LSU’s offensive line was very good in 2016. Somehow, this is a controversial statement.
Despite a rash of injuries – some of which were played through, others that created some reshuffling – the offensive line blocked for a top-25 S&P+ offense and ranked fifth in adjusted line yards. Pro Football Focus rated it as the top unit in the country.
There were consistency issues at times, but basically, unless you could field a top-20 defense, the Tigers plowed right through you.
The rock of the unit, center Ethan Pocic, is gone, as is senior guard Josh Boutte. However, the injuries and reshuffling still leaves LSU with four returnees for 2017 with some starting experience. And yet, there’s still a sense that this unit has some rebuilding and re-fashioning to do this spring for offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, who was retained by Ed Orgeron through his job transition.
2017 LSU Offensive Line
|Tackles||63 K.J. Malone (Sr.)||6-4, 321|
|66 Toby Weathersby (Jr.)||6-6, 308|
|65 Jakori Savage (Fr.-RS)||6-5, 317|
|73 Adrian Magee (So.)||6-5, 323|
|76 Austin Deculus (Fr.)||6-6, 324|
|Guards||78 Garrett Brumfield (Jr.)||6-3, 299|
|71 Donovaughn Campbell (So.)||6-4, 343|
|70 Edward Ingram (Fr.)||6-4, 314|
|77 Saahdiq Charles (Fr.)||6-5, 321|
|Centers||64 Will Clapp (Jr.)||6-5, 315|
|79 Lloyd Cushenberry (Fr.-RS)||6-4, 316|
|Bold indicates returning starter.|
What do we like? Size, talent level, overall experience.
Question marks: Offensive tackle, injuries, depth and finding the best five.
Right out of the shoot, the goal for this unit coming in to spring practice was to figure out the tackle position. Yes, starting left tackle K.J. Malone and right tackle Toby Weathersby both return, but the former struggled with consistency all season long while the latter was in and out of the lineup with injuries. The hope was that players like George Brown and Chidi Valentine-Okeke would provide depth and compete for the starting jobs. Both, however, have left the team, leaving redshirt freshmen Jakori Savage and Willie Allen along with true frosh Austin Deculus.
Savage was something of a project recruit, although he certainly looks the part of a long, lean left tackle. Allen and Deculus are more the road-grader type. Deculus, one of the bigger studs in the 2017 recruiting class, will almost certainly see some time in the rotation, although that might be as an extra tackle in some short-yardage sets. Allen is recovering from a knee injury, but the staff has thought he has the size and athleticism to be a future star.
Look for competition at this spot to continue through fall camp.
Likewise, LSU isn’t likely to settle the three interior spots this spring, either. For one, the best interior lineman on the team, Will Clapp, is out recovering from a shoulder injury that plagued him all 2016. The plan was to slide him to the center position – which he has never played in game action, but practiced at quite a bit. With him out, redshirt freshman Lloyd Cushenberry has run with the first team and reportedly done very well, enough so that Grimes will consider leaving him as the starter and moving Clapp back to guard in the fall. However, that also means that LSU is still running with only one scholarship center this spring.
Competition is heavy (pardon the pun) at guard as well. Maea Teuhema seems like a lock to claim one of the spots, after playing mostly tackle his first two years. Guard is a much more natural fit for Teuhema, a big, mean run blocker. The other spot will likely come down to former LSU Lab School star Garrett “Bruiser” Brumfield or Donovaughn Campbell, although he’s been limited with his own injury issues. Brumfield was a four-star recruit, but struggled to find his role through three seasons. Per Grimes in this interview with The Advocate’s Ross Dellenger, Brumfield’s time may be coming.
Still, for a unit that thrives on consistency and chemistry, missing a piece like Clapp is less than ideal. He’ll be in LSU’s starting lineup in the fall, the question is where he fits in. That also means that LSU’s offensive line will likely remain a work in progress for a few more months.