Football is the ultimate team game. With 11 players on offense, 11 on defense, a punter, kicker and holder it takes at least 25 efficient, highly-trained and conditioned athletes on the field to win games.
But regardless of the abilities of the other 24 the team with the most skilled quarterback generally has the greatest chance to win.
And, as all football fans know, without a good offensive line even the best quarterback can't lead the team to victory. It seems that every season Cardinal fans are most concerned about the offensive line.
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The 2012 season is no different. With a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores there is the usual trepidation among the faithful anxious for the fall season to arrive. If sheer numbers are an indication, the 2012 offensive line should be just fine.
The roster includes 19 linemen with the movement of Hunter Stout to the defensive line. That's 18 percent of the total roster of 105 players. Fourteen linemen are on campus already and five incoming freshmen are due to arrive this summer to be ready for fall practice. Unlike last season when true freshman John Miller was thrown into action all the 2012 newcomers should get a year of redshirt to prepare for the rigors of college football in the weight room.
Thankfully for the Cards the team looks well-stocked with experienced and battle-tested veterans. Seniors Mario Benavides and Alex Kupper and junior Kamran Joyer are joined by a host of true freshman, redshirt freshmen and sophomores.
The starters barring injury will probably be the two seniors joined by three sophomores, all with a year under their belts. Most back-ups will have a small "r" next to their name indicating they are redshirt freshman, which looks good for the future but means if there are significant injuries the Cards offensive line will be very young as the season progresses.
Benavides will begin his fourth season as starting center for the Cards. For the third consecutive year Benavides has been named to the Rimington Trophy Watch list. The trophy is named after former Nebraska and Cincinnati Bengal center Dave Rimington considered the greatest college lineman of all time and is awarded to the center on the most Division I All-American teams. Benavides' pre-season injury in 2012 stymied the cohesion of the offensive line as he struggled to return to 100% and never did seem to regain his previous form. His backup will be redshirt freshman Mike Romano.
Kupper started every game last season and was season-long the healthiest person on the line. He will most likely start at the "blind side" tackle and, if the need arises, replace Benavides as he did last season in case of injury. He has played center, guard and tackle during his career. Next to Kupper at left guard will be sophomore John Miller who, after starting against Murray, missed several games due to injury in 2011. Backing up Kupper will be sophomore Chris Acosta and redshirt freshman Aaron Epps and behind Miller will be experienced junior, Joyer.
On the right side will be sophomore Jake Smith who did the improbable last season, starting every game as a redshirt freshman. At the end of the year he was named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of American; the first player in school history to be named to the FWAA freshman team. Another year of strength and conditioning should do wonders for Smith.