Offensive line presents the biggest problem for historical rankings for one obvious reason: we don't have any statistical measure. We can't compare tackles or rushing yards or whatever. It's pretty much relying on people's subjective opinion of each player.
However, this freedom from stats also makes ranking linemen slightly more fair. There's no bias towards shiny round numbers or how offensive numbers are greater in general these days. Really, the only metric we have are All-American and All-SEC teams. We can evaluate players based upon how they were viewed at the time, It's an imperfect system, but it does make ranking across the generations much easier.
OG Eric Andolsek (1984 Freshman All-American, 1986 and 1987 All-SEC, 1986 and 1987 All-American, two-year team captain). The greatest offensive lineman in LSU history who also got a boost at the time of voting due to the "halo effect" of his untimely death. However, time has done nothing to dim the star of his resume, which includes two All-American teams.
C Nacho Albergamo (1987 All-American, All-SEC). Nacho is one of the most beloved players in LSU history who has moved onto a successful medical career, befitting a guy who was a three time Academic All-American. He did benefit to recency bias back in 1993.
C/RT Bo Strange (1958-1960 2nd team All-SEC). I get that someone was going to be the stand-in for the Chinese Bandits, and Strange's ability to play multiple positions on the line fits the popular image on the 1958 team. But let's be clear, he never was even 1st team All-SEC, much less All-American. There was a better choice for the 1958 representative.
OG Lance Smith (1981 SEC All-Freshman Team, 1984 All-American, 1982 & 84 All-SEC). I'm still trying to figure out how he made 1st team All-SEC in 1982, missed the team in 1983, and then made it again in 1984. Well, other than the 1983 team went 4-7. He earned major postseason honors nearly every year of his career, and is one of the most underrated players in LSU history. He doesn't get talked about nearly enough.
OG Tyler LaFauci (1973 All-American, 1973 All-SEC). The best lineman of the Cholly Mack era, and that was an era that relied heavily on the big uglies.
C Max Fugler (1958 All-American, 1958 All-SEC). Look, I get that Bo Strange played multiple positions, but Fugler started at center and was the best player on that offensive line. He was the All-American blocker for Billy Cannon. He lacks the cachet of the Chinese Bandits, but he was a member of the White Team... ya know, the one with the best players.
OT Robert Dugas (1978 All-American, 1977-78 All-SEC). The old timers squad is a bit light on offensive tackles if we're trying to keep positional integrity. Dugas was a two time All-SEC player, one of two guys to achieve that honor yet miss the Golden Century Team. He gets points for opening up holes for that Charles Alexander guy.
C/OT Kevin Mawae (1990 Freshman All-SEC, 1991 All-SEC, 1993 3rd team All-American). OK, he wasn't a first team All-American, unlike these other guys, but that's because after his All-SEC season as a sophomore, Curley Hallman moved him to left tackle and then again to center as a senior. He was the team's best player, and was therefore moved all around the line to try and cover up the multiple holes on the roster.
OT Sid Fournet (1954 All-American, 1953-54 All SEC). Another two-time All-SEC guy, and he made the All-American team prior to Dietzel showing up. That's like proto Dark Ages. Do you know how awesome you had to be to make the All-American team from LSU in 1954? Pretty awesome.
C Marvin "Moose" Stewart (1935 and 1936 All-American). LSU has had six players in its history (yes, SIX!) make the 1st team All-American squad. Only one guy did it twice. Stewart also has the honor of being the starting center on the 1st LSU team to win the SEC title.
There's four more All-Americans from 1962-1965 on the offensive line: Remi Prudhomme, George Rice, Fred Miller, and Billy Truax. They aren't really contenders for the all-time team, I just wanted to point out we had a ton of All-Americans at the line prior to 1993, including this remarkable four-year stretch of a different guy earning the honor each year.
Like defensive line, I'll revote for the Golden Century Team, though I think they largely got it right. Andolsek and Smith are no-brainers for the two guard slots, though I'm going to promote Fugler to the center slot over Nacho. I know, I know. But 1958 needs to be represented, and I think they got the wrong guy. If we're keeping positional integrity, then it's Dugas and Mawae as our two tackles. If not, Lafauci slides in as our third guard or Stewart as the second center, and Mawae likely loses his spot. Which kills me, because Mawae is my all-time favorite LSU player.
This is gonna be the quintessential Gen X vs. Millennial argument, isn't it? We might go tooth and nail here. First, I'm not sure I can say I agree with the pure subjectivity of the matter. Why shouldn't it matter if the player played in a great offense? Hell, you even credited Dugas for blocking for Charles Alexander. Football players are just bigger, badder, better dudes now than they were in 1958 or 1977. So let's go ahead and scrap your entire 245-pound JV team for my group of hog mollies, k?
