Josh Cardiello leading as Mocs' O-line progresses

UTC offensive line coach Nick Hennessey talks with senior Josh Cardiello during spring practice.

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.

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"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 Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.