LSU Tigers: Alex Hurst

Where LSU will need help: Offense 

January, 4, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- There are some unknown variables when trying to figure out where true freshmen might play a big role on a team.

Avery Johnson
Davide De Pas/ESPN.comClass of 2012 wide receiver Avery Johnson looks to re-enroll after going to prep school for a year. He could contribute to LSU as soon as next season.
Take LSU right tackle Vadal Alexander. The 2012 signee became a true freshman starter at right tackle halfway through the season, something nobody saw coming. But when left tackle Chris Faulk suffered a season-ending knee injury, it opened the door for Alexander to move into the lineup, and he took the job and ran with it after another veteran starting tackle, Alex Hurst, left the team.

Similarly, with a veteran stable of running backs returning, few saw true freshman Jeremy Hill emerging as a primary running back for LSU this year. Yet, it took only one injury -- to original starter Alfred Blue -- to get Hill the break he needed to start getting carries and eventually become the starter and the Tigers' leading rusher.

True freshmen make impact at LSU 

December, 27, 2012
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BATON ROUGE -- With a number of top prospects still considering the possibility of signing with LSU Feb. 6, they should remember one thing before they sign with the Tigers:

If you sign, you better come ready to play.

LSU brought in 21 true freshmen in the 2012 signing class, and 15 have played -- which is second in the country.

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Countdown to signing day: Ethan Pocic 

December, 26, 2012
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To gear up for 2013 national signing day, GeauxTigerNation's Gary Laney will break down every commitment in the Tigers' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Offensive tackle Ethan Pocic, Lemont, Ill./Lemont, 6-foot-6, 285 pounds

[+] EnlargeEthan Pocic
Zach Perry/Intersport Ethan Pocic might have an immediate impact for LSU.
ESPN Grade: 84 (4-star prospect)

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Grading LSU offense: Passing game lags 

October, 25, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU played through two-thirds of the season before finally getting a break, but the bye week has arrived. It's safe to say the offense hasn't been the juggernaut fans were hoping to see in 2012, but it's been good enough to allow the Tigers to control their own destiny with two top-11 teams coming to Death Valley during the next two weeks.

Defensive grades come Friday. For now, this is how the LSU offense grades out heading during the off week.

QUARTERBACK

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Hurst taken off LSU depth chart 

October, 17, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- If LSU offensive tackle Alex Hurst is to return to LSU any time soon, you wouldn't know it from the depth chart.

Hurst no longer appears on the depth chart released Tuesday by LSU. Freshman Vadal Alexander is listed at the starter at right tackle, and sophomore Elliott Porter, also the backup center, is listed as the second-team right tackle.

Sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk, who started at left tackle last week after Hurst left the team for undisclosed personal reasons, is listed as the starter at left tackle, backed up by junior Chris Davenport.

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LSU Awards Tracker: Week 7

October, 16, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- How LSU players on awards watch lists have fared through seven games:

DE Sam Montgomery (Bednarik, Nagurski, Rotary Lombardi): Leads one of the nation's best defenses in both sacks (4) and tackles for loss (8.5), making him a viable candidate with big games coming up where he can make a national splash.

DE Barkevious Mingo (Bednarik, Nagurski, Rotary Lombardi): Has just two sacks, but is always applying pressure with eight quarterback hurries. With a couple of big performances in upcoming big games, he could get back into the picture.

FS Eric Reid (Bednarik, Nagurski): A crucial interception against South Carolina adds to his big-play resume. Has two interceptions and is third on the team with 39 tackles.

C P.J. Lonergan (Rimington): LSU rushed for 258 yards against South Carolina, a departure from recent O-line troubles. If the line continues to excel in the second half, Lonergan could climb into the picture.

TE Chase Clement (Mackey): A great blocker, his lack of production in the passing game (four receptions) will likely keep him on the outside looking in.

K Drew Alleman (Lou Groza): He's 11-for-15 on field goal but has four misses from less than 40 yards, too many for a national award.

P Brad Wing (Ray Guy): His 43.8-yard average is good, but he's coming off the worst game of his career and is looking like more of a longshot.

T Alex Hurst (Outland, Rotary Lombardi): Missed the South Carolina game for personal reasons and his status going forward is unclear.

