Offensive line depth has been a problem for LSU that Ed Orgeron made a priority as of late. After losing juniors Will Clapp and Toby Weathersby to the NFL Draft, it remains unsolved, but some new additions plus a line-heavy recruiting class should have the program on track.
It had been hoped that this group would be something the Tiger offense could lean on in 2018 prior to the loss of both Clapp and Weathersby. Still, three starters return from a unit that took time but did eventually come together in 2017.
2018 LSU Spring Offensive Line
|Tackles||65 Jakori Savage (So.)||6-5, 317|
|77 Saahdiq Charles (So.)*||6-5, 321|
|74 Badara Traore (Jr.)||6-7, 301|
|73 Adrian Magee (Jr.)||6-5, 323|
|76 Austin Deculus (So.)*||6-6, 324|
|Guards||78 Garrett Brumfield (Sr.)||6-3, 299|
|71 Donovaughn Campbell (Jr.)||6-4, 343|
|70 Edward Ingram (So.)||6-4, 314|
|68 Damien Lewis (Jr.)||6-3, 326|
|Centers||79 Lloyd Cushenberry (So.)||6-4, 316|
|67 Cole Smith (Fr.)||6-4, 280|
Saahdiq Charles is out for spring drills following shoulder surgery, and Austin Deculus has been working in a gold non-contact jersey with a wrist injury.
There’s a solid core of vets here with Charles, fellow sophomore guard Ed Ingram and senior guard Garrett “Bruiser” Brumfield. Charles and Ingram were pressed into service as true freshmen, and after some mental issues early on eventually settled into solid roles. Brumfield will settle into a leadership role after a second-team Coaches All-SEC season in 2017.
The top of the depth is filled out with junior Adrian Magee, who steps into the T-Bob Hebert Memorial Swing Position, as he’s played tackle and guard. Former stud recruit Donovaughn Campbell should also be a top backup inside as well.
On the edge, Deculus and Jakori Savage will back up the tackle positions. Savage is in a crucial time — he was brought in as a long-term investment prospect, somebody not expected to contribute for a few years. As he enters year three with a new position coach, people want to see progress. Not necessarily compete for a starting spot, but at least show that you’re capable of getting out on the field.
Speaking of players whose time has come, sophomore Lloyd Cushenberry appears set to finally move into the starting center spot. The coaching staff had hoped he would allow Clapp to play one of the guard spots last season, but that didn’t work out. The competition will be back on, as the staff will work a few other players at center to try and build depth. New offensive line coach James Cregg has a “best five” philosophy, so if somebody like Brumfield, Ingram or the newcomers grab the center spot, Cushenberry will stay on the bench.
Well, for starters, there’s a new man running the room. Jeff Grimes departed to run BYU’s offense, and Orgeron acted very quickly to bring in James Cregg from the NFL. The two had a history from Orgeron’s stints at Tennessee and USC, with Cregg bringing in a very strong rep as both a teacher and recruiter of linemen.
Like his predecessor, Cregg is a zone blocking specialist. Early reports and talks with sources indicate that he’s more of a high-energy, intense teacher and more versed in the Alex Gibbs school of zone blocking, focused more exclusively on the “wide” and “tight” zone plays.
Gibbs was a long-time NFL line coach with the Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, where he coached units that helped carry Terrell Davis to the hall of fame despite a short career, and created a host of plug-and-play 1,000-yard rushers.
We’ll have more on this development at a later date.
A big part of Cregg’s job will be continuing to rebuilt this offensive line from a numbers perspective, and he has his chance to start with a couple of newcomers already on hand — true freshman center Cole Smith and junior college recruits Badara Traore and Damien Lewis.
Smith is the current backup at center, but most believe he’ll be headed for a redshirt, although Cregg himself did mention that he wouldn’t be afraid to play the Mississippi native if he thought he was one of the best for the job.
Traore was the subject of a very intense recruitment as the No. 1 tackle prospect out of the JUCO ranks. He’ll likely battle Charles for the left tackle spot eventually, but right now he’s working on the right side. At 6-8 and 340 pounds, Traore more than looks the part of the ideal tackle. Big question will be how he adjusts to the step up in competition.
Lewis arrived as the less-heralded JUCO recruit, but to date has drawn a ton of praise for both his work in the weight room and on the practice field. Many saw him as mostly a depth pick up, but Orgeron has intimated that Lewis may very well be one of LSU’s five best linemen, either grabbing one of the guard spots or even jumping Cushenberry at center.
What’s the Story?
LSU’s offensive line is undergoing a transition, but there’s a nice mix of returning vets and newcomers for what should still be a strong unit.