But then, it's truly impossible to compare across eras. For old timers, you're forced to rely on what people said and national awards. Let's be honest, you aren't going to be reviewing Chinese Bandits tape to observe a particularly dominant player, right? Even what people say is skewed. Hell you've even documented players getting honored despite others with clearly better resumes.
This is really a tough one for me. I see merits all around. So I'm going to do my best to go with guys that clearly just objectively great, without dispute.
OG Alan Faneca (1997 1st Team All-American, 1996 & 1997 1st Team All-SEC, Jacobs Award Winner, Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer, Literal God)
If Faneca is the measuring stick of greatness, we can shut this list down right here and now, because no one measures up. He was just. that. good. Faneca was a dominating menace of a football player that just kept on being a kick ass dominator once he went pro. And you know what, you should get credited when skill players prosper behind your blocking and Faneca was as much apart of bringing back the magic as Kevin Faulk.
OC Todd McClure (1998 1st Team All-American, 1998 1st Team All-SEC)
McClure is kind of a forgotten man because a) he played next to God (see above) and b) he's not even the best player at his position in school history. But damn was he good. Again, Faulk isn't likely Faulk without McClure.
OG Stephen Peterman (2003 1st Team All-American, 2002 & 2003 1st Team All-SEC)
Steve Peterman was a bad ass and won a title... he was a really, really good player. I wanted to get him mentioned, but the problem is... he wasn't even the best player on those teams...
OC Ben Wilkerson (2004 1st Team All-American, 2003 & 2004 1st Team All-SEC, Rimington Award Winner)
He's the best center in school history. Peterman's greatness deserves merit, but it makes his job easier that he got to play next to Wilkerson, who was utterly dominant at his peak. And still not the best player in this era...
OT Andrew Whitworth (2004 & 2006 1st Team All-SEC)
Whitworth started every single game he ever played in. That's a nice sounding stat, but could easily be a 5th year senior that finally hit the field. Except Whitworth played in 52 games. And started them all. The fact that he was never an All-American makes me want to punch the award in the dick. It's preposterously stupid and why I give pause to even using it as an indication of greatness. Whitworth was a monster and everyone knew it. The fact that he opted to return to LSU for his senior season only solidifies his legend. Andrew Whitworth kicked ass and may be the best OL not named Faneca (God) in school history.
OT La'El Collins (2014 Charles McClendon Award Winner, 2014 Jacobs Award Winner, 2014 Second Team All-American, 2014 All-SEC 1st Team)
Collins was probably underappreciated for his level of greatness nationwide. He played OG and then LT and did it all well. He won the Cholly Mac award, which goes to the team's MVP for 2014. He's the only OL to ever win the award. Collins was damned great.
I honestly don't know what direction you go, and I'm leaving off guys like Will Blackwell and Herman Johnson, who were also All-Americans. Not to mention Ciron Black, who broke Whitworth's starts (58) and consecutive starts (53) records. Or how about a guy like Trai Turner who peaked as a 2nd Team All-SEC player but was probably underappreciated for how dominant he was.
Let's face it, we've fielded plenty of good OL past 93 too, old man.
Let's just get one thing out of the way first: we're set at guard. You give me Eric Andolsek, widely considered the greatest LSU offensive lineman of the 20th Century, I give you Alan Faneca, future NFL Hall of Famer and all-around stud at LSU. Done and done.
The next issue becomes positional integrity. We're not bound by taking two guards, two tackles, and a center, but I'd like to keep it to the traditional lineup as much as we can. For the sake of argument, let's just say we're going to take two tackles, pushing back the decision on the center position for a second.
I do disagree that there is NO objective criteria. There most certainly is: All-American selections. You either were selected or you weren't. That's an objective criteria. However, as we all know, All-American selections themselves can be anything but objective. If we say the All-American criteria matters, as it shows how players were evaluated in their own time, we have two candidates for the tackle slot: Sid Fournet and Robert Dugas. Those are the two guys who made the All-American team at tackle for LSU.
That said, both players were eligible for the Golden Century Team and neither were selected. So I think it's clear that by 1993, LSU fans did not consider either guy an all-time elite LSU player. Now, I think the Golden Century Team made some mistakes, look at defensive line, but if I'm looking at one honor based on popular opinion (All-American), then I should look at the another honor based on the same thing.
