LSU Tigers: K.J. Malone

LSU position breakdown: OL

August, 1, 2014
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Editor's note: This week, we’ll take a quick look at each of LSU’s position groups as the Tigers prepare to open preseason practice next week. Up next is the offensive line.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Returning starters: LT La'el Collins (12 starts in 2013), LG Vadal Alexander (13 starts), C Elliott Porter (12 starts), RT Jerald Hawkins (13 starts). With all but one starter back from last season’s line, this figures to be an area of strength for the Tigers. Collins is an All-SEC tackle and one of the nation’s better players at his position. He and Alexander should give LSU a dominant pairing to run behind on the left side.

Starters lost: RG Trai Turner (13 starts) prevented the line from returning intact when he decided to enter the draft after his redshirt sophomore season. The decision seemed a bit strange at the time, but the Carolina Panthers validated Turner’s choice when they picked him in the NFL draft's third round.

Key newcomers: Garrett Brumfield (ESPN’s No. 54 overall prospect) is the headliner, ranking as ESPN’s top guard prospect of 2014. He and William Clapp (four stars, No. 22 guard) were initially LSU’s only offensive line signees. But junior college transfer Jevonte Domond became a late addition to the class when he learned he would not have to attend Glendale (Ariz.) Community College if he completed coursework for an associate degree in order to enroll at LSU in time for preseason camp. He can play either guard or tackle, but LSU lists him as a tackle.

Players to watch: Fehoko Fanaika (No starts) and Evan Washington (one start). With only one starting job seemingly open, naturally the players to watch are the contenders at right guard. Seniors Fanaika and Washington battled for the job in the spring and the fight will continue in August. They are listed as co-starters on the Tigers’ preseason depth chart. Keep an eye, also, on sophomore Ethan Pocic (one start). He’s listed as Porter’s backup at center, but it’s apparent LSU’s coaches like his chances to eventually become a starter.

Overall: The goal under first-year offensive line coach Jeff Grimes is to go from good to great. The pieces are there for that to happen. Collins could become one of the best offensive linemen LSU has had under Les Miles, and the Tigers have no shortage of depth or experience. In fact, since all of the projected starters will be eligible for the draft after this season, it's entirely possible that should players like junior Alexander (who started 22 games in his first two seasons) and redshirt sophomore Hawkins excel, the Tigers might have to replace all five starters next season. That will make it important for Grimes to develop the aforementioned newcomers and other youngsters such as K.J. Malone, Andy Dodd and Josh Boutte in order to soften the possible blow in 2015.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- A brand-new version of LSU's football team will take the field this week for its first spring practice.

In previous weeks, we've broken down several players and position groups to watch this spring. As we lead up to Saturday's first team workout, this week we'll make five predictions related to the Tigers' upcoming practices.

Prediction: The freshmen will contend

Obviously this subject matter begins with early enrollees at quarterback, Brandon Harris, and safety, Edward Paris Jr. (whose position battles we discussed here and here). But there are multiple players coming off a 2013 redshirt whose names could figure prominently into the Tigers' spring competition.

We see many of them playing supporting roles once the season opens, and even leading roles in some cases. That will start with solid spring performances by the youngsters.

[+] EnlargeTravin Dural
AP Photo/Bill HaberTravin Dural will get help at receiver from a group of freshmen.
Wide receiver and defensive line appear to be the two most likely position groups where a freshman might shine this spring. Since star juniors who accounted for the vast majority of snaps and production at those positions (Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham at wideout and Ego Ferguson and Anthony Johnson at defensive tackle) have entered the NFL draft, LSU will turn to inexperienced reserves -- and quite possibly freshmen -- at those spots.

At receiver, sophomore Travin Dural (seven catches, 145 yards, two TDs last season) and senior Quantavius Leslie (1-11) are the two most experienced veterans, and we use that expression loosely. Three redshirt freshmen -- John Diarse, Avery Peterson and Kevin Spears -- will enter the mix this spring and one or two of them will almost certainly become valuable targets by August. For now, thin positional depth leaves the Tigers with no alternative, but that will change in the summer when freshmen Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn arrive. Don't be surprised if the redshirt freshmen who are already on campus make the depth chart appear much more solid by the end of spring practice.

The defensive tackles at least have Christian LaCouture (11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss) and Quentin Thomas (nine tackles, 0.5 TFLs) back along with junior Mickey Johnson (three tackles). As with the wideouts, the Tigers have several freshman signees who could contribute immediately at tackle. But this spring we'll be watching redshirt freshmen Greg Gilmore and Maquedius Bain inside and Frank Herron either inside or out. Plenty of observers thought that trio -- or at least a portion of that trio -- would see the field last fall, but none did. LSU doesn't have that convenience this year following Johnson and Ferguson's departures.

Paris should have a chance to compete at safety, too, although there are several players with starting experience returning at what was an often volatile position group in 2013. It will help his cause that he's already on campus, but don't be surprised if this position battle extends beyond the spring and into the season once the other freshman signees -- led by Jamal Adams -- arrive in the summer.

Harris has LSU fans excited about the dual-threat aspect of his game, but he would need to have a ridiculous spring to jump all the way to the top of the depth chart. Anthony Jennings was an early enrollee last season and performed well enough that he claimed the backup spot behind Zach Mettenberger, and eventually replaced him when Mettenberger suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas. Harris has the game to make a similar ascent -- eventually -- but it's only fair to temper one's expectations considering he's a freshman with two months on campus getting his first taste of running Cam Cameron's offense.

There are others -- including offensive linemen Andy Dodd and K.J. Malone and quarterback Hayden Rettig -- who will also compete this spring to become the next Tigers who make a name for themselves as freshmen. That has quickly become a tradition among the Tigers, and we fully expect it to continue in 2014.