DT Bennie Logan (Outland): Continues to be good without racking up statistics. He has one sack and 3.5 tackles for loss and is more of a candidate to be drafted high than to get national awards.

LB Kevin Minter (Butkus): LSU's leader in tackles (63) and tackles for loss (8.5) has become a dark-horse candidate for awards.
Alex Hurst John Korduner/Icon SMIThe status of Alex Hurst (pictured) and Josh Williford are still undetermined for Saturday, but the LSU offensive line is coming off its best performance of the season this past weekend.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's telling that it took until the last question of LSU coach Les' Miles Monday news conference before somebody finally asked about the starting right side of the offensive line that was absent in last week's 23-21 win over South Carolina.

Miles said he didn't know how either tackle Alex Hurst or guard Josh Williford were doing and "I don't have any update that would change status."

Williford missed the South Carolina game with a head injury while Hurst left the team last week for personal reasons, leaving the Tigers all an all-freshman right side of the line line with Vadal Alexander at tackle for a third straight game (Hurst had actually been playing left tackle because of an injury to Josh Dworaczyk) and Trai Turner, who made his starting debut at right guard.

If one wants to know why it took so long for questions about the veterans to come up, all you had to do is listen to Miles' opening statement.

"I have to give special mention to those two young guys," he said. "Trai Turner, in his first start, and Vadal Alexander, in his first appreciable playing time in his early career, both played very well."

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- As the Golden Band from Tigerland struck up LSU’s alma mater following the Tigers' dramatic 23-21 win over South Carolina, quarterback Zach Mettenberger and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa couldn’t find enough people to hug.

With ear-to-ear grins, rosy cheeks and victory sweat running down their faces, the two stood a few yards from the mob of players raising their fists and helmets to the sky with each note that blared from above, and savored the moment, as gorilla-sized weights slid off their backs.

A week after their inept offense helped produce LSU’s first loss of the season, all seemed forgotten.

“Really, that’s what we should have been doing all year,” said Mettenberger, who finished Saturday night with 148 yards on 12-of-25 passing. “We knew we could do it.”

The Tigers didn’t do it with much style, but a week after being pushed around by Florida, LSU was the more physical team and grinded like the Tigers did in 2011.

The game plan that buried LSU in the Swamp benefited the Tigers on Saturday, as they wore out South Carolina’s defense by running 78 plays -- 28 more than last week -- which amounted to 406 yards. LSU pounded South Carolina’s vaunted defensive front with 258 rushing yards, with three running backs running up double-digit carry totals.

In a game in which the Tigers’ backs were firmly against the wall and any chance of winning the SEC West -- let alone winning the entire league -- would have been dashed with a loss, LSU stood tall with the kind of rugged offense and smothering defense that pushed it to 13 wins last season.

[+] EnlargeLSU's Jeremy Hill
Derick E. Hingle/US PRESSWIREJeremy Hill rushed 17 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns against South Carolina.
“Out team understands these type games,” coach Les Miles said.

“When we play like that, we are pretty good.”

LSU still has issues when it comes to consistently throwing the ball downfield, but it’s going to be tough to beat these Tigers when they run like that. The running game finally put this game into manageable third downs, as the Tigers converted seven of their first 10 third downs and finished the game 11-of-19 on third down.

Last week, the Tigers converted one of 13 third downs.

“The defense played great, and the offense got better,” Miles said.

And this was a total team effort. On Friday, there was a players-only meeting called. Feelings were aired out, and players left re-energized and focused, wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. It motivated a team in what was essentially a must-win situation.

“It really touched the hearts of the men that were in the room and it showed today,” Landry said.

“It was something that was overdue.”

Players said it was a chance for this group to come together more as a unit, and it showed most in how the offensive line played. Three underclassmen -- La'el Collins, Trai Turner and Vadal Alexander -- started, and left tackle Alex Hurst wasn’t even in the building as he deals with personal issues. Against one of the league’s best fronts, the makeshift line overpowered the Gamecocks.

It also showed in running back Jeremy Hill, the talented freshman who has seen limited action. With the Tiger Stadium lights beaming down and his team’s season in the balance, Hill served up the play of the day with his 50-yard touchdown run that gave LSU its late 23-21 lead in the fourth quarter. He nearly finished off the Gamecocks with that run, and finished the day with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

“We kind of wore those guys down,” Hill said. “As the game went on, they got tired, so we just kept running downhill, hitting them hard, and eventually we were going to break one. That’s kind of what I did.”

