The hottest injury topic on the LSU side leading up to the Tigers' clash with the Crimson Tide on Saturday is at right guard.
Junior Josh Williford (6-7, 332) took over the role as starter there midway through the 2011 season, and the Dothan, Ala., native hadn't relinquished it until the second quarter of the Florida game this fall, when Williford sustained a concussion.
Since then, a span of two-and-a-half games against top-flight SEC competition, redshirt freshman Trai Turner (6-3, 306) has taken over lining up to the right of senior P.J. Lonergan. The results have been promising as the Tigers' offensive line took the fight to No. 3 South Carolina and then wore down No. 18 Texas A&M on the road.
Now it seems Williford, who benefited from the recent bye week, is likely to be available, according to LSU head coach Les Miles.
Miles first stated his belief that Williford would be back for the game last Wednesday, and he echoed the same refrain today at his weekly press luncheon. LSU's coach went on to say Williford would not practice Monday, but the coaching staff is hopeful he'll be back by Tuesday and play this weekend.
When asked if Williford has been "cleared" medically from his concussion yet, Miles declined comment, saying that's not a word or a concept he recognizes.
Senior Josh Dworaczyk, who's move back to left tackle has coincided with Turner's insertion during the period of good play, gave his side as well on Monday.
"I think there is a question mark there with what the coaching staff would do," admitted Dworaczyk. "For me, I feel like the way that Trai has been playing, he certainly deserves a chance to continue to play. But, with Williford and all the things that he has done and just being such a big guy, in a game like this it helps to get a guy in there that can move guys around. Plus he's experienced and he knows how to do those things.
"It would definitely be something that the coaching staff will have to look at, and it's going to come down to the way things go through practice and how we continue to get better as an offensive line. They're going to put the best guys in there, and having Williford back, though, would be huge for us."
Miles was directly questioned about whether Turner would stay in the lineup even if Williford is a healthy option against Alabama. He again gave no firm answer, saying it would depend on how this week went in practice.
Perhaps one clue Miles left, however, was in how he discussed the progression of his line entering the stretch run of the season.
"I think our line's coming. I think our line's improving," said Miles. "It's interesting because we're young, so the improvement will be rapid."
Hate to read too much into that statement, but it could indicate LSU and its coaches are invested in the youth movement – which includes right tackle Vadal Alexander as well – which has paid dividends the past few weekends.
Changing of the guard?
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