Monday, February 22, 2010

Spring Practice Preview: Offensive Line


LSU's offensive struggles in 2009 can easily be traced back to the poor play of the offensive line.  More than any other position on the team, the big uglies have a lot to prove in 2010.  LSU must replace four year starter Ciron Black and three year starter Lyle Hitt.  While that's a lot of experience to replace, the honest truth is that both guys underachieved in a big way in 2009. 

It will be very interesting to see how the line shapes up when spring practice begins.  A lot of people have speculated as to who will play where, but there's nothing concrete at this point.  Here are the candidates for serious playing time:

Joseph Barksdale (pictured) has started at right tackle for LSU for two years now.  He was probably LSU's best offensive lineman in 2009.   With the left tackle position open, Barksdale is a candidate to make the move to the left side to protect the blind side of Jordan Jefferson.  But the coaches might leave Barksdale on the right side where he's more comfortable.  He's assured to start at one of the tackle spots, but it's just a question of which one.  Barksdale will likely compete for some All-SEC honors in 2010. 

Junior Josh Dworacyzk played left guard last season.  Dworacyzk has great feet and is built more like a tackle at 6'6" 285 pounds.  He has the quickness to handle the speedy defensive ends that are often seen in the SEC.  He's a candidate to move outside and play one of the tackle spots, but he could also stay put at left guard.  I expect that we'll see a heavier, stronger player by the time fall camp rolls around. 

Junior T-Bob Hebert won the starting center position last year after a battle in fall camp with P.J. Lonergan, who is now a sophomore.  Hebert struggled through his first season as a starter.  Hebert injured his knee in 2007 and was out of action for most of the offseason.  That limited his ability to hit the weights and work out his legs like an offensive lineman should.  That, along with his inexperience, probably contributed to his sub-standard play in 2009.   Lonergan received a good bit of playing time last year and excelled.  His performance last year has many speculating that he may beat out Hebert for the job this season.  One reason why Hebert won the job last year is his ability to read the defense at the line of scrimmage, so that's another factor to consider.  If Lonergan does not win the job at center, he's a strong candidate to win one of the positions at offensive guard. 

Sophomore Alex Hurst is a massive offensive guard who performed very well as a backup in 2008.  Hurst is 6'6" 320 pounds and presents a much bigger body than the two guards who played last year (Hitt and Dworacyzk).  I personally expect Hurst to be one of LSU's starting guards in 2010. 

Junior Will Blackwell is another player who logged some game experience as a backup guard last season, and he also played well in relief.  Most notably, he opened the hole which spring Russell Shepard on his long touchdown run against Auburn.  He's a very tough, very strong guy and will be in the mix to win a starting job at guard. 

Junior Greg Shaw is a backup offensive tackle who has impressed the coaches but has only seen mop up duty thus far in his career.  If Josh Dworacyzk remains at guard, then Shaw will be very much in the mix to start at one of the tackle positions.  At 6'5" 300 pounds, Shaw has a lean frame to play tackle. 

Redshirt freshman Chris Faulk is another guy who will be competing for a starting position, and he could compete at either tackle or guard.  Faulk was recruited as a tackle, but he could certainly play guard.  Early reports are that Faulk was impressive during his redshirt season, but he'll be competing against guys who have been in the program longer than him. 

The eight guys discussed above will be the main guys who compete for starting jobs and who will serve as primary backups.  A number of other younger guys will also be trying to make a name for themselves this spring. 

Sophomores Clay Spencer and Cordian Hagans will be competing at offensive guard along with redshirt freshmen Stavion Lowe and Josh Williford.  Lowe can play either guard or tackle while I've heard some real encouraging things about Williford. 

Sophomore Thomas Parsons moved from offensive line to help out at fullback last season.  For a guy who is 6'5" and nearly 300 pounds, Parsons moves awfully well.  It will be interesting to see if Parsons is still working at fullback this spring or whether he's back with the offensive line.   

Sophomore Matt Branch and true freshman Evan Washington will be competing at tackle. 

With so many positions up for grabs this spring, I'm not going to attempt a depth chart at this point.  We should have a pretty good idea of where guys will be playing after the first week of practice. 


LSU offered St. Pauls high school defensive tackle Mickey Johnson a scholarship on Monday.  I've got Johnson ranked as the #2 defensive tackle and the #11 overall player in the state of Louisiana.  He would be a great addition to LSU's class.  He also has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Tennessee.


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