Fall Camp Position Preview: What's the Deal with LSU's Offensive Line?

In the past 27 games, LSU has topped the 200-yard mark in team rushing 11 times. Over the same stretch, the Tiger passing game has only topped that number nine times. If that's not a testament to the job LSU's offensive line has done the last two seasons, I'm not sure what is.

Four starters return from the 2011 unit, five if you want to count would've-been starter Josh Dworaczyk, who missed the season with a knee injury. With a pair of potential All-American tackles in Chris Faulk and Alex Hurst, plus center P.J. Lonergan, guards Josh Williford and La'El Collins, line coach Greg Studrawa has an established top six for the offensive front for the second season in a row.

Tackles:

Roster Information

Height/Weight

2011 Season

No. 72 Senior Alex Hurst

6'6, 331

Started all 14 games, named first-team All-SEC (Coaches)

76 Junior Chris Faulk

6'6, 323

14 appearances, 13 starts, named second-team All-SEC (Assoc. Press)

73 Junior Chris Davenport

6'4, 330

10 appearances, no starts

75 Sophomore Evan Washington

6'5, 324

No appearances

78 Freshman Vadal Alexander

6'6, 350

Four-star recruit

71 Freshman Jonah Austin

6'6, 329

Redshirted

Guards:

68 Senior Josh Dworaczyk

6'6, 300

Missed season with knee injury, received medical hardship (6th year)

74 Junior Josh Williford

6'7, 322

11 appearances, 8 starts

70 Sophomore La'El Collins

6'5, 321

7 appearances, no starts, named Freshman All-American (CBSsports.com)

Centers:

64 Senior P.J. Lonergan

6'4, 305

12 appearances, 11 starts

61 Junior Ben Domingue

6'3, 270

5 appearances, no starts

55 Sophomore Elliot Porter

6'4, 300

Redshirted (Transfer from Kentucky)

Miscellaneous OL (positions unknown/undetermined):

56 Freshman Trai Turner

6'2, 306

Redshirted

66 Freshman Derek Edinburgh

6'7, 316

Four-star recruit

65 Freshman Jerald Hawkins

6'6, 300

Four-star recruit

So what's the deal? Fourteen scholarship linemen, ten of which are former four-star (or better) recruits -- Stud has both quantity and quality, and now all he has to do is prepare a two-deep to play. The starting five is most likely set, with an additional sixth swing player, a la T-Bob Hebert a year ago. Beyond that, the key for this unit is to prepare the young and untested players to step in in case of injury.

As we said, Faulk and Hurst have the bookend spots on lockdown. Both are fantastic fulcrums for the Tiger rushing attack, and Faulk has the athleticism to project as a potential first-round draft choice. Hurst could stand to improve in pass-protection, but is vicious against the run. His problem in 2011 was that when it rained, it poured. His struggles versus the better pass-rushers were noteworthy, and might ultimately mean his professional future is at guard. Behind them, Chris Davenport is the most experienced reserve, but Vadal Alexander and Jonah Austin appear to be the future. Alexander in particular, played well enough the past spring to move over to the left tackle spot despite playing guard at Buford High School in Georgia a year ago.

At guard, Williford and Collins have been working with the first-team, while Dworaczyk projects in the T-Bob role as a potential fill-in at either guard spot or maybe even tackle. With 23 starts under his belt, there are certainly worse candidates for the proverbial sixth-man than a sixth-year senior. Additionally, having Dworaczyk on the sidelines helped ease Stud's transition to the offensive coordinator booth -- in-game adjustments and coaching can sometimes suffer when there's distance between an OL coach and his players. With an experienced and popular team leader around to translate, that didn't happen in 2011, and it's doubtful that'll change this year. Williford has bounced in and out of the starting lineup the last two years, but came into his own last season with eight starts in the final nine games. He's a big, powerful mauler, but his potential may still pale in comparison to Collins. The thought of this former five-star left tackle recruit pullin' around the bend on a power-O could be a very scary thought for SEC defenses.

Center Lonergan is in year three in the lineup, and has gotten some early preseason love with a spot on the Rimington Award watch list. But he battled injuries in 2011, missing two games and parts of a third, and much like Hurst, when he struggled, he struggled big. With consistency and health at question, developing depth here is crucial. Dworaczyk can play any other position on the Tiger offensive line, but he's never handled the snap. Walk-on Ben Domingue and former recruit-turned-Kentucky transfer Elliot Porter will be the top backups, but look for one of the redshirt freshmen, perhaps Trai Turner, to get some work there as well. It was hoped that Hoko Fanaika would help out here (or guard), but he'll no longer be available this fall. Corey White, another potential center, appears to no longer be a part of the program.

Additional depth will come from third-year sophomore Evan Washington, who has battled injuries, and true freshmen Derek Edinburgh and Jerald Hawkins. The freshmen are tall, rangy prospects with bright futures, but both are redshirt candidates in 2012, baring extreme injury scenarios.

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