-line. We'll also get a chance to see who's with the 1st-team at Louisville's open fan day practice Sunday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium (time TBD).
"I'm hoping that they'll make the decision for me," said Borbely, "and guys will begin to separate themselves."