LSU offensive line coach Greg Studrawa knows the value of depth.
Studrawa has been hit with the unexpected injury, which forced him to go one direction when he anticipated a different path.
Last season was a case in point.
Starting right guard Will Blackwell went down on the first offensive snap of the season with a broken ankle and didn’t return until November.
It could have put a coach on his heels, left him with his back against the wall.
But Studrawa just slots in the next guy and moves on.
Hebert, a combination guard and center who has appeared in 33 games in five seasons, is a prime example of versatility. It didn’t matter if he was replacing Blackwell or Dworaczyk, Hebert was prepared for the assignments on either side.
“That’s what Coach Studrawa stresses to us all the time,” Hebert said. “He wants you to step up if your name is called, and he doesn’t care if that’s not your main position. He’s going to play the person he thinks is most ready.”
Prior to last Thursday, Shaw dwelled in the shadows of the sidelines.
Shaw’s playing time has been sporadic, grabbing five snaps in his first college game (2008 vs. Appalachian State) before sitting out until the Tulane game the following season, when he got 12 snaps against the Green Wave – his only action of the 2009 season.
Last fall, the junior played backup to Alex Hurst, and most figured Shaw would see nothing more than scrap duty until he graduated.
That changed in the season’s biggest game of 2010.
Matched against Nick Saban and Alabama’s dominant defensive front, Studrawa lost Hurst to an injury that sidelined him the rest of the afternoon.
His backup was Shaw, a 6-foot-5, 280-pounder whose only game experience came against teams much less talented than the Tide.
“I was nervous that day, but I went out and tried to stay focused,” Shaw said.
Shaw delivered, recording three knockdowns in 57 snaps as the Tigers marched to 24-21 victory. When Hurst couldn’t go the following week against Louisiana-Monroe, Shaw got the start and tallied a game-high eight knockdowns in 49 snaps.
But as quickly as he was thrust into action, Hurst’s return put Shaw back onto the bench, where he remained until last Thursday night against Mississippi State.
In the opening quarter, left tackle Chris Faulk fell to the ground and didn’t get up.
Studrawa, now the team’s offensive coordinator, had to make a quick decision.
Sophomore Chris Davenport and freshman La’el Collins had shared reps as Faulk’s backup during practice, but neither had logged any meaningful minutes in a college game.
So, Studrawa went in a different direction.
He picked up the phone and dialed down to the field, where Dworaczyk - who has helped serve as a liaison between Studrawa and the offensive line now that Studrawa is in the booth – was told to pass along the news of LSU’s next step.
“Josh had the headphones on, and he came to me and said ‘Shaw, let’s go,’” Shaw said. “I just told him I was ready.”
Before that moment, Shaw, who has spent his career on the right side of the offensive line, had never envisioned protecting the quarterback’s blind side.
“The last time I (took reps) on the left was some time during the offseason,” Shaw said. “That first snap was fast. Things were going fast. After the first series I settled down. I said that I know this, so let’s do it.
“I just had to do my job one play at a time. I think I did well, especially switching to the left side.”
Shaw, who looked strong from start to finish, made the move work against an SEC defense – just as he did in Tiger Stadium against Alabama.
The only difference this time around: The side and the cowbells.
“I am on the right side, so I am used to looking from straight to the right,” Shaw said. “Now I am on the left side, so I am looking straight to left. It’s so weird looking on that left side because I don’t have to worry about it. There is a group of people there to handle that.
“The only thing different was the crowd. The crowd was really loud. I was very surprised.”
With LSU headed to West Virginia this Saturday, another rowdy crowd will be screaming at the Tigers as quarterback Jarrett Lee attempts to operate the offense – and there’s a good chance Shaw will be leaning his head to the right to get a closer listen to the snap count.
Faulk was held out of practices until Wednesday, and Miles would not confirm whether Faulk was healthy enough to start against the Mountaineers.
“Right now (Faulk) is taking it slow, and right now I am taking a majority of the reps,” Shaw said. “I feel like I have to be ready for if he does play and if he doesn’t. I take every rep seriously.”
Regardless of Faulk’s status for the weekend, Shaw has learned time and again that his time could come at any moment – and at any position, which is why Studrawa has driven home the concept of being ready for anything.
“You don’t know where people are needed,” Shaw said. “All of us can play two to three positions. All of us, hands down. It’s important that he taught us that because without that, if someone goes down at right guard then we only have one more right guard. That’s it. So we don’t practice like that or train like that. Everybody can move to that position if he needs us to.
“Everybody knows what everybody can do.”
Whether it’s Shaw or Faulk at left tackle or Blackwell or backup Josh Williford at right guard, Miles is confident that the results will remain the same.
LSU will push back their opponent and win the battle in the trenches.
“I like how the depth of the offensive line is coming,” Miles said. “I’m pretty comfortable that whoever who we field there, we will be putting five very quality guys on the line of scrimmage who give us an opportunity to play.”