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney seemed to agree.

“Some guys came out to play, but some guys didn’t,” he said. “It may have been because of injuries. It may be because they were scared.”

On Saturday, LSU’s offense delivered the blows, and the defense cleaned up the rest.

“They were just demolishing South Carolina’s defense,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “You can’t help but feed off of something like that.”

And that’s the way LSU has to play from here on out. The passing game is what it is, but the offensive line’s grit and the running game’s power will propel this team to its goals because it knows the defense will always have its back.

This was the game LSU needed, and it’s the type of game the Tigers intend to keep having.

“We gotta win out. That’s the big thing that we all know,” Landry said. “Every game for us is a national championship to us. It’s that type of mentality that we’re going to take every Saturday from here on out.”
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU dominated the first half of the showdown with No. 3 South Carolina Saturday, but had a 7-3 deficit to show for it.

A 2-yard pass from Connor Shaw to Ace Sanders for a touchdown, set up by a 70-yard interception return of a Zach Mettenberger pass by Jimmy Legree was enough to give South Carolina the lead despite having half the first downs and (5 to LSU's 10) and less than half the yards (69 to LSU's 179).

LSU, usually a team that excels at special teams, had a missed field goal and a shanked punt.

Stat of the half: 7-for-10. A week after the Tigers failed to convert on 12 of 13 third downs in a 14-6 loss at Florida, the Tigers converted 7 of 10 third downs and consistently moved the chains, holding the ball for 17:25.

Player of the half: Legree, who jumped a slant pass and returned it inside the LSU 1 to change a game that was dominated by the Tigers.

What's working for LSU: The makeshift offensive line. With two starters out, the Tigers still controlled the clock, piecing together 10 first downs, 87 yards rushing and 178 total yards. Trai Turner got his first start for the Tigers at right guard for Josh Williford. Josh Dworaczyk started at LT for Alex Hurst.

What's not working for LSU: Mettenberger's interception spoiled an otherwise decent half (7-for-14, 91 yards). The Tigers' special teams was off. Drew Alleman shanked a 33-yard field goal attempt (he did make a 23-yard attempt for the Tigers' only points) and Brad Wing shanked his only punt attempt for 10 yards. The Tigers were good at moving the chains, but all three times they failed to convert a third-down conversion, they were in South Carolina territory, twice in the red zone.

Welcome to the Bayou

October, 13, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Greetings from Tiger Stadium. We have a big one between LSU and South Carolina.

Two top-10 teams and two very, very talented defenses will be going at it under the lights Saturday in one of college football's best environments.

The Tigers are limping in after that 14-6 loss to Florida, but interesting things happen under the lights in this place, and something tells me The Hat will have a few new things in store for the Gamecocks. It will be interesting to see how South Carolina deals with not just the crowd noise but with its own emotions after last week's blowout victory over Georgia.

This is South Carolina's first real road trip and the Tigers have their backs against the wall.

It'll be interesting to watch both of these offenses tonight. The Gamecocks have been very balanced and have one of the SEC's most efficient quarterbacks in Connor Shaw. That fractured shoulder hasn't been much of an issue at all. The Gamecocks will face their toughest test up front, and that is a concern for offensive-line coach Shawn Elliott. His line has been shaky at times this year, and the tackle spots are key. Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell will have their hands full with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo going at them.

For LSU, the Tigers were already without top offensive lineman Chris Faulk and will now be without starting left tackle Alex Hurst, who continues to deal with personal issues. Josh Dworaczyk will start at left tackle, where he has really struggled. Trai Turner will also start for the injured Josh Williford at right guard, while Vadal Alexander will start at right tackle; both are freshmen. LSU will have three underclassmen starting on the offensive line ... with Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and Kelcy Quarles to battle.

Talk about a lot of pressure up front ...

Battered Tigers face biggest challenge

October, 12, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's almost the perfect storm of problems for LSU's offense this week.

