LSU guard La'el Collins, No. 70, offensive tackle Vadal Alexander, No. 78, tight end Nic Jacobs and guard Josh Dworaczyk, No. 68, celebrate a touchdown in the second half against South Carolina on Oct. 13. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 7:30 PM
LSU appears to have finally cracked the code to get a workable offensive line on the field.
All it took was a season-ending knee injury, a calf contusion, an apparent concussion, a mysterious disappearance — in all, five different starting combinations in seven games.
It also took a lot of tinkering, some desperate moves, a couple of baptisms under fire, more trial and error and a catchy dual nickname.
But they may have hit on something with Lineup No. 5.
With most of Tiger Stadium expecting the worst against South Carolina’s physical defensive front last Saturday, what was then known as a patchwork offensive line paved the way for 406 yards, 258 of them from a no-frills power running game, in the 23-21 victory over the Gamecocks. They also limited South Carolina, the Southeastern Conference sacks leader going in, to one against Zach Mettenberger.
You can drop the patchwork adjective. This, apparently, is it — a dramatic blend of experience and youth with sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk (left tackle) and fifth-year senior P.J. Lonergan (center) keeping an eye on true sophomore La’el Collins (left guard), redshirt freshman Trai Turner (right guard) and true freshman Vadal Alexander (right tackle).
“We weren’t perfect,” Dworaczyk said. “But the ability to go out there and leave everything on the field and play your hearts out was something everybody did, and it was awesome.”
Somehow, it worked, even though only Collins and Lonergan were listed as starters in the season opener.
Last week, the five starters all played 81 snaps together.
“Having everybody in there the entire time and not doing a lot of shuffling and stuff really helped us as a unit,” Dworaczyk said.
Maybe now there will be some consistency.
The previous starter at right guard, Josh Williford, presumably will rejoin the team at some point after reportedly suffering a concussion against Florida.
But Miles said Monday he had no update on Williford or Alex Hurst, who left the team last week for Miles called personal reasons.
“I do not know the chance of him (Hurst) returning here at this point,” Miles said Wednesday. Hurst is no longer listed on LSU’s official depth chart.
Chris Faulk, probably the best of them, definitely won’t be back until next season after suffering a season-ending knee injury in practice on Sept. 5 leading up to the Washington game.
Complicating things, the veteran Dworaczyk saw only token playing time until last week while nursing a calf contusion.
He had the chore of holding certain All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to no sacks.
But the real difference in beating South Carolina and being held to 42 yards rushing the previous week against Florida was probably the development of the youngsters on the right side of the line.
“Them being young might have helped,” Dworaczyk chuckled. “They may have been kind of naive to how big of a game it was and what was on the line. I think they were just playing football like they know how.”
Still, it’s rare for such young players to make an impact in the offensive line in the SEC. But sometimes coaches have no choice.
“Both of them played very well,” Miles said of the two freshmen, adding that he thought it was only a matter of time.
“Both Trai Turner (6-foot-3, 332 pounds) and Vadal Alexander (6-6, 315) are big, strong athletic guys. It always takes time to train the technique and (see) how quickly they can pick those up and take that coaching to the field. Both guys are improving at a rapid rate.”
Miles, who said he spent a lot more time than usual on the sideline with the offensive line last week, was particularly pleased with the light bulb he saw go on with Turner’s development.
“He understood what was going on,” Miles said. “He could describe it very comfortably. Even when he made a mistake, he’d say ‘I can make that adjustment.’
“Those kind of conversations on the sidelines gave me the understanding that these guys were ready to play.”
Maybe the training staff saw it coming. Last week during practice one of the trainers nicknamed the side-by-side freshmen “Bull” (Turner) and “Dozer” (Alexander).
Together, a BullDozer.
“That’s catchy,” Dworaczyk said. “But that’s what those guys are.”
And just what LSU needed.
Posted By: Shawn McMurray On: 10/18/2012
Watching on TV this past Saturday, I noticed on a couple of occasions that Miles was holding the laminated playsheet while talking on the headsets. I had never seen him do that before. But I have not seen any commentator mention this.
Is this something that Miles has done before, but it just had not been picked up on TV before? (I live in Arkansas, so only occasionally do I have an opportunity to see games in person.) Or is this a new development, that should be worth looking into in the future?