Now that more than a week has passed since the LSU spring game, it's time to take stock of the 2013 Tigers and where they stand all over the gridiron.
Every day this week I will put a different position grouping under the microscope, filling out my picks to a set list of seven different categories and providing two numerical ratings.
First up is the offensive line.
Best Player: Trai Turner
Quite the case could be made here for La'el Collins, but after some internal struggle I landed on Turner. LSU's starting right guard was arguably the best offensive lineman the Tigers had down the stretch in 2012. He's back with more experience heading into 2013, and the redshirt sophomore is set to dominate with an outstanding combination of quickness, strength and a mean streak that you don't see from the player off the field. But he certainly flips the switch between the lines.
Best Spring: Jerald Hawkins
It's hard to understate the value of a player who can serviceably back up either tackle position and, often times, submit the same level of performance as the starter when called upon to replace him. That was the case for Hawkins, a redshirt freshman, this spring, as he got to spend time on both ends of the line. Most of his first-team run came on the right side, spelling Vadal Alexander, and Hawkins made the best of his chances. Expect to see a lot of the athletic Hawkins this fall.
Best Young Player: Ethan Pocic
Pocic was the only offensive line early enrollee to join LSU this spring, and, boy, did the staff ask a lot of the Illinois native right off the bat. An offensive tackle in high school, Pocic began his work on day one of spring practice as the Tigers' understudy at center. He went through some growing pains snapping the football, but overall it was a very positive experience that saw Pocic show a lot of growth and development. His size and footwork on display this spring are great indicators for the future.
Worst Spring: Evan Washington
Now a redshirt junior, Washington is seeing more and more young players lap him on the depth chart, whether you consider his position tackle or guard. It seemingly points to him going the way of Chris Davenport. Unfortunately for Washington, nothing happened this spring to stop that snowball from rolling downhill. Another (dis)honorable mention for this category is junior transfer Fehoko Fanaika. He reportedly showed up close to 380 pounds and doesn't have much quickness. The one thing going in his favor: Les Miles invested a lot of time working with him one-on-one this spring. So there's at least some care about his future in purple and gold.
Banged Up: Vadal Alexander
After having a knee-related procedure prior to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Alexander got the okay to play in the bowl game and had easily the worst outing of his true freshman season. The right tackle came out for the first two weeks of spring ball, but then was absent for a stretch. Despite word that he would be put on the shelf, still recovering from that knee injury, Alexander made a return for the last week and a half of practices. The latest word is that he's expected to be 100% for Fall Camp in August.
Don't Forget About: Josh Williford
Consider him the odds-on favorite to win the Josh Dworaczyk Award in 2013. Williford suffered multiple concussions during the Florida game in 2012 and, as a result, was forced to miss the remainder of the regular season. Back for his redshirt senior year in 2013, he's swapped sides of the line – due to Turner's emergence – and is now slotted as the starting left guard. Should LSU need a back-up center in a pinch, my guess is they'd turn to Williford before Pocic at this point. He'll be valuable in his last season in TigerTown.
Biggest Summer Subject: Developing quality depth
Outside of Hawkins, who can fill in at either tackle position, Greg Studrawa & Co. will still be looking for reliable depth come Fall Camp. Jonah Austin got some run as a first-team guard at the beginning of spring ball while starting center Elliott Porter was out, but his sample size playing with the big boys was small. It will be critical for LSU that Pocic keep developing at center, Austin take another step forward and at least one of the incoming freshmen, likely Josh Boutte, is ready to make an immediate impact in the event of injury, which is almost inevitable in the trenches.
Starters Rating (on scale from 1-10): 8
Depth Rating: 6.5
Spring Listing: Offensive Line
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