Already, the Tigers are lacking offensive confidence after getting held to 200 yards by Florida in last week's 14-6 loss. Now, the Tigers' struggling offensive line may head into its next game without right guard Josh Williford, who suffered a head injury against the Gators was had not been cleared to play as of Wednesday. If he can't go, Trai Turner would start and give LSU an all-freshman right side of the line.

[+] EnlargeAlex Hurst
John Korduner/Icon SMILeft tackle Alex Hurst has joined the wounded along the LSU offensive line, as Les Miles said he was "nicked" against Florida.
As if that's not enough, Tigers coach Les Miles added Wednesday that left tackle Alex Hurst is dealing with an injury and has also missed practice time for personal reasons. If he can't go, Josh Dworaczyk would start at left tackle.

If either miss the Tigers' next game, No. 9 LSU (5-1, 1-1 in the SEC) will start its fifth offensive line combination in seven games. The Tigers' offensive front is, at best, makeshift.

And who does this patchwork bunch get to try to block this week?

No. 3 South Carolina and perhaps the best defensive line -- save, arguably, LSU's -- in the country. The 6-0 Gamecocks lead the SEC in sacks with 25 and are coming off a breakout performance in a 35-7 win over Georgia.

"We're going to have to work our best as a unit," said LSU left guard La'el Collins, the one offensive lineman who has started every game at one position. "Our goal is going to be to protect ... and protect."

Three things to watch

1. Mismatch? While LSU's defensive line is arguably as good as South Carolina's, the Gamecocks' defensive front appears to have a bigger mismatch against LSU's M.A.S.H. unit of an offensive line. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is perhaps the best pass rusher in the country. Does LSU have anybody who can block him and his teammates?

2. Home field mystique: LSU has won a school-record 21 straight games at Tiger Stadium, the longest current home winning streak in the country, and the Tigers are historically at their best at night. South Carolina has struggled on the road this year, barely getting by Vanderbilt, 17-13 and trailing by 10 points at halftime before subduing Kentucky, 38-17 in Lexington. Can the Death Valley mystique be a factor?

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LSU's O-line faces more attrition

October, 10, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- The news didn't get better for LSU's troubled offensive line Wednesday.

Already facing the possibility of playing without one starting offensive lineman, Tigers coach Les Miles said LSU might also be without left tackle Alex Hurst when the Tigers host No. 3 South Carolina on Saturday.

Miles said Hurst was "nicked" in last week's 14-6 loss to Florida and has missed practice this week while dealing with personal issues. He did not know when Hurst would return but when asked if Hurst expressed a desire to leave the team, Miles said that was not the case.

Hurst, a senior, is a returning starter at right tackle and started there the first four games before moving to left tackle the last two games.

Miles also said right guard Josh Williford (head) has not yet been cleared to play Saturday against South Carolina, though it remains a possibility.

If Williford and Hurst can't go, LSU will be without three of its original starting five offensive linemen from August camp. Chris Faulk was lost for the season after the season opener. Williford and Hurst were the Tigers' right side of the line. Miles said Josh Dworaczyk would start at left tackle for Hurst and Trai Turner would start at right guard if either starter can't go.

LSU faces defense much like its own

October, 10, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Every day at practice, LSU's offense gets to see an elite defense.

Aaron Murray
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJadeveon Clowney has 6.5 of South Carolina's 25 sacks this season and will stress a patchwork LSU offensive line.
The Tigers have arguably the top defensive line in the nation, two defensive ends projected by some to be top-five NFL draft picks and a secondary it calls "DBU" because of its recent production of NFL draft prospects. Throw in fast-emerging Kevin Minter at linebacker and it adds up to a unit that, as a team, is ranked third in the country in total defense (221 yards per game).

Given that, one would think LSU would be comfortable playing another elite defense comparable to its own.

Instead, there is an assumed mismatch this week when the struggling LSU offense faces No. 3 South Carolina's vaunted defense, ranked 11th in the country at 278 yards per game. It's a Gamecocks defense that, in many ways, mirrors LSU's own defense and comes into Saturday's game at Tiger Stadium at the peak of its powers coming off a 35-7 shellacking of Georgia.

It starts up front where, like LSU's tandem of Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, South Carolina has dominant ends in sophomore Jadaveon Clowney and senior Devin Taylor.

