In 2011, LSU’s offensive line played a huge role in the team’s overall success. The offense ran the ball very successfully, and they often did so when everyone on the planet knew they were going to run the ball. The offense established an identity as a very physical, tough running team, and most of that was due to the play of the guys up front.
LSU loses three contributors but just one starter from last year’s group. From the starting unit, only left guard Will Blackwell is gone. But at the same time, Josh Dworacyzk returns after missing last year due to injury. Dworacyzk started the 2009 and 2010 seasons at left guard. So it seems like a simple plug-in with Josh D taking over for Blackwell, right?. It’s not that simple at all.
Dworacyzk comes off a knee injury and at this point, LSU does not know whether they can rely on him as an every down player in 2012. It is also unclear just how much he will participate in spring practice. If he does participate, I’m assuming it will be in a green no-contact jersey. At the same time, La’El Collins is filling in at left guard and looks ready to play. I suspect that Collins will work with the starting group throughout spring while Dworacyzk tries to re acclimate himself to playing college football. If we assume that Dworacyzk is ready to go in the fall, does he play left guard or does he fill the “6th man” role as a part time player and fill-in wherever needed? My guess is that La’El Collins is your left guard in 2012 while Josh D is the sixth man and first guy off the bench.
LSU also loses T-Bob Hebert and Greg Shaw. Both guys proved their value when coming in to play for injured players. That depth at offensive line helped LSU tremendously. Will some young guys step up and provide similar depth in 2012?
At left tackle, junior Chris Faulk (pictured above) returns for what could be his last year at LSU. Faulk really broke out in 2011 and established himself as one of the top tackles in the SEC. He will find himself on a number of pre-season All-SEC lists in the fall. He should once again provide steady, and often dominating, play on the left side of the line.
P.J. Lonergan returns for his third season as LSU’s starting center. Lonergan does not get enough credit around the conference, but he is one of the Tigers’ best offensive linemen. Finding a suitable backup to Lonergan is high on the priority list this spring. Currently, it looks like sophomore Elliot Porter will work with the second team at center. However, LSU is recruiting a junior college offensive lineman that would join the team this summer if signed. Reportedly, they like him at center, so he could potentially be a factor when the fall rolls around.
Junior Josh Williford has been a part-time starter for each of the last two seasons and looks to have the right guard spot nailed down, and the same goes for Alex Hurst at right tackle.
The big questions this spring, other than those involving Dworacyk, are how the second team will look. We will see a lot of new guys stepping up.
At guard, I expect senior Matt Branch to be on the second team. Sophomore Evan Washington is also coming back from an injury, so he may not be able to go either. If he is, then I suspect he’ll be other guard on the two deep. If not, look one of Trai Turner, Jonah Austin or Corey White, all redshirt freshmen, to be there. If/when Dworacyzk is out there, then he could go through the motions with the second team. True freshman Vadal Alexander will also look to make a move up the depth chart.
Tackle looks a bit more unsettled. Junior Chris Davenport will be one of the tackles on the second team. Your guess is as good as mine as to the other tackle on the second team. Prior to his injury, Washington practices at both tackle and guard, so he is a possibility. Trai Turner, Jonah Austin or Vadal Alexander may have to fill in right tackle. Austin seems like the most likely even though I believe LSU wants him at guard for the long term. Looking way ahead to the 2013 season, LSU will have a question mark at tackle if Chris Faulk leaves for the NFL. Assuming La’El Collins will slide outside to left tackle, who will be on the right side? Davenport is a possibility and the newcomers (Derek Edinburgh and Jerald Hawkins) may provide another option. It will be interesting to see if any of those guys get any game reps at tackle during the season to get them ready.
1. How much will Josh Dworacyk participate this spring?
2. Is Evan Washington healthy?
3. Is Elliott Porter ready to the backup center?
4. Who is the fourth tackle?
5. Of four freshmen guards, who will make a move?