Five Things, LSU Spring Football: Offensive Line

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

We start spring football position previews with the Tiger OL.

LSU Coach Les Miles works with Fehoko Fanaika (69) and Derek Edinburgh Jr. (66). - Times Picayune


Tackle

70 La'El Collins (Jr.)

6-5, 321

Started all 13 games in 2012 at left guard.

78 Vadal Alexander (So.)

6-6, 350

Played in all 13 games and started 9 at right tackle. Freshman All-America and All-SEC.

75 Evan Washington (Jr.)

6-6, 324

Suspended for 2012 season.

65 Jerald Hawkins (RS-Fr.)

6-6, 300

Redshirted.

66 Derek Edinburgh (RS-Fr.)

6-8, 316

Redshirted

77 Ethan Pocic (Fr.)

6-7, 285

Five-star recruit.

Guard

56 Trai Turner (So.)

6-3, 306

Played in 12 games and started 7 at right guard.

74 Josh Williford (Sr.)

6-7, 332

Injuries limited to 6 games (started all).

71 Jonah Austin (So.)

6-6, 329

No game action in 2012.

69 Fehoko Fanaika (Jr.)

6-6, 340

Junior college transfer.

Center

55 Elliot Porter (Jr.)

6-4, 300

Appeared in 10 games with 1 start.

74 Josh Williford (Sr.)

6-7, 332

77 Ethan Pocic (Fr.)

6-7, 285

Bold indicates starting experience.

1. Elliot Porter has been absent through the first few days of the spring, allegedly for an illness or some other sort of medical issue, so as of now, the first-team group has been as follows: La'El Collins at left tackle, Jonah Austin at right guard, Josh Williford at center with Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander manning the right guard and tackle positions. Williford appears to have taken over the T-Bob Hebert Memorial Swingman position, and will back up all the interior spots. What's really interesting is that Ethan Pocic is also getting worked at center. He's completely new to the position, and according to reports has been getting a lot of hands-on attention from Greg Studrawa and Les Miles himself. What that tells me is that the staff clearly sees Pocic as one of the top 6-7 linemen on the roster, and want him ready to get on the field anywhere he can.

2. But that absence definitely creates a bit of a hole at center. There will be another body there in the summer once Andy Dodd arrives on campus, but for now, it's Porter and two guys that have never played the position before. As it is, how Porter steps in for P.J. Lonergan will be one of the keys to this line's development. He's a bit more athletic than Lonergan, but doesn't have as much bulk and certainly won't know the line calls inside and out the same way. Plus, the rest of the line really fed off of Lonergan's toughness. Intangibles like that take time to develop.

3. Another subplot to this spring is that the coaching staff is all-in on moving Collins out to left tackle. Reportedly, it's something that he's been preparing for all offseason, and has slimmed down a bit to gain some quickness. He certainly showed tremendous athleticism as a pulling guard in 2012, and is a nasty run-blocker. Many wanted him to slide out to that spot last season once Chris Faulk went down, but I'm not so sure he was ready. Handling speed-rushers was a problem for him at times, something that would be magnified on Zach Mettenberger's blind-side. But if he's dialed in and committed to playing up to his obvious talent level, there's a lot to like about this move. On the opposite side, Alexander is set to take another step forward after a huge freshman year. He stepped in after Alex Hurst's departure and did a hell of a job for a true freshman. Absolute mauler on running plays last season, but struggled a little bit in pass-pro, particularly in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (though he was reportedly hobbled and lost some conditioning due to a December surgery). Slimming down a bit would probably help, but I expect Alexander and Turner to be the fulcrum of LSU's rushing attack.

4. Speaking of Turner, he may have the most exciting potential of this whole group. Quietly (and great offensive linemen usually operate that way), he might've been the most consistent lineman LSU had last season. Once pressed into the lineup following Williford's injury, he really stepped up, and was an upgrade in a lot of ways. He's got quick feet on pulls and a nasty attitude.

5. Depth will come from some relative n00bs in Fehoko Fanaika, Jonah Austin, Evan Washington and Jerald Hawkins. The massive JUCO guard from Tonga reportedly has some pounds to drop to be in proper playing weight, but the coaches love his temperament. Austin and Washington have both been around the block a while, but have never quite been able to get on the field for one reason or another. Washington has battled injuries and missed time due to discipline problems, but is pretty clearly a guy that Stud sees something in, or else he might've been gone by now. Many expected Hawkins to step in at left tackle, but he's still a bit raw (he played DT in high school), and Collins seems to have a stranglehold on that spot. Of course, given the recent trend of juniors leaving, Hawkins should have the inside track on the job by 2014.

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