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2020 LSU Football Preview: Looking at the Offensive Line with Will Blackwell

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Former Tiger All-American Will Blackwell previews the 2020 Tiger offensive line

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The 2019 season was a banner year for the LSU offensive line. The unit won the Joe Moore Award as the country’s best offensive line, and all the players who declared for the NFL were either drafted or signed un-drafted free agent deals.

Such success means LSU has to replace nearly the entire starting five. Senior Austin Deculus is the only true returning starter at right tackle, while Ed Ingram, LSU’s sixth offensive linemen, will take over at left guard full time after splitting those duties with Adrian Magee.

After Ingram and Deculus, however, there’s open competition at left tackle, center and right guard. Having to replace a center as good as Lloyd Cushenberry will be tough and we all know how important it is to have a quality left tackle. Having to replace both while also breaking in a first-year starting quarterback isn’t the most ideal of circumstances, but it’s what LSU will have to deal with this year.

LSU made an interesting move in the spring and dipped into the transfer market by bringing in former Harvard interior offensive lineman Liam Shanahan. Shanahan was an All-Ivy league guard and can play some center but I’m curious where his path to play is, if there even is one.

2020 LSU Offensive Line

Position Player Height/Weight
Position Player Height/Weight
Tackles Austin Deculus (Sr.) 6’7"/322
Marcus Dumervil (Fr.) 6’5/310
Joseph Evans (Fr.) 6’1”/319
Dare Rosenthal (So.) 6’7”/322
Thomas Perry (So.) 6’6"/341
Cameron Wire (So.) 6’6”/341
Guards Anthony Bradford 6’7"/355
Xavier Hill (Fr.) 6’3"/315
Ed Ingram (Jr.) 6’4”/295)
Marlon Martinez (Fr.) 6’4"/325
Liam Shanahan (Sr.) 6’5”/270
Kardell Thomas (So.) 6’3”/329
Centers Chasen Hines (Jr.) 6’3"/336
Charles Turner (So.) 6’4”/266

Offensive line’s the hardest position in all sports to evaluate because of the lack of measurable statistics. So to help evaluate the line, former Tiger All-American Will Blackwell was kind enough to answer some questions about the unit.

1. What’s your initial impression of this year’s line? If you had to pick a starting five who starts where?

My initial impression of this year’s line is that they have a ton to prove. Every year is a new challenge, but losing your LT and C in the same year can be an uphill battle. Last year’s unit seems to be one for the ages, which is not typical of LSU lines. This year I see more of a by committee group, even though OLs typical find their five and stick with them. I think that young guys will get a ton of work early. With that being said, I would have to go with the starting five that most people seem to think fits this team:

Deculus, Ingram, Hines, Thomas, Rosenthal

2. Probably the two most important parts of an offensive line are the left tackle and the center, and LSU has to replace both. It sure looks like Dare Rosenthal will take over at left tackle and Chasen Hines will start at center, why do you think they’ll succeed? What might they struggle with?

The center of the line has to be one of the smarter guys in the group. Everything that I have heard out of spring is that there are a couple of guys that are more than capable but have little to no experience at the position, especially any game experience. I’m not sure that Hines will have much competition during camp which may not be a good thing(maybe this is where Shanahan fits in). I do believe that Rosenthal can get the job done I’m just not positive he isnt a better fit at RT. I know that Deculus will be the leader of the group, and I’m anxious to see if they will give him the chance to play LT.

3. You know better than anyone that a great offensive line is one where all five guys are in total sync with one another. LSU got hardly any spring ball to build some cohesion, so how can you make up for that? Is it fair to expect some early season growing pains?

This is an extremely unordinary offseason. Usually guys would have plenty of time during spring ball and summer workouts to build that cohesion that we always mention when referring to OL units. Typically most of that happens by doing hard shit together (practice and workouts), but sometimes downtime between classes, film, and eating is when you really become friends. The many hours spent lifting weights and watching mistakes on film really lead to a sense of brotherhood that is instrumental to a young to a group like this. I do think that they are at a disadvantage in this situation; however, every school in the country is dealing with it. There will be time during summer and fall camp to build a strong bond. I do expect to see some growing pains from this group. The most integral part of being an inexperienced lineman is knowing your assignment. I expect some of these young guys to struggle with this at first. That is unless Deculus and Ingram can use their experience to become the leaders we know they are capable of being. Every line struggles when new pieces are added to the roster, but all it takes is one or two good leaders with some experience to motivate an entire unit. Deculus and Ingram KNOW how to win at the highest level. I expect these two to bring along the young bucks after a couple of series in Tiger Stadium.

4. How does Harvard grad transfer Liam Shanahan fit into all of this? Could he come in and take a job on the interior of the line?

To be honest I’m not entirely sure how Shanahan fits into all of this. I do see two possibilities: 1) the guy is an excellent ball player and our staff has done a good job of scouting out a versatile guy who can come in and push some young players to compete. 2) he has been brought in for his smarts and will help “coach” this group as an extra set of eyes.

5. I think the position battle to watch will be right guard and it’s between a pair of redshirt freshmen: Kardell Thomas and Anthony Bradford. Will, you played right guard and you excelled at it. If it does come down to those two, what will they have to show that they’re the guy best suited for the job?

I believe that often times the guards are the toughest, meanest guys on the team. They should have the attitude that they are the enforcer of the team. No one from the other side gets to mess with or even attempt to mess with one of your guys. With that being said, guards are also responsible for helping keep calm and helping the center keep the calls straight. I think that it is one of those positions that experience can really help, but so can willpower. Everything that we have heard about Thomas and Bradford is that either one of them can be that guy, I guess it’s up to them to decide which one will be the bodyguard up front.