Just taking a look at the past two recruiting classes, restocking the offensive and defensive lines ranks as a majority priority. In 2009, LSU took 9 total linemen, following that up with an additional 6 bodies last season. The infusion of young talent paid immediate dividends this season as RS Fr. Sam Montgomery took a starting role and fellow RS Fr. Michael Brockers assumed a top backup DT spot. RS Fr. Josh Williford started and/or played significant minutes on the offensive line, while fellow RS Fr. Chris Faulk assumed a top back-up spot and started at RT against Arkansas.
Seeing young big men contribute early on in their careers is always a great sign of future potential. After the struggles of the offensive and defensive lines in 2009, an obvious emphasis was placed on line improvement heading into the 2010 season. This production should only improve next season, with the influx of more young talented big bodies. So what do the future offensive and defensive lines look like for LSU and who are the incoming freshmen? Let's take a look after the jump.
On the Roster:
Will Blackwell, Sr.
Josh Dworacyzk, Sr.
T-Bob Hebert, Sr.
Greg Shaw, Sr.
P.J. Lonergan, Jr.
Alex Hurst, Jr.
Matt Branch, Jr.
Chris Faulk, RS So.
Josh Williford, RS So.
Evan Washington, RS. Fr (or So.... can't remember if he saw the field any)
Cameron Fordham, Fr.
Rather than devoting hundreds of words to individual break downs, I'll talk a little about this group as a whole. Blackwell and Dworacyzk will be back for their Senior campaigns, and should be exceedingly capable at the guard positions in 2011. Behind them, the top guard backup is T-Bob Hebert, who outplayed his reputation this season, and showed much improvement, as well as big-bodied Josh Williford. After them are two other talented Jr. starters, P.J. Lonergan (our best OL from 2010) and Alex Hurst, who did an excellent job at RT. Greg Shaw will remain a sound back-up tackle option. I look for Chris Faulk to take over the LT duties in 2011, but don't sleep on Evan Washington. There should be an intense battle for the LT spot in spring and summer. Matt Branch is a guy yet to make his mark on the program, and could be a likely attrition candidate come fall (pure speculation on my part). Cameron Fordham will also come on to scholarship.
La'El Collins, OT
Collins is the big fish from this class and arguably one of the top 5 players in the country at any position. He's got prototypical size and athleticism while flashing a truly nasty streak on the field. Many believe Collins can step onto the field and contribute immediately, and he may be a darkhorse candidate to win the LT job in the summer, but I don't feel he'll quite be ready for that. However, Collins should serve as a top back-up and be a common substitute as an extra lineman in big packages.
Strengths: Size, Athleticism, Tenacity
Weaknesses: Must get bigger and stronger.
Corey White, OL
White was an early commitment to this class, and one that didn't garner a tremendous amount of attention upon committing. White is a big-bodied kid (6'5, 280) whose future likely resides at guard. He's a raw, athletic prospect with good feet and explosion, though he lacks refinement. I expect White to be in line for a redshirt as he adds bulk, but he has a chance to be a stellar lineman in a couple of years.
Strengths: Natural size and athleticism
Jonah Austin, OL
Many felt that Jonah Austin was simply a backup option to Greg Robinson, but his impressive performance throughout his senior campaign may quell those doubts. Austin is a huge body (6'7, reportedly up around 345) with decent athleticism. His body certainly needs some refining, but his natural size also means he could contribute immediately. Both he and teammate Trai Turner lead the way for super stud running back Leonard Fournette this fall and proved to be a dominant duo together. Austin moves really well for a big his size, but will need to improve his knee bend before becoming a contributor.
Strengths: Natural size, and strength
Weaknesses: Has he peaked athletically? Technique... Knee Bend, Punch
Trai Turner, OL
Austin's teammate, Turner was the first commit of the duo. While Turner won't measure as high on the tape, he's got an even thicker, bear-like build. Watching him on tape, he absolutely mauls his opponents, and shows great athleticism for a big, big man. He's still raw and needs to refine his body, but the potential upside is limitless if he dedicates himself to his craft.