"This is definitely going to be one of the bigger challenges we've had this fall," said LSU offensive tackle Alex Hurst. "Both guys that play at both ends, they are definitely NFL caliber and they are going to be high NFL draft picks. This is a challenge we're going to have to be ready for."

Clowney's name is one that is particularly interesting to those who follow LSU recruiting. The Gamecocks leader in sacks with 6.5, he was the top-ranked player in the country coming out of high school in 2011, just ahead of LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson.

(Read full post)

LSU Awards Tracker: Week 6

October, 9, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- How LSU players on awards lists have fared through six games:

DE Sam Montgomery (Bednarik, Nagurski, Rotary Lombardi): Has two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, but he needs to increase his production in the second half to get back into contention.

DE Barkevious Mingo (Bednarik, Nagurski, Lombardi): He's been better than his modest statistics (16 tackles, 1 sack, 7 hurries), but he's light years from the production he'll likely need to be an award-winner.

FS Eric Reid (Bednarik, Nagurski): Third on the team with 32 tackles, Reid has had an effective, if quiet, season. It's hard to imagine he'll stay in national awards contention without some eye-catching performances in the second half.

C P.J. Lonergan (Rimington): Any LSU offensive lineman's chances are hurt by the sacks allowed (15) and the Tigers' recent offensive struggles in general.

TE Chase Clement (Mackey): LSU doesn't use its tight ends much in the passing game, so while he's been an effective blocker, it's hard to to see Clement, with four catches for 44 yards, staying in contention.

K Drew Alleman (Groza): His numbers -- 8-for-11 on field goals -- are good, but the percentage is just seventh in the SEC. It's a strong season for SEC kickers.

Brad Wing
Nelson Chenault/US PresswirePunter Brad Wing is fourth in the SEC with a 45.3-yard average and is best at pinning opponents inside the 20.
P Brad Wing (Ray Guy): He's 15th in the nation and fourth in the SEC with a 45.3-yard average and remains the best in the SEC at pinning opponents inside the 20 (12 in 27 punts). A good second half would keep him in strong contention.

T Alex Hurst (Outland, Rotary Lombardi): Took one for the team by moving from the right side to the left side, but on a troubled offensive line, he likely won't remain in awards contention.

DT Bennie Logan (Outland): Another solid player who doesn't accumulate big stats, Logan had 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack, not likely enough to stay in contention for major awards.

LB Kevin Minter (Butkus): Had a Butkus Award performance with 20 tackles, including a school-record 17 solo, against Florida. With 54 tackles and 8.5 for loss, he's a contender.

Miles not ready to shuffle offense

October, 9, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- As its beleaguered offense has looked for answers to injury and ineffective play this season, LSU has found itself shuffling players around.

The Tigers have started three running backs at least one game this season. Because of injury, three players have started at least one game at left tackle and two at right tackle. Alex Hurst has started at both right tackle and left tackle and Josh Dworaczyk has spent time at guard and tackle.

But even with a recent trend to struggle offensively against SEC opponents, including an anemic 200-yard offensive performance in last week's 14-6 loss to Florida, there are two shuffles LSU coach Les Miles isn't considering: his offensive coaching staff and the Tigers' offensive approach.

[+] EnlargeGreg Studrawa
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireOffensive coordinator Greg Studrawa will continue to call plays from the press box, LSU coach Les Miles said.
Asked if he would consider any changes in game-day responsibility for his offensive staff heading into this week's game against No. 3 South Carolina, Miles said, "We're all doing the things we've been doing for the last number of years and there's no reason to change responsibilities in my mind."

That's not exactly the case. Offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa was promoted from offensive line coach after then-offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in August 2011. Kragthorpe is now quarterbacks coach and coaches from the field while Studrawa calls plays in the press box.

Tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is available to deal with the linemen on the sideline during games.

In recent games against SEC opponents, the approach hasn't worked well. While the issues were often masked by a forgiving early schedule in which the Tigers piled up points in wins over North Texas, Idaho and Washington, LSU has managed 18 points and one touchdown in two SEC games this season.

Dating to last season's 21-0 loss to Alabama in last season's BCS championship game, the Tigers have 18 points, one touchdown and 643 yards in their last three games against SEC opponents.

"In our view," Miles said, "we have to run it and throw it better."

And maybe call plays better.

(Read full post)

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