After two seasons in the program, Greg Shaw had played in only two games.
The first appearance came in the 2008 opener against Appalachian State, where the 6-foot-5, 295-pounder – fresh out of Edward Pace High in Hialeah, Fla. – burned a redshirt and logged his only five snaps of the season. A year later he registered 12 snaps in a blowout win over Tulane.
When starting right tackle Joe Barksdale moved to the left side in the offseason, Shaw was in the running for a starting spot. Sophomore Alex Hurst, a favorite of coach Les Miles’ during spring camp, took the first reps and never looked back.
Once more, Shaw was relegated to second-team work.
Some linemen would have lost focus, adding bad weight or slacking on their film room assignments. Others might have thrown in the towel, another body eventually chalked up to attrition.
Then there’s Shaw.
“A lot of family members told me, ‘your time will come,’ so I practiced technique and focused on what I needed to focus on,” Shaw said. “I got my plays right, and when the time finally came I was ready.”
His first crack at the Southeastern Conference was as unexpected as the situation that created the opportunity. In the first quarter of Saturday’s 24-21 win over Alabama, Hurst – who had started every game of the season at right tackle – went down with an injured right leg.
When right guard Will Blackwell went down with a season-ending leg injury in the opener, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa went with backup center T-Bob Hebert instead of Josh Williford, who had worked as the second-string guard throughout the spring and fall.
This time, Studrawa went right to the next body in line.
“The first thing I did was look at coach Stud, and as soon as he gave me the nod I knew it was time to go,” Shaw said. “As soon as Hurst went down, I was like ‘I have to do this.’”
Matched against BCS National Championship Game MVP Marcel Dareus, the new blood got a taste of the finest that college football has to offer.
“A couple of bull rushes caught me off guard, but it wasn’t something I didn’t expect before,” he laughed. “I think I did well for the first time being out in a big-time game.
“Practicing against our guys, the speed was exactly the same. I just had to go. Fast thinking. You already know the plays, so you just have to do your job.”
An added bonus: Shaw spent the night next to another body that reps on the second-team in practice.
When the run game was slow to develop in the second quarter Miles turned to Williford over Hebert at the right guard spot. Shaw on the switch: “During practice our chemistry is great. I remember (Josh) saying that when he saw me he felt comfortable.”
No Hurst and no Hebert also meant that two new - and very inexperienced - bodies occupied the right side of the line in one of LSU’s biggest games of the year.
Next week, expect more of the same.
While Miles doesn’t want to tab Hurst as done for the season, a leg injury will likely sideline him through the next few weekends. Miles said that he could shuffle the line in order to create depth, but Shaw – after conversations with Hurst and Studrawa - expects to be back in action.
“Basically I just have to get ready for this week,” he said. “I expect my number is going to be called again, and I’m looking forward to it.”