The average LSU fan will spend most of their football offseason wondering who will play quarterback for the Tigers next year, but Leonard Fournette has a different problem in front of him. Literally — as in right in front of him every single time he lines up in LSU’s backfield — because Fournette has no idea right now, as to who will line up to block in front of him.
As things stand right now three of the five offensive line starters from this years team are draft eligible, and it looks like all three could declare for the draft.
Vadal Alexander is a four year starter and has no eligibility left. He will enter the draft where analysts currently have him rated as anywhere from a late first to third round prospect.
Jerald Hawkins has one year of eligibility but as a Junior he can declare for the draft. He hasn’t been mentioned among the top players at his position so there is a chance he will return to better his draft position.
Oct 11, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; LSU Tigers offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins (65) reacts after they beat the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. LSU Tigers defeated the Florida Gators 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Like Hawkins, starting center Ethan Pocic has one year of eligibility left and can return but is eligible for the draft. There has been talk that he may return to try for one of the tackle spots but he is highly regarded enough he may well take the leap this year.
If all three eligible players declare for the draft LSU line coach and run game coordinator Jeff Grimes will have his work cut out setting up blocks for Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.
Fortunately, Coach Grimes is arguably the best offensive line recruiter in the country; and this is a position where the Tigers are blessed with great depth.
Backup tackles KJ Malone and Toby Weathersby saw some action this year and both looked good facing real opponents.
Oct 11, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; LSU Tigers offensive lineman K.J. Malone (63) against the Florida Gators prior to the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Will Clapp was originally slated to play center for the Tigers this year, before the emergence of true freshman Maea Teuhema caused Pocic to slide over to center and Clapp out to Right Guard.
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Andy Dodd is also available to play center and backup guard Garrett Brumfeld could push for a guard spot. Josh Boutte could also return to the starting spot he held for a single half before being replaced by Teuhama in the lineup.
It’s very early to project but a good guess for next years LSU offensive line goes something like this: Toby Weathersby at Left Tackle, Maea Teuhema at Left Guard, Will Clapp at Center, Josh Boutte at Right Guard, and KJ Malone at Right Tackle.
There are a lot of other variations that could be tried here. This will bear close attention during the spring, and as always LSU fans will be eagerly awaiting the return of the Big Cat drill to see how the pecking order is shaping up.
Clearly, if LSU hopes to contend for a National Championship and help its top star win the Heisman Trophy, then some semblance of a new starting unit will have to emerge in order to clear a path for Leonard Fournette, in 2016……..