Spring Break-down: OL/TEs

TSD publisher Ben Love continues his week-long look-back at LSU spring football by examining where the Tigers stand at tight end and along the offensive line.

Now 10 days removed from the LSU spring game, TSD is bringing perspective to the Tigers' five-week go through spring ball, gauging where the purple and gold stand this offseason and how Les Miles' men addressed some of the most prevalent questions at each position grouping.

We've already taken a look at the quarterbacks and offensive skill positions. Today it's time to focus on the offensive line and tight ends, but be sure to return later this week for evaluations on all three levels of the LSU defense.


How They Exit Spring … LSU's collective line leaves spring football healthy and more adjusted to a new position coach, far and away the two most important objectives for the hog mollies. The starting O-Line, which returns four starters, performed well in the spring game, allowing the Tigers' two primary quarterbacks to throw for 273 of the day's 399 total passing yards. What remains undecided, however, is who will fill Trai Turner's shoes as the starting right guard in 2014. OL Coach Jeff Grimes said following the spring game that competition will remain open between seniors Fehoko Fanaika ("Hoko") and Evan Washington. LSU's second-team offensive line is significantly younger and less experienced. That group struggled, at times mightily, in the spring game with pass protection. The good news for the reserves is almost all of them spent time cross-training at multiple positions, something that should pay dividends once La'el Collins and Elliott Porter move on after this coming season.

Grimes got his introduction to LSU football this spring
Addressing Spring Storyline … The question posed in the above primer on March 3: "Which player(s) will exit spring as the frontrunner(s) at right guard?" The answer, as referenced above: Fanaika and Washington. The staff seemed to first favor Washington, who's been in the program for four-plus years, but Fanaika, who transferred from the JuCo level in 2013, staked his claim and actually started the spring game. Still, as Grimes told TSD, it's open competition heading into the fall. "I think they both had really good springs," Grimes explained. "Sometimes things become clear and evident early, and sometimes they don't – I think because they're both good players that really want a job. I think we're still in a position where that could go either way. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Competition makes everyone better."

Offseason Priorities … To ensure LSU is picking from two quality options at right guard, Fanaika needs to continue to shed weight this summer. He's listed at 6-foot-6 and 348 pounds, but the big fella may even check in higher than that in reality. The Tigers like to pull their guards, and Hoko isn't quite where Grimes & Co. would like him to be with his weight/mobility. He's got a chance to draw closer in the next few months. Outside of that the young second-teamers must take a step forward in the offseason, especially Andy Dodd and Ethan Pocic. They are the two most likely players to step in should injury occur at guard or center. If a tackle went down, it's likely Vadal Alexander would slide out while Pocic or Washington slid into Alexander's vacated left guard spot.

To view/read Grimes' full interview with TSD after the spring game, CLICK HERE.


How They Exit Spring … The Tigers are stacked with options at tight end. Even more important, position coach Steve Ensminger has a group with varying strengths and skillsets, giving coordinator Cam Cameron options in the passing game, the run-blocking game and, as we saw in the spring game, in pass-protecting (multiple times tight ends lined up next to the quarterback in shotgun sets on passing downs). LSU was four deep at the position this spring, trotting out two in the pass-catching mold – senior Travis Dickson and sophomore Desean Smith – and two better suited for run-blocking – senior Logan Stokes and junior Dillon Gordon (who is still a threat in the passing game for someone 6-foot-5 and 286 pounds). Signee Jacory Washington will add to the mix prior to Fall Camp, providing even more numbers to an already loaded position.

Offseason Priorities … Smith, who enjoyed a productive spring game catching the football, needs to keep working on his releases off the line, both from an in-line position and while in the slot. With the problems LSU is experiencing at receiver, the Barbe product will be called upon more in the short-to-intermediate passing game. The better (and quicker) he can get open, the better things will be for whichever green quarterback the Tigers start. The same really applies to Dickson, who has the most experience of any of the Tigers' tight ends.


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