Key spring position battles: OL

February, 28, 2014
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- We're closing in on the start of spring practice at LSU, so this week let's take a look at five position battles worth watching this spring.

We covered the wide receivers, defensive tackles, quarterbacks and safeties in the first four installments. We conclude this week's series with the offensive line, which will break in a new position coach, Jeff Grimes, and at least one new starter this fall.

[+] EnlargeFehoko Fanaika
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThis will be a big spring for Fehoko Fanaika, who hopes to earn LSU's starting right guard spot.
Returning starters: Left tackle La'El Collins (second-team All-SEC and 12 starts in 2013), left guard Vadal Alexander (13 starts), center Elliott Porter (12 starts) and right tackle Jerald Hawkins (13 starts) are all back, helping the line rank among the most experienced position groups on the Tigers' roster.

Departures: Right guard Trai Turner (13 starts) entered the NFL draft after a redshirt sophomore season where he became a second-team all-SEC pick. ESPN Scouts Inc. ranks him as the No. 5 guard and No. 113 overall prospect in the upcoming draft.

Returning reserves: Although Grimes could always elect to shake up the lineup, the most intriguing position at this point is the one that lost a starter: right guard. We recently wrote about how this will be a big spring for Fehoko Fanaika to prove that he deserves to inherit Turner's starting spot. Fanaika was an early enrollee after transferring from the College of San Mateo junior college last January and played in 12 games as a backup. The 6-foot-6, 348-pound mauler must now prove he deserves a starting spot. Other reserves of note are Ethan Pocic, Porter's backup at center who could play other positions if necessary, and rising sophomore tackle Josh Boutte. Tackle Evan Washington and guard Jonah Austin also played last season, with Washington earning a start against Furman.

Newcomers: Guards K.J. Malone and Andy Dodd both redshirted last season after arriving at LSU as four-star prospects. The Tigers signed just two offensive linemen in this class, both of whom will arrive in the summer. One of them, Garrett Brumfield, was ESPN's No. 1 guard prospect for 2014, so he might make the guard competition interesting in August if Fanaika doesn't nail down the job this spring. The other signee is four-star guard William Clapp.

What to watch: Beyond the candidates for the right guard spot, it's worth watching how Grimes decides to use his returning players. He said in a local radio interview last week that LSU's line was good, but rarely great in 2013, adding that he hadn't evaluated individual players too closely yet, so that he could give them all a fair shake when they start practicing together. The four returning starters have a decided experience advantage, but Grimes hasn't developed any preferences yet. This will be a valuable evaluation time for the Tigers' new assistant coach.

Star DTs coming for Alabama game 

October, 29, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La.-- There's one thing Justin Manning wants to see when he visits LSU for the Alabama showdown Saturday.

"Hopefully, I'll see a win [for LSU]," said the Dallas/Kimball four-star defensive tackle who will make LSU his fourth official visit. "For some reason, all the schools I visit lose while I'm there."

Indeed, he visited Texas A&M when LSU won there, 24-19. He was at TCU when the Horned Frogs were upset by Iowa State, and he visited Oklahoma when the Sooners lost to Kansas State. So next weekend he'll be looking for a win -- just as LSU is looking for a win in its efforts to land a quality defensive tackle like Manning.

Games to watch for Louisiana recruits 

October, 25, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- The dream prospect matchups of the non-district schedules are over, and now Louisiana's top teams and top prospects are coming down the home stretch of their regular seasons.

That doesn't necessarily make for compelling blue chip vs. blue chip matchups, but what you have are a lot of top prospects playing big games for their teams this weekend. With LSU off, here are games LSU fans might want to check out around the state this weekend:

New Orleans/St. Augustine (6-2) at Metairie/East Jefferson (6-1): When you think of high school football, you think of "Friday Night Lights." There haven't been many Friday nights this year for St. Augustine and RB Leonard Fournette in urban New Orleans, where a scarcity of stadiums has had the Purple Knights playing many Thursday and Saturday game. This week, the Friday lights will shine on Fournette, one of the top players in the 2014 class, when St. Augustine heads to suburban Metairie for a huge District 10-4A game.

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LSU commit Jeryl Brazil gets jersey, win 

October, 15, 2012
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Jeryl BrazilScott Drucker/IntersportLSU commit Jeryl Brazil received his Under Armour jersey, then made plays.

ESPN 150 member and LSU commit Jeryl Brazil (Loranger, La./Loranger) celebrated his inclusion in the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game in style this past Friday.

After he received his jersey for those proceedings, he got back to work in his Loranger jersey. Brazil continued his big season as the Wolves' quarterback in a 42-18 win against Bogalusa, but he showed off the skills that make him dangerous in several spots: he rushed for touchdowns of 1 and 7 yards, and he added a pick-six from the cornerback spot. Loranger is 6-0 with Brazil at the helm and is set for a serious push at the Class 3A state title.

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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.

[+] EnlargeT-Bob Hebert
AP Photo/LM OterLSU loses T-Bob Hebert, but the Tigers have plenty of experience and depth along the offensive line.
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.

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Five things to know: Offensive line 

June, 11, 2012
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When one thinks of LSU's offense, the thought of a physical running game comes to mind.

La'El Collins
Davide De Pas La'el Collins could make an immediate impact on LSU's offensive line in 2012.
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.

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Prospects trickle in for LSU camp 

June, 3, 2012
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The first of LSU's two summer football camps started Sunday, and if you were looking for a who's who of prospects on the Tigers' radar, Sunday wasn't the best day.

That's not to say it was void of talent.

All it took was for the talented players from LSU's on-campus high school, University Lab, to show up. ESPN 150 senior defensive end Tim Williams led the contingent, bur he was far from the only Cub at the camp who might have a major college future.

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