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September 8, 2010

LSU's lines: improvement in the trenches

Last year LSU's offensive and defensive lines underperformed.  LSU's defense had very few sacks and its offense gave up too many sacks.  So how do LSU's lines look this year?

The Offense
Last year, LSU's O-line had the promise of being one of the best that LSU had ever seen. That group did not live up to their potential.  Two starters from last year's O-line have been given another year to prove themselves. Joseph Barksdale (6-6, 318) has moved from right tackle to left tackle. Josh Dworaczyk (6-6, 295), the other starter from last year, is the starting left guard next to Barksdale.  

Alex Hurst (6-6, 329), Will Blackwell (6-4, 303), and P.J. Lonergan (6-4, 300) all showed great promise when they had opportunities to play last year. It seemed that Hurst, this year's starting right tackle, and Blackwell, this year's starting right guard, were in on the few "big" running plays that LSU had last year.  Starting at center this year, Lonergan gave LSU a twenty pound weight advantage over his talented competition, T-Bob Hebert.  

On the first play of the first game of the year Blackwell was run over from behind. His ankle was broken and he will not play another down for at least 6 weeks and some consideration has to be given to sitting him out all year and applying for a medical redshirt to give Blackwell another year.  During the North Carolina game backup center, Hebert, filled in for Blackwell at right guard for all but one series in the third quarter. Under the circumstances, Hebert did a good job except for the one play where a rushing touchdown was called back for a holding penalty.  And though Hebert did a fairly good job, he is the only real backup at center and starting him at guard could be a very costly mistake should something happen to Lonergan.

So what is LSU likely to do to replace Blackwell?  The obvious answer might seem to be that the backup right guard listed on the depth chart, Josh Williford (6-7, 324), might be the likely starter.  However, Williford did get into the North Carolina game for a series in the third quarter and by all account was sluggish and did not perform like he is ready to take over the starting position.  Matt Branch (6-6, 287), the backup left guard, may be ready to step up to a starting guard spot and he could make a quick transition to right guard or Dworaczyk could move to the right guard and Branch could play left guard.  And while that may be the best decision LSU's coaches could make, I think a stronger decision might be to go ahead and start either Chris Faulk (6-6, 316) or maybe even true freshman Evan Washington (6-5, 315).  I understand that both Faulk and Washington are both very athletic and either man might could make the transition to guard with relative ease.  Hurst is extremely versatile also and could play right guard allowing Faulk or Washington to play right tackle. I understand that LSU's coaches are giving Faulk serious consideration and frankly Faulk and Washington both are on track to have outstanding careers as O-linemen for LSU. If it were up to me, I would give Faulk the first shot at replacing Will Blackwell and I would like to see Blackwell give up the whole year to fully recover but it seems that this year LSU players are recovering ahead of schedule after injury.

The Defense
The outstanding play of LSU's defensive line was a refreshing bright spot in LSU's opener.  North Carolina was missing several players because of bad decisions made by those players but not one starter was missing from North Carolina's offensive line.  Of the several sacks recorded by LSU the most impressive was when Josh Downs ran down the quarterback from behind.  Unless I am mistaken, just a few weeks ago Downs was listed as injured with a broken leg.  Redshirt freshman, Sam Montgomery also recorded a sack and redshirt freshman, Barkevious Mingo recovered a fumble.  Veteran, Drake Nevis played well all night and though I only see one official sack by Nevis, I could have sworn I saw him sack the UNC quarterback twice. 
LSU's D-line also did an excellent job of shutting down the run. Only three teams, Miami (OH), ULL, and Cincinnati had fewer rushing yards than North Carolina in the opening week. While Chavis' defense did seem to break out the prevent defense that nearly prevented LSU from winning, the defensive line played well.  And to be fair LSU's offense played so poorly in the second half that it seemed like LSU's defense may have simply been on the field too long. So, my crack about the "prevent defense" may not have been entirely warranted.  LSU's speed and strength on the defensive line was evident and that certainly contributed to lots of plays been stopped behind the line of scrimmage and also allowed LSU to show a sharp increase from last year in the number of fumbles recovered.  Now if Chavis can just solve the problem with the secondary giving up a couple of big passes, this LSU defense may prove to be by far the best defense in college football today.

So far the prognosis is great that LSU's anemic defensive and offensive lines may have made an excellent turn around from last year.


Anonymous said...

Yea,you look like you are a very good blocker, if you are blocking your little sister..But what will happen, when these LSU lineman try to block the talented lineman on the Bama,Florida,football team?
You do not know,and neater do I.It also looks like, that Miss State now has a very good head coach, who has improved the Miss State offense a great deal (Miss State-49 vs Memphis-7)...The way this LSU football team became so unable to play good football in the second half against NC,make me feel like this LSU team is not all that good..Just like the preseason ranking said about them..West:Florida,Auburn,LSU in third place.
Les Miles,and LSU, look more like a looser,after the NC game,more then any thing else!

Royce said...

We were actually picked 4th in the SEC West and you need to go back to school and take some English and spelling classes.

GatorFan said...

And Florida is in the SEC East. The SEC media pick Alabama, Arkansas, and Auburn ahead of LSU in the SEC West. You must not have seen the Florida/Miami of Ohio game. Had Miami of Ohio been more than a 1 win team last year Florida would not have won their opener.

Anonymous said...

O, I see,the wise guys,know more about sports, and English..Maybe the English that is not so good,is a second language!
Of course, English should be done the right way..But what can people do about Wisdom?

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