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Tigers' OL blueprint shows bright future

6/27/2012

Conventional wisdom says that LSU's offensive line should see some drop off in the coming months. After all, the Tigers' trench men paved the way for nearly 3,000 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2011, and they surrendered just 18 sacks in 14 games.

It's a reasonable guess that after such a dominant season, LSU would see heavy losses along its offensive front. But that's where the Tigers' success in recruiting, along with a little bit of luck, comes in to play. Where one would expect losses, the real story here is addition.

The Tigers return roughly four starters from last year's impressive unit. Left tackle Chris Faulk and center P.J. Lonergan are the most obvious among the group, considering they both made double digit starts in 2011 and enter 2012 as contenders for national honors. Right tackle Alex Hurst -- who played a whopping 767 snaps last year -- and right guard Josh Williford return as well. That doesn't even include the return of sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk, although the extent of his role after major surgery is yet to be determined.

That's not to say there aren't losses. LSU lost current Carolina Panther Will Blackwell and his 14 starts from last season, as well as T-Bob Hebert and his wealth of experience at both guard and center.

But throughout the spring and surely heading into fall camp, we've finally begun to hear about the stockpiled talent in the LSU trenches shining through. Two years after starring as one of the top-10 signees in the class of 2011, La'el Collins looks poised to grab a starting spot and replace Blackwell in the interior. The sophomore played in seven games as a true freshman last fall, and he saw plenty of starting work in the spring.

In the same vein, we've seen a decent bit out of 2012 early enrollee Vadal Alexander. Checking in at an absolutely massive 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, it doesn't seem likely the true freshman is going to bother sitting out his first season -- much like Collins before him. In another similarity to his ESPN 150 counterpart, it looks like Alexander will play at guard for at least the early portion of his career. The Tigers are set at tackle with Faulk and Hurst holding the starting spots, and it has been a hallmark of Les Miles' tenure to mix and match guards for better efficiency.

None of that even accounts for perhaps the most interesting addition for 2012 in Elliott Porter. Porter's story is well-documented in that he arrived at LSU to learn he had no scholarship, transferred to Kentucky before ultimately coming back home to Louisiana. The only thing that could top a journey like that is the Waggaman, La., native's showcase in the spring.

Porter caught Miles' eye in the Tigers' March practices. The sophomore worked with the first team when Lonergan sat out with a minor injury, and Porter earned himself a start in the team's spring game.

The advent of all this talent is not only encouraging for the future, it gives a blueprint of what to expect. The Tigers have recruited big-name offensive linemen for several years now, and we're finally starting to see their roles.

That's important for a 2013 class that includes big-time talent at both guard and tackle. ESPN 150 member Ethan Pocic (Lemont, Ill./Lemont) has been the big splash for the Tigers at offensive tackle, not to mention home state prospects in K.J. Malone (Ruston, La./Cedar Creek) and Josh Boutte (New Iberia, La./Westgate).

It's a reasonable guess that Collins and Alexander could move to tackle sometime in the future, which could make the in-state duo a longterm answer at guard. It would certainly seem to fit the blueprint of development and dominance LSU has drawn up in recent years.