Josh Cardiello is still trying to figure out the names of all of his new teammates - especially his fellow offensive linemen.
But the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior does know this: His unit is coming along after the first week of practice.
Only two players with starting experience on the offensive line returned for the Mocs this year. During the first preseason practice last Monday, it looked like it. Since then, the line has slowly started to look a little bit better.
Names like Levin, Revis and Townson are being replaced by senior Luke Schultheiss - a Louisville transfer - junior Branden Parker, sophomores Brian Marshall and Tyler Martin plus redshirt freshman Cole Strange. The unit still has a long way to go in the eyes of many, but by seeing all the different wrinkles UTC's defense is throwing at it each day, coaches believe the offensive line will get there.
Mocs, SoCon preview stories
- Shelton Felton's outside linebackers 'competing' well for UTC
- Josh Cardiello leading as Mocs' O-line progresses
- Competition fierce for UTC defensive backs
- Alejandro Bennifield shows leadership amid Mocs tensions
- SoCon Preview: Favored Wofford Terriers hope to maintain 'picked seventh' approach
- Alumnus Chris Cook making an impact now as UTC assistant coach
- SoCon Preview: Western Carolina
- Mocs better at receiver with additions
- VMI plans to lean more toward running this year
- Defense puts the heat on offense in UTC's opening practice [photos]
- Quarterback 'Duck' expects more balance in Samford offense
- Five questions for the Mocs as preseason practice starts
- Mocs lack experience on special teams
- Mercer confident about new season
- Key for UTC linebackers is their adjustment to 3-4 scheme
- Cleveland's Austin Herink clear leader for 'more mature' ETSU team
- Strong defensive line still a UTC trademark
- The Citadel keeping expectations high despite key losses
- UTC to offer VIP tents for fans at Finley Stadium
- UTC offensive line must gain experience
- Mocs picked fourth with league-high 10 preseason All-SoCon players
- Commissioner John Iamarino sees 'quality,' healthy parity in SoCon football
- Mocs have mixture of experience, transfers, youth at receiver
- UTC football picked fourth in SoCon preseason poll
- Richardre Bagley, Darrell Bridges experienced running backs for Mocs
- UTC not likely to be picked No. 1 again today
- UTC quarterback Alejandro Bennifield solid, but questions loom behind starter
"It's all about them buying in," offensive line coach Nick Hennessey said after Saturday's practice. "They're buying in to the way we do things, the way we work, the way we push. We want five guys that are going to go out there and fight for 60 minutes, and they're buying in to that attitude.
"The first day we didn't have a lot of missed assignments or technique issues - we just didn't fully buy in to working our (butts) off. We've been doing that now we still have the same amount of mistakes as we had day one, so we need to fix those, but at least we're playing hard every snap."
With so many of the linemen Cardiello had befriended no longer on the team, Hennessey wasn't sure the 6-foot-3, 305-pounder would fully buy in to the role of being a leader. That question was answered in the first five days of practice, so much that Hennessey and first-year Mocs coach Tom Arth had a conversation about how Cardiello's steps to become a vocal leader have been positively affecting the line.
"We didn't have a great first day of practice, but the second day I tried to pick it up and lead by example and let those guys follow by finishing to the ball and finishing blocks," Cardiello said. "I'm just trying to be a good example for the young guys. It's tough sometimes, but they're a good group of guys that want to learn, and we've got better as camp's gone on and I don't think we'll get anything but better.
"That kind of makes it easier to get everyone to buy in instead of a couple of people."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.