LSU line thrives despite musical chairs

The LSU offensive line was down two usual starters versus Furman, with LT La'el Collins and C Elliott Porter resting injuries. Ethan Pocic and Evan Washington filled in for the duo, and, according to Les Miles and several LSU players, had a good night.

When LSU took the field in Tiger Stadium Saturday night, the Tigers were without two usual starters against Furman.

Center Elliott Porter and left tackle La'el Collins, a pair of juniors, were unavailable for LSU, both nursing injuries leading into the bye week.

True freshman Ethan Pocic, 6-foot-7 and 301 pounds, made his first career start at center in Porter's place while redshirt freshman Jerald Hawkins, normally the starter at right tackle, moved out to left tackle to fill Collins' vacancy.

Redshirt junior Evan Washington slotted in at right tackle, also making his first start in purple and gold.

Following the game, one in which the offense put up 672 yards (332 rushing, 340 passing) in a 48-16 win over Furman, head coach Les Miles and several offensive players heaped praise on the performance of LSU's two backups thrown into a new position.

"I thought Ethan Pocic as a true freshman, going in there and starting his first game, I thought he did great," Miles said. "There wasn't a missed snap, and I thought his assignments were very, very good. He didn't have any problems with protection. Again, for a first-time starter, I thought he did great."

Sophomore Trai Turner, who started at right guard, echoed a similar sentiment on Pocic and thought Hawkins and Washington displayed their versatility.

On Pocic: "He's just a guy that came in, a freshman, he had big shoes to fill, and I think he did a great job. I'm not the coach, so I can't grad him out, but I thought he was great. He made his calls, blocked his assignments well and just kept it coming."

On the two tackles tonight: "It shows the versatility in Jerald and it also kind of showed the versatility of Big E. Evan was able to come in when I went down against Auburn, and he was also able to come in and do a good job in this game to replace La'el."

Running back Terrence Magee, who rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns (next to Jeremy Hill, who added 143 yards and two more scores), thought LSU didn't skip a beat with two new faces and some musical chairs.

"It's speaks volumes about our offensive line," Magee explained of the rushing totals. "We had two leaders go down in Elliott Porter and La'el Collins, and Ethan Pocic and Evan Washington stepped in and played big roles tonight. Those guys are fun. They're bullies, man. Who wouldn't want to run behind those guys?"

As for Collins and Porter, Miles assured both regular starters would be back for Alabama in two weeks.

"Collins is fine. We would expect that he would play if we had to play next Saturday," continued Miles. "It's the same thing with Elliott Porter ... We'll get some health and some freshness and get ready for Alabama."

For Hawkins, Saturday night was an audition of sorts, considering he's the odds-on favorite to replace Collins on the blind side should the big man from Baton Rouge enter the NFL Draft after his junior season.

In Turner's eyes, that's a role he could see Hawkins slipping into longterm.

"I believe so," Turner replied in reference to Hawkins taking over left tackle next season. "I don't see why not. A guy like that – big, strong, athletic, 200 pounds soaking wet. (Laughing) Nah, but he's just a guy that's capable doing whatever and lining up wherever coach wants him to."

Pocic, too, could play elsewhere on the offensive line, but the need this season is at center. Turner said wherever Pocic ends up, the freshman from Illinois will always remember the night he started against Furman.

"He's young. You could tell by the way he looked around tonight," said Turner. "I looked at him at one point tonight, and I was really happy for him. I saw him and he was just looking around, taking it all him. I told him you better remember it because you never get a first game back. Just enjoy it. I was happy that for his first start we were able to get a win."

Finally, it's noteworthy that tonight marked the first time in nine games in the 2013 season that LSU used a different starting lineup on the offensive line. Collins and Porter have started the other eight games, next to Vadal Alexander at left guard, Trai Turner at right guard and Hawkins.

Pocic, Washington fill in for LSU versus Furman

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