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Thursday, January 10, 2013
Minus Faulk, LSU might reshuffle OL

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Before Chris Faulk's surprising announcement Wednesday that he'll leave LSU this spring, the starting lineup for Tigers' 2013 offensive line seemed easy enough to figure out.

The only departing starters from LSU's line would be center P.J. Lonergan -- who has an heir apparent in Elliott Porter -- and left tackle Josh Dworaczyk, who became the starter only after Faulk got hurt.

Move Porter into the lineup, bring a healthy Faulk back at left tackle, and just like that you have an experienced and talented offensive line set to go.

But now that Faulk will depart despite suffering a season-ending knee injury that cost him the season's final 12 games, the outlook is less clear.

With his primary backup, Chris Davenport, reportedly having transferred to Tulane, LSU will either have to move another lineman to left tackle or go with somebody much younger.

One seemingly natural fit might be rising junior La'el Collins, who has spent his first two years at left guard, starting all 13 games of the 2012 season. Once one of the top prep offensive linemen in the Class of 2011, most assumed Collins would play the "sexier" tackle position and eventually left tackle.

Instead, he has been playing guard, where the Tigers can utilize his athleticism as a devastating blocker, pulling in front of backs on sweeps and counters. Collins has mastered that position and might be a solid draft as a guard. But it might make sense for him to move to tackle where, if he has success, he could actually improve his draft stock.

And LSU has plenty of guards. After starting right guard Josh Williford missed half the season with a serious concussion, Trai Turner impressed in his place. With Williford returning from his injury, one of them could move to the left side if Collins goes to tackle. Another option could be junior college transfer Fehoko Fanaika, who is scheduled to enroll at LSU for the spring semester and may not have an even better chance to make an immediate impact.

Another move could be to slide right tackle Vadal Alexander over to the left side or see if a younger offensive lineman is ready. Evan Washington was an ESPN 150 lineman coming out in the Class of 2010, but missed the entire 2012 season because of academics. He's now back and could compete for time at tackle. Class of 2013 ESPN 150 tackle Ethan Pocic is scheduled to arrive for the spring semester and will be able to show what he can do at the position in the spring.

Regardless, LSU got younger when Faulk decided to leave. But it's not as though the Tigers are scrambling for an answer. There are viable options. It's just a matter of which one Les Miles and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa choose.