When it comes to getting meaningful insight or some kind of relatable experience from an LSU player on this 2012 team, Josh Dworaczyk is the go-to guy.
After all, the offensive lineman's been around the block in TigerTown for six full years – long enough for head coach Les Miles to rib recently that "Dworaczyk's been here longer than I have."
Not true. But not far from the truth either.
In all that time Dworaczyk, a New Iberia native and almost certainly a future coach, has run the gauntlet of experiences. He's been a starter, a backup and back to starter again. He's been injured. He's been redshirted (twice). He's even swapped positions.
So, when asked about several components of LSU's line of the future, Josh D. knows the score because he's been in their shoes before.
He knows that bowl season practices are when young, inexperienced players start to make the leap. That's the way it was in December 2007 when he was a first-year player, and that's the way it remains today.
"There is more emphasis with the coaches when we go through individual drills where the coaches will spend more time with the younger guys," Dworaczyk explained. "I know Hawk [Jerald Hawkins] and Derek Edinburgh have been getting a lot more coaching one-on-one from Stud [Greg Studrawa] because two weeks from now their redshirts are pulled and it's time to play. Their eligibility's ticking. So it's something that definitely happens during practices for bowl games."
Dworaczyk reaped the benefits of that practice time in 2007, going on to start 26 consecutive games at left guard from 2009-10 before suffering a knee injury. Now he sees another young player ready to take on a similar career path.
"I actually was talking to Brick Haley about our scout-team guys," said Dworaczyk. "We do a period where the one offense goes against the two defense and the two offense goes against the one defense, so Hawk goes down there. Anyway, I asked him [Haley] who's the guy who gives the best reps when they go down there on the scout team? Because that's really, without tackling, a live period where they get after it and the O-Line and D-Line go hard. And he said Hawk (who practices as the second-team left tackle).
"I thought that was a real compliment, especially matching up against Sam [Montgomery] and the way Sam practices, which is always full speed. For Hawk to get that compliment, I think that was something special. He's someone to look forward to. After a couple of years' training right behind [Chris] Faulk, we'll see Hawk step in there and play big."
Speaking of Faulk, lost for the season after suffering an injury in practice in early September, Dworaczyk can relate to what he's going through as well.
Dworaczyk had to sit out the Tigers' 13-1 season a year ago rehabbing from knee surgery. With Faulk going through his own rehab now, Dworaczyk indicated the Slidell native is progressing nicely and speculated he could even rejoin the team for a few practices once the Tigers arrive in Atlanta.
"He's been working out with the team, but none of the guys who've had season-ending injuries have been at practice yet," Dworaczyk continued. "I think possibly, and you'll have to ask the coaches to make sure, but possibly some of them may come in when we get to the bowl site and get some practices in. That would be exciting. I think it's good for the team to see a guy come back like that, a guy who's been out all season, come back and practice. That means a lot to those guys and it means a lot to us as a team."
As for next season, Dworaczyk has no doubt that Faulk will be back in an LSU uniform. He also feels supremely confident that Faulk – a lot like Dworaczyk this year – will return from injury to earn a starting job (even if it did take another injury to get Dworaczyk back in there) and play well.
"I do," Dworaczyk answered when asked if he talks to Faulk about 2013. "I talk to him all the time about this year, though. Stuff like, ‘Help me, Faulk.' And ‘Give me some pointers. How do you make this look so easy?' He helps me out.
"It's the same thing going into next year and the future. I talk to him all the time about how I can't wait to see him back out there, doing his thing. He's definitely an elite player, and he will be again next year."
As Faulk gets on track to be LSU's left tackle in 2013 and Hawkins to replace him the year after, one thing's for sure – both will miss Dworaczyk, his influence and, probably most of all, his wisdom.
Taking over at left tackle
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