Five things to know: Offensive line


When one thinks of LSU's offense, the thought of a physical running game comes to mind.

And make no mistake about it, that starts up front with a quality offensive line.

LSU had a good offensive line last season and may have a better one in 2012. Here are five things to know about the Tigers' offensive line this off-season.

1. You know these guys: LSU returns four starters and a fifth player who was a two-year starter before sitting out last season.

Left tackle Chris Faulk, center P.J. Lonergan, right guard Josh Williford and right tackle Alex Hurst were all starters on an LSU team that rushed for 202.6 yards per game and 4.8 yards a rush. It's a comforting thought for the Tigers that gets even more comforting when one considers senior Josh Dworaczyk, a two-year starter, was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing all of last season with an injury.

Together, they could potentially form a large, experienced unit with three seniors (Lonergan, Dworaczyk and Hurst) and plenty of length and size to continue to dominate up front. At 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, Lonergan is actually the small one of the five, at least in height. The other four are all at least 6-6, 301 pounds, Dworaczyk is the only one who comes close to weighing in below the 300-pound mark.

2. Will you miss these guys?: The one starter LSU lost was Will Blackwell, now an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers.

You may look at the fact that Blackwell went undrafted and opine that he's replaceable, but he was also a respected veteran who earned second-team Associated Press All-American honors.

Another key loss was "utility" lineman T-Bob Hebert, whose role on the team can easily be undervalued in retrospect. Hebert, started games in his career at both center and guard and gave the Tigers experienced depth at, really, three positions that he could slide into on any play.

Even with all the returning players, LSU could end up longing for the intangibles those two brought to the table.

3. Make room for the youngster: While LSU can have experienced players across the line, the Tigers may infuse the lineup with a shot of talented youth.

Sophomore La'el Collins, who was one of the nation's top 10 prospects in the 2011 class, actually emerged from the spring as the Tigers' starter at left guard over Dworaczyk.

It's unclear whether Collins emerged because he's proving to be the best option at the position or because of LSU's desire to bring Dworaczyk back slowly from a knee injury. What is clear is LSU will find a way to get quality snaps for the talented 6-foot-5, 320 pounder.

Either way, it's a nice dilemma for offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa to have.

4. Use what you know: After Studrawa was promoted from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator last season, it came as no surprise that LSU employed an offensive approach that featured more physical play up front.

Do the math. LSU has a head coach in Les Miles who was an offensive guard for Bo Schembechler at Michigan. It has an offensive coordinator who was a college offensive tackle and has made a career out of being an offensive line coach (and an offensive coordinator).

So just because LSU has a new, talented quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, don't expect the Tigers to stray too far from the power running game.

5. What's next: LSU's highest-rated committed prospect so far is tackle Ethan Pocic (Lemont, Ill.), the nation's No. 4 offensive tackle. The Tigers also have commitments from a pair of in-state offensive guards, K.J. Malone (Ruston, La.) and Josh Boutte (New Iberia, La./Westgate).

LSU has already done well restocking the position, but might need to also restock with a center before signing day. Lonergan is a senior and the Tigers look thin at the position behind him.