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2015 LSU Football Optimistic/Pessimistic/Realistic: Offensive Line

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A very deep and very talented unit looking to improve.

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Name

Height/Weight

2014 Season

65 Jerald Hawkins (Jr.)

6-6, 305

Started all 13 games at right tackle.

74 Vadal Alexander (Sr.)

6-6, 329

Started 12/13 games at left guard.

77 Ethan Pocic (Jr.)

6-7, 309

Started 12/13 games at center or right guard.

76 Josh Boutte (Jr.)

6-5, 342

Appeared in all 13 games at guard or tackle.

72 Andy Dodd (Soph.)

6-4, 319

Appeared in 4 games at guard or center.

63 K.J. Malone (Soph.)

6-4, 298

Appeared in 5 games at guard or tackle.

64 William Clapp (RS-Fr.)

6-5, 303

Redshirted

78 Garrett Brumfield (RS-Fr.)

6-3, 294

Redshirted.

67 Jevonte Domond (Jr.)

6-5, 298

Appeared in one game at tackle.

66 Toby Weathersby (Fr.)

6-5, 292

Four-star recruit.

68 Chidi Valentine-Okeke (Fr.)

6-6, 311

Five-star recruit.

70 George Brown Jr. (Fr.)

6-7, 283

Four-star recruit.

73 Adrian Magee (Fr.)

6-4, 324

Three-star recruit.

75 Maea Teuhema (Fr.)

6-5, 327

Five-star recruit.

LSU's offensive line got off to something of a slow start in 2014, struggling to adjust to the new techniques and focus of a new coach. But it all came together in conference play, paving the way for some 200 rushing yards per game in conference play despite very little help from the passing game, all while allowing just 40 tackles for loss, the second-lowest figure in the SEC.

And while the unit only returns three starts as 2015 opens, a handful of strong recruiting classes have the overall talent level at an even higher level despite the loss of superstar left tackle La'el Collins.

The headliners are veterans Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins, a senior and fourth-year junior respectively, who returned for their fourth seasons to man the bookend tackle spots. A former big-time recruit, Alexander was pressed into service at right tackle as a true freshman and played relatively well. He's spent the last two seasons at left guard and been a little uneven. He's a powerful, road-grading run blocker, but he's struggled at times with injuries and conditioning, which has affected his pass protection. Truthfully, a chance to put together a more consistent season and stay healthy was likely a big factor in his decision to return. Still, he's shed about 20 pounds and emerged as one of THE leaders on this team. Alexander will be one of the real heartbeats of the locker room, and likely would have earned the No. 18 this year if offensive linemen were eligible. Some have expressed concern about him holding up at tackle, but a healthy offseason has him in the best shape of his career, and you can honestly argue that Alexander played some of his best football as a tackle in 2012. Besides, it's a little easier to help a right tackle in pass protection with tight ends, backs, etc...

On the opposite side, Hawkins steps into the left tackle role after two years on the right side, and is poised for a huge junior year that should propel him into the first round of the NFL Draft. Hawkins came to LSU a much rawer prospect -- he didn't even play offensive line in high school. But he had quick feet and great strength and really came along pretty quickly, displacing Alexander from the right tackle spot in 2013. He's probably a more natural fit on the left side; a much smoother pass blocker, but probably a step back in the attitude department from Collins.

Ethan Pocic, the third starter back from '14, settles in next to Hawkins at the left guard spot. He spent the last two seasons bouncing around the interior at guard and center, but really came into his own late in '14 with big games against stout defenses like Ole Miss and Alabama. Pocic is a tremendous athlete that could probably even play tackle, and should be the best pulling guard LSU's had since Trai Turner.

And again, this

Ethan Pocic

Is the face of a killer.

The newbies will be redshirt freshman Will Clapp at center and junior Joshua Boutte at the right guard spot. Both were highly recruited, but whereas Clapp quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with (he was the backup center early on last season before the decision was made to redshirt him), Boutte has taken a little more time to find himself. Either way, I'm tremendously excited about their potential. Clapp was a one of the top guard/tackle prospects in the 2014 recruiting class, and should be the most athletic center LSU's had in some time. Boutte is just a massive, country strong guard. He arrived to much fanfare in 2013, but has largely been a little-used backup. But a come-to-Jesus talk with some of the veterans last year helped spur Boutte into fantastic spring practice that saw him claim a spot in Grimes' best five offensive linemen. From there it was just finding him a spot.

This starting five should blend athleticism on the left side with just pure beef on the right side, and the thought of running Leonard Fournette behind Boutte and Alexander, with 300-pound tight end Dillon Gordon AND a pulling guard like Pocic?

Gimme a second here folks...

There isn't as much experience on the depth chart as you'd like, but there's definitely a lot of talent. Sophomores Andy Dodd and K.J. Malone will be the top backups, with Dodd sliding in at guard or center and Malone at tackle or guard as needed. Grimes is big on the idea of the "best five," so injuries could lead to a lot of reshuffling, depending on how it plays out. Pocic can play any position on the line, so he's your most likely swing piece.

After that, you're into a gang of talented but unproven second- and first-year guys. Redshirt freshman Garrett Brumfield has amazing potential as well, and should push for playing time eventually. Former junior college transfer Jevonte Dommond is your fifth or sixth tackle. After that, there's the loaded 2015 freshman crop of George Brown Jr., Chidi Valentine-Okeke, Toby Weathersby, Maea Teeuhema and Adrian Magee. Ideally all five will redshirt, but if any don't you should expect them to lead the competition for starting jobs in 2016.

Optimistic

This becomes one of the best offensive lines in the country. Hawkins and Pocic lock of the left side, with Hawkins competing for postseason honors and first-round NFL status. Boutte and Vadal Alexander, also earning postseason honors, mash people on the right side.

Pessimistic

We see another slow start as the players in new roles adjust to them. Alexander struggles in pass-pro, and Clapp has assignment issues in the middle.

Realistic

This is a position where even the pessimistic scenario is still a pretty good line that should be able to push most teams around in the running game. The issue is doing it a little more consistently and shoring up the pass protection. There are too many good defensive linemen on this schedule to think that there will never be some problems, but there's a lot of talent here and a very bright future.