The Big Bengals Up Front
LSU is fortunate to have three returning starters along the offensive line and a fourth player who saw plenty of playing time last season. It’s no secret that Les Miles’ boys want to pound the ball using a bevy of talented running backs behind a dominating offensive line. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron wants to ensure that the line is able to pass block as well so senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger has plenty of time to throw down the field. If LSU’s offense can accomplish both of these things, then the Tigers will be one of the most dangerous teams in the nation.
Perhaps the biggest loss from last season’s offensive line was center P.J. Lonergan. He was one of the best centers in the SEC and a three-year starter. Replacing him will be junior Elliott Porter, who started one game last season when Lonergan was recovering from an injury. Porter has excellent size for a center at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, and transferred from Kentucky in January 2011.
The right side of the line should be solid as right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Vadal Alexander return after strong freshman seasons. Turner saw action in every game, but only became a starter mid-way through the season due to injuries along the line. He more than held his own and performed so well that former starting right guard Josh Williford has been moved to the left side. Alexander made the freshman All-SEC team and the freshman All-America second team.
Williford, a senior from Dothan, Ala., is now the starting left guard. Last year’s starting left guard, junior La’el Collins, has become the starting left tackle. Collins led the team with 836 total snaps and 64.5 knockdowns last season. These two provide LSU with plenty of experience on the left side of the line as Williford already has three varsity letters and Collins was a freshman All-American in 2011 and an All-SEC honorable mention in 2012.
Overall, the Tigers offensive line will feature three upper-classmen and two sophomores that played a significant number of downs last year. Collins has the potential to be a first-round NFL draft pick depending on his performance at left tackle in 2013. Miles and Cameron are confident this combination of players will be the best group to lead LSU’s offense and compliment their stingy defense.
Incoming Freshmen: The LSU staff recruited some highly-rated lineman in this year’s class. Ethan Pocic is a four-star tackle from Lemont, Ill. Although he was an impressive tackle in high school and has the height (6-foot-7) to play the position in the SEC, he could become the second-string center due to his versatility. K.J. Malone was just a three-star signee from Ruston, but he has the perfect size and pedigree to be an interior lineman. Malone is 6-foot-3 and 307 pounds, and is the son of former NBA great Karl Malone. If he possesses his dad’s mean streak on the field, then the younger Malone should be able to maul defenders along the line.