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Signing Day Preview: Offensive Line

A look at what to expect on National Signing Day at offensive line

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

LSU has been building depth along the offensive line at a steady clip the last few seasons. They signed four offensive linemen in 2011, three last year, and look to add five in the Class of 2013, one of which comes from the junior college ranks. But due to the early departure of Chris Faulk to the NFL, some opportunity is there for young players to make an impact at offensive tackle. You will also likely see someone from this class crack the two deep at center. LSU seems rather set at guard for the short term, returning three players who have a lot of starting experience. But that could change as early as 2014 and we could see this class make an impact very early in their career, even if it's not right away.

Current Verbal Commits
Ethan Pocic - Pocic is one of the nation's top tackle prospects and is already enrolled at LSU for the spring semester. At 6'6" 285, Pocic is pretty lean and doesn't carry much bad weight. On film, he looks like a guy that is absolutely dominating in the run game. Pocic could probably stand to improve a bit in pass protection, but that's not unusual for high school prospects on the O-line. The good news is that Pocic has ideal arm length for an elite tackle and shows good feet. What I like best is that he plays with a serious mean streak and nasty attitude. That is something that always translates well to college. I suspect Pocic will continue to add some good weight to his frame and will ultimately play at a tad above 300 pounds. Pocic is from Illinois and chose LSU over offers from nearly every major program in college football. With playing time up for grabs at offensive tackle, Pocic will compete right away for playing time, possibly even a starting position.

Rivals: #4 OT, #50 overall 4 stars
247: #7 OT, #72 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #6 OT, #94 overall 4 stars
Scout: #4 OT, #59 overall 4 stars

Josh Boutte - Boutte hails from New Iberia and projects as a guard at LSU. He is an absolute mauler in the run game. "Country Strong" would be a good way to describe him. At several camps , and at the U.S. Army All American Bowl practices, Boutte routinely pancaked his opponents in one on one drills and was consistently named as one of the top performers at those events. Despite his size at 6'4" 305, Boutte demonstrates pretty good quickness out of his stance and shows good feet when pulling or getting to the second level. Physically, Boutte is ready to contribute right away. But technique wise, he probably needs some work before he's ready to see the field. As a guard, he should have the luxury of learning during his first year before challenging for a starting spot in 2014.

Rivals: #7 OG, #116 overall 4 stars
247: #5 OG, #111 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #28 OG 3 stars
Scout: #8 OG, #162 overall 4 stars

Andy Dodd - Dodd is a Georgia native and one-time Alabama commitment that LSU was able to flip in July. Dodd is a big, strong kid at 6'4" 315 who played some tight-end for his high school team. That shows you that he has pretty good feet and should excel at pulling and getting to the second level to take on linebackers. The word is they like Dodd as a center prospect, and he seems to have a great skill set for the position.

Rivals: #13 OG 4 stars
247: #11 OG, #241 overall 4 stars
ESPN: #10 OG, #208 overall 4 stars
Scout: #20 OG 3 stars

KJ Malone - The son of the Mailman, Malone is another interior line prospect that could potentially play center as well. Listed in the 6'4" 290 pound range, he's probably the least heralded of LSU's offensive line commitments. He's a bit leaner than the other guys and should be able to add good weight once at LSU. In his highlights, he does a lot of pulling and getting in front of running plays to the outside and looks very comfortable doing so. Malone has also been talked about as a guy that could potentially find a home at center, so it will be interesting to see where everyone lines up in the fall.

Rivals: #35 OG 3 stars
247: #8 C 3 stars
ESPN: #23 OG 4 stars
Scout: #36 OG 3 stars

Fehoka Fanaika - Fanaika comes to LSU from the junior college ranks and projects as a guard. He could maybe play some right tackle in a pinch, but I suspect he'll be a guy that provides some depth on the inside in 2013 while having a chance to start in 2014. Fanaika is enormous, checking in at 6'6" 345. A year ago at this time Fanaika seemed set to sign with Florida but decided to delay his decision past Signing Day. He took a visit to LSU and signed with the Tigers. However, he ran into some academic issues and had to sit out the 2012 season. But now he's good to go, enrolled at LSU for the spring semester and will participate in spring practice. As a player, he is what you would expect from someone so big. He overwhelms the opposition with his size and strength. Surprisingly, he shows some decent quickness too and delivers a nice initial punch out of his stance. Unlike Dodd and Malone, he's not terribly nimble and doesn't move real well in space. He's at his best staying in the trenches, getting his hands on someone quickly and just driving them.

Rivals: 3 stars
247: 3 stars
ESPN: 3 stars
Scout: 3 stars

What To Watch For On Signing Day
Not too much. LSU is not currently pursuing any other offensive line prospects, so don't expect any good surprises. Pocic and Fanaika are already enrolled, so we won't see any drama there. The only guy to worry about at all is Boutte. A few weeks ago, rumors were rampant that he would take some visits to other schools and explore his options. More specifically (and ridiculously), the strongest rumor was that Boutte was strongly considering Louisiana-Lafayette due to his girlfriend. However, he took his official visit to LSU a few weeks back, and I believe all of those notions were put to bed. You can still breathe a small sigh of relief when his fax comes in next Wednesday, though.

The Future
Expect Ethan Pocic to compete immediately for playing time once spring practice starts. With Chris Faulk's departure to the NFL, one starting tackle position is wide open. I expect La'El Collins to finally get his shot at left tackle and will compete with Jerald Hawkins and Pocic. At guard, LSU seems rather set. They return three guys who all have significant starting experience in Collins, Trai Turner and Josh Williford. However, Fanaika and Boutte can certainly compete for a spot in the two-deep at guard with guys like Jonah Austin, Derek Edinburgh and Evan Washington. Dodd, and possibly Malone, could absolutely be this team's backup center.