LSU returns four of five offensive line starters in 2014, something we're all counting as a major strength of the team. There are currently 12 scholarship OL on the team, and six of those will be draft eligible for next year's draft. Three of those six will be graduating next Fall or Spring. It's likely the offensive line will go from strength to uncertainty heading into the 2015 season, purely due to turnover. The currently crowded depth chart will shift to an area of opportunity.
Let's take a quick look at the bodies in waiting:
Juniors: Vadal Alexander (starter), Jonah Austin
Sophomores: Josh Boutte, Jerald Hawkins (starter), Jevante Domond (newcomer)
Freshmen: Andy Dodd, K.J. Malone, Will Clapp (newcomer), Garrett Brumfield (newcomer)
Alexander and Hawkins are both draft eligible with NFL potential. Austin possesses NFL size, but he's only been utilized in sub packages and garbage time, so hard to see him making that leap unless he seizes the RG job this fall and dominates. 2015 will feature at least three new starters and possibly five. For young OL that equals opportunity. What does that mean for Garrett Brumfield?
Brumfield spent his prep years in the shadows of Tiger Stadium at University Lab High School. I don't have to tell you that historically, LSU is pretty much batting 1.000 when it comes to Lab players they covet. I can't recall one prospect from Lab that LSU offered finding himself anywhere but spending the next four years at LSU. Thus, it came as little surprise last April when Brumfield pledged to the Tigers. He didn't bother taking any other visits or really entertaining other offers.
In fact, Matthew Harris' tremendous story on his recruitment offers insight to his process. Here's a few of the highlights:
Before University High guard Garrett Brumfield reached his parents’ car after committing to play for the Tigers, Paul Brumfield’s cell phone buzzed.
The caller ID display left the prospect’s father perplexed: It was an assistant coach from Florida.
"I just heard something I don’t believe," the assistant said. "Did Garrett just commit to LSU?"
Cupping the phone, Paul turned to his wife, Geneva, and whispered.
"Man, how do they already know?" he asked.
Frenzied as the courting process might appear, Paul and Geneva provided structure. At night, Paul, a shift manager at the BASF chemical plant in Geismar, would sit down at the family’s computer and assemble detailed reports on programs. Where were the campuses? What were admission requirements? What majors were offered? For staffs, he’d sift through a head coach’s biography down to his hometown. Next, Paul put together breakdowns of the staff: What were their credentials? How long had they been together? Finally, he’d track down graduation rates and APR scores, material he’d found some staffs might try to frame certain ways to bolster their academic credentials. Once on campus, he and Geneva would chat with other recruits and compare notes with prospects and their advisors. "I don’t tell a coach I’ve done all this before we head into a meeting," he said. "I’m going to let him talk, and I’m going to see if everything he tells me matches." Paul understood the job of a staff was to sell the program to Garrett. Arming himself with facts let him and Garrett apply an objective process to a subjective decision. "The thing I wanted most all from them was truthfulness," Paul said. "Don’t snow me. Don’t lie to me. Don’t give me a sales pitch.">
Since Garrett was 8, academics were stressed. He arrived at U-High, known for its tough admission standards, from Scotlandville High after spending his first semester of high school in a rigorous engineering program. With the family paying out of pocket, the move put Garrett in an environment that nurtured his curiosity. "The top priority has to be academics," Geneva said. "Not every single offensive lineman, not every single quarterback is going to go to the NFL. That’s why we stressed education from the outset." Last spring, a math teacher sent an e-mail to Geneva, notifying her that Garrett had missed a few assignments. She was just checking in. Geneva, who works in account services at Cox, had a simple remedy: "I’m going to come to class," she replied. On the day Geneva sat in, Garrett’s classmates tried to track him down in the hallways for a heads-up. No dice. So when he lumbered into the room, there was Geneva waiting in the back. "It was more of a nervous thing to him than anything else," she said. "He knows that if academics aren’t in order, we’re not going to let him play football."
The lone drama came the day Garrett committed. Paul’s phone continued to buzz and ring. Every position coach and recruiting coordinator wanted a post-mortem discussion about what went wrong. One coach, from a program Paul refuses to name, questioned Garrett’s integrity. That prompted a return dial and a terse conversation when Paul said perhaps the best solution was to board a flight so the man could make his accusations in person.
Sounds like a grounded kid, yes?
Brumfield is a bright, sensational interview. Here's his thoughts on committing at All-American games, as well as his general UA Game experience. Brumfield was not just an Under Armour All-American, but a Class 3A First Team All-State player in the state of Louisiana. He ranks as a composite 4-star, rated as a .9517 on 247Sports. That puts him as a top 100 player nationally and one of the top 5 offensive guards in the 2014 signing class.