So, I'll strike you a deal. I'll agree that the All-American team sometimes gets it wrong. That way, we can put Andrew Whitworth on our team, despite the lack of All-American honors. In exchange, you allow me to stuff my all-time favorite LSU player on the team as a tackle, Kevin Mawae. He likely would have made the All-American team as a senior had Curley not changed his position for his last year, at which he was a third teamer, which is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it. Deal?
Then, we can get to the SIX, yes SIX, All-American centers that LSU has in its history, and try and select one, which is probably the hardest selection of the entire ATVS All-Time Team.
Here I am trying to start a war and you are brokering peace?
I do like the notion of maintaining positional integrity. OL wrongly get lumped together and it's just not the same thing. We see it time and again where a player might stink it up at one spot but slotted in another he becomes proficient, if not great.
So, really I think we can all objectively say LSU's interior OL are the thoroughbreds here, while the tackles fall more into the good but not great category.
But I do like any team that includes Mawae, and this is the way to beat the system to include him.
Let the great center debate of 2016 commence!
Well, I thought about war. But it comes down to what hill do you want to die on? And I don't want to die on the Robert Dugas hill. So, we accept the great positional integrity compromise, with a head nod to the guy who gets absolutely screwed by this decision: Tyler LaFauci.
A list of the five best linemen would almost certainly include LaFauci, who is better than either tackle who will make our all-time team. But you're right, it's a different position, and LaFauci has the tough luck of playing at the same position as inarguably the two best linemen in LSU history: Andolsek and Faneca. He's the #3 guard, and positional integrity on our list keeps him off the team. My sincere apologies to LaFauci. We hosed you with this decision.
Center, of course, is where the generational war begins. Now, of course a player from now could destroy a defensive lineman from the 1930's, but that's not a fair comparison. We can only judge a guy in the context of his era. Because there's no telling what happens if an old timer had access to modern medicine and nutrition, or a modern player had to go back in time and surrender those advantages. It's too hypothetical. I think there's four viable candidates (sorry, McClure and Tarasovic).
Moose Stewart made back to back All-American teams in the 1930's. He was possibly the best player (it's between him and Gus Tinsley) on the 1st SEC championship team in LSU history. Let's be honest, if we pass him over, we're saying that pre-World War II football doesn't matter. He's clearly got the best resume, but we are talking about the leather helmet era.
Max Fugler was the best lineman on LSU's first national championship squad, not counting 1908, and only undefeated team. Billy Cannon is a near shoo in for this team, but otherwise, we're reducing the best team in LSU history to one player.
Nacho Albergamo is the sentimental choice, and it's here I point out that he made the team over the other two guys on the Golden Century Team despite, well, not having the same resume as the other two guys. He clearly wasn't the best lineman of his era, and might be behind Lance Smith, too.
Ben Wilkerson is the modern era choice, and he gets the team accomplishment bump as well: he was a key cog of the 2003 team. He clearly would win if we could magically have them play against each other in their primes, but that's true of virtually every modern player. That's an argument that we shouldn't have any old-timers on the team at all, and what's the point of an all-time team then?
Geez, that's a loaded field. You really can't make a wrong choice. OK, Nacho is the wrong choice, but I think that's the one most Tiger fans would make.
I really think you can make a strong case for Wilkerson. He became our starting center as a true freshman. That's amazing. Was a 2nd Team Freshman All-American, and 1st Team Freshman All-SEC. His sophomore year is the big stumble, but he battled injuries. He still started 10 of 13 games. He was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy and a 2nd team All-American according to a couple publications. Then came back again and won the Rimington, officially collected on his All-American status and won a National Title.
That's about as dreamy of a career as can be imagined.
Now to counter punch myself, the Rimington didn't exist until 2000, so any other preceding nominee didn't even have the chance to claim such an award.
Stewart's resume speaks loudest, to me, after that, but there is something troubling about selecting players from the leather helmet era. As much as we try to be accommodating to the era, that was just such a dramatically different game, it's almost as if you are judging people in a different sport.
To be fair, I'm not trying to cram in just anybody from that era. Gus Tinsley's already off the board, so this is it. If we do not put Stewart on the All-Time Team, it will almost certainly have no representatives prior to the Dietzel era. And let's be honest, we're not going to be swimming in 1950-60's players, either. If you're gonna make an exception to the era, it's for a guy with his monster of a resume.
I also think we're just skipping past Fugler, who was also a 60-minute man, and gets some serious bonus points for making a crucial tackle in a goal line stand against Ole Miss. LSU doesn't win the title without his efforts.
But let's open it up to the wise ATVS voter. Do you go with the two-time All-American from the photograph era, a stud two-way player from the grainy black and white footage era, the true student-athlete from the color TV era, or the modern stud from the internet era?