Strengths: Power, Athleticism, Size, Aggression, Punch
All in all, this is an exceptional crop of OL recruits that should keep our front five stocked for many years ahead. Now let's turn our eye to the defensive line.
On the Roster
Ken Adams, Sr.
Lavar Edwards, RS Jr.
Chancey Aghayere, Jr.
Josh Downs, Jr.
Sam Montgomery, RS. So.
Michael Brockers, RS So.
Chris Davenport, RS So.
Bennie Logan, RS So.
Barkevious Mingo, RS So.
Justin Maclin, So.
Jordan Allen, RS Fr.
Ego Ferguson, RS Fr.
The defensive line is one position I expect a lot of shifting for in 2011. LSU loses two starters at DT but increase the overall depth of the position. I suspect guys like Ego Ferguson and Jordan Allen may get a look at the DT spots, while Chris Davenport may finally make the switch to OL. Brockers is virtually locked in as one new DT starter, but who will play alongside him? Edwards played well enough this season to potentially lock down a starting spot and if Sam Montgomery can come back to full health, he should have a spot as well. Overall, there's tremendous depth and experience in this crew. Look at all the Sophomores!
Anthony "Freak" Johnson, DT
Freak's nickname speaks for itself, and it's well known by now that he looks like a 45 year old man... as a 17-year-old. Freak got a jump start on the competition when he enrolled at the beginning of the month, something which only bolsters his chances for nabbing the open DT spot by game one. Physically, he's ready, standing at 6'3, 295 pounds, and his superb quickness and strength enabled him to dominate the HS game to the tune of becoming the all-time leader in sacks. Johnson will certainly need to adjust to the collegiate game, but expect to see him on the field in 2011... maybe even as a starter.
Weaknesses: Nothing (Sorry had to do it)
Mickey Johnson, DT
Mickey is the latest addition to the 2011 and a fine one at that. He's short, stocky DT in the mold of Marlon Favorite, but possessing loads more power. The HS state Powerlifting champion throws around impressive numbers in the weight room and has the ability to physically dominate his opponents. Mickey will need to refine his technique and is likely headed for a RS in 2011 (though the question marks at the position do leave open the possibility he could play right away). He's got the strength to step in immediately. The question with him will be focus and dedication. If he can adapt the relentless effort of a player like Freak, Mickey could be a very sound player for LSU.
Strengths: Power, Strength, Quickness
Weaknesses: Size, Effort
Quentin Thomas, DT/DE
Thomas is the mystery man for the DL in this class. He sat out his senior football season for disciplinary reasons and some believe that casts doubt on his future at LSU. However, he recently visited campus and promised to be here in the fall. Now... in what capacity? Thomas seems to be a likely grey shirt candidate. Not much is known about his playing ability. His father played in the NFL (I believe), and he's a naturally big, athletic kid. However, he's extremely raw and will need to be tremendously refined before taking a step onto the field for LSU. I look for Thomas to take a greyshirt in 2011 and perhaps even redshirt in 2012 to further develop his game.
Jermauria Rasco, DE
Rasco is a studly Evangel DE who seems to have gotten an unfair shake by recruiting services. His 4-star rating is respectable, but after a week of dominant practices at the A.A. Bowl, ranking him outside of the top 150 seems a bit absurd. Rasco brings a lot to the table, including a well-rounded skill set as both a pass rusher and run defender. At 6'3, 250 pounds, he has the size to step onto the field immediately. The LSU camp feels extremely confident about landing his pledge... expect good news come NSD.
Timmy Jernigan, DT
Ahh, the last big fish in the 2011 class. Jernigan is the Florida DT may would consider second only to Freak in terms of ability. He flashed the ability to flat out dominate at the AA Bowl. Brick Haley and Les Miles have done a tremendous job of developing their relationship with Jernigan and Freak Johnson himself has formed a tight friendship with him. However, I do not expect Jernigan to pick LSU on signing day. If he does, however, Brick Haley will get to hang another impressive skin on the wall.