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
Tale of the Tape
Weight: 285 lbs.
40: 5.07 seconds
Short Shuttle: 4.6 seconds
Assuming Brumfield doesn't grow a couple of inches in the next couple of years, his height likely means he's an OG all the way. There's nothing wrong with that, obviously, but does likely put a cap on his future football earnings. 285 is a pretty great weight for an incoming freshman, particularly considering his height. Brumfield doesn't come in with much bad bodyweight either, so you're looking at a guy who needs to add some muscle mass but doesn't need total body transformation. We've seen successful SEC lineman play at his current weight, even. The athletic numbers aren't off the charts good, but the 4.6 short shuttle is a good illustration of his natural lateral quickness. A 5.07 40 isn't really anything to be ashamed of either. Not unreasonable that with some college training he'll only get bigger and more athletic.
Strengths: Agility/Move Skills, Nastiness, Great Feet
Weaknesses: Lacks Initial Punch, Needs to Add Muscle/Bulk
Agility/Move Skills: One of Brumfield's standout skills is his ability to pull/trap and get on the move. That 4.6 short shuttle is reflected on the tape. :04 gives you a good glimpse. He pulls out of his stance, gets up and into the hole and puts a hat on a hat. Again at 1:42, it's a quick shot, but the way this guy moves isn't common for the position. He bounces out of his stance, locates the blitzing LB, gets a hat on him and drives him out of the hole, burying him into the dirt. Impressive stuff. Then at 1:58, watch him shift and get into a blocking position on the outside player. He's smooth in the way he moves around his field, and OL are never described as smooth.
Nastiness: Brumfield finishes plays, which is a trait I love to see from my OL. The play at :13 he gets underneath the pass rusher, keeps his hands inside, and drives him to the ground. At 1:27, in pass pro, he latches on to his man and absolutely pile drives him into the dirt. At 1:33 he shows good agility again, then lays a good pop and buries his man. At 1:49 he lays two blocks, but gets to the second level then drives the man into the dirt again. I love the way he finishes off his blocks.
Great Feet: All of the agility highlights double here, but check out how he slides and moves in pass pro at :37. Brumfield is exceptionally light on his feet for a big man. If he's able to maintain those move skills while adding additional bulk and strength, he's got the makings of an elite guard.
Lacks Initial Punch: Brumfield, at this point, is not a drive blocker. Check out :29. He doesn't get a great punch. He is able to win out in time, but coming off the line he doesn't blow people off the ball. There are moments in pass pro where you see a strong punch, but it's inconsistent. 2:26 is another example of how he doesn't deliver a great initial blow.
Needs to Add Bulk/Muscle: 285 isn't the ideal weight for an SEC OL. He's still good size for an incoming player, but he'll obviously need to add a little more bulk. Once he gets bigger and stronger, that should greatly help his initial punch. Sonny Shipp noted he struggled with this at UA practices, but did illustrate his athleticism.
Brumfield's nickname is "Bruiser." It's apt. He plays with a truly nasty demeanor. He spent his HS career as a tackle, but he almost certainly translates to a OG at the next level. His height is a bit limiting in terms of his overall potential.
I'm in love with the way the kid finishes his blocks. I also find myself loving his interviews. He's bright, insightful and personable. Garrett has big visions for his life, even extending beyond football. I'll always respect kids with dreams, but I find myself respecting kid's with a bigger world vision even more. It's clear his parents raised him to be a grounded, thoughtful young man. I genuinely look forward to post game interviews with Garrett.
Back to his football future. It's pretty bright. A number of people have noted that he'd probably be higher ranked if he was a bit bigger. I know he'll certainly get stronger and add the necessary bulk. Could he start by 2015? Who really stands in his way? The coaches seem to like Josh Boutte, a guy we all thought was likely a guard. Where the guys all wind up is still up in the air. As far as we know, Ethan Pocic is still the backup center for 2014 and we saw him as the possible heir apparent at LT. Brumfield is the most talented OL in this class, so that certainly gives him a shot for early PT.
Oh yeah, check out his great cake on National Signing Day:
High End: All SEC Offensive Guard. Possible Lombardi or Outland Trophy award winner. He's got some Barrett Jones to him.
Low End: 1-2 year starter. I don't much of a scenario where Brumfield doesn't wind up a starter, or at least a heavy rotational player like T-Bob Hebert, whom he's more talented than.
Realistic: Multi-year starter, possibly as early as 2015. There's a bright, bright future ahead for Brumfield. He seems to be level-headed and focused. Look for him to make an impact.