2002 Football Preview: Offensive Line

Our preview of the 2002 LSU football team continues with a look at the offensive line.

C Ben Wilkerson

55 Ben Wilkerson

6-4       275

Soph.   1L

Hemphill, Texas            Hemphill HS

 

It was not matter of if Wilkerson would start at center for LSU, but when. Five games into his true freshman season, Wilkerson took over the job and went on to earn Freshman All-SEC and second-team Freshman All-American (Sporting News) honors.

Wilkerson gave everyone a scare when he went down with a knee injury in spring practice, but it was not as serious as first feared. After a couple months of rehabilitation, he was cleared for summer conditioning and strength training.

The Tigers are 8-1 with Wilkerson starting at center.

 

60 Rodney Reed

6-4       288

Jr.        2VL

West Monroe   West Monroe HS

 

Reed is the most experienced player on the LSU line heading into the 2002 season after starting in all 13 games at left tackle last season. He has 20 straight starts dating back to the 2000 season.

Coaches commend Reed, a Freshman All-SEC pick in 2000, for his ability to apply his knowledge of the game as it relates to his position. Equally adept in the classroom, Reed is on course to graduate with high honors in accounting.

 

 

64 Rudy Niswanger

6-5       275

Fresh.   RS

Monroe            Ouachita Christian Acad.

 

Niswanger was on everyone's most-wanted list as a high school recruit and could get the chance to live up to his billing in 2002. He will battle for reserve time at guard and proved flexible enough in spring to see time at center and tackle.

At Ouachita Christian, Niswanger recorded 196 pancake blocks and did not allow a sack in 700 pass attempts over a three-year span. He also played on the defensive line and recorded 70 tackles, eight sacks, had 24 tackles for losses, recovered two fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown.

 

65 Steve Arflin

6-4       320

Fresh.   RS

Jacksonville, Fla.          Fletcher HS

 

One of the most massive players on the LSU roster, Arflin is hoping to emerge as a reserve guard in 2002. So valuable was he to his Fletcher High squad that teammates named Arflin the most valuable player on offense. Coaches graded him out at 88 percent for his senior year with 85 pancake blocks.

In addition to football, Arfin was a track and field standout at Fletcher High. He won the AAU national title in the shot put (57.6) and the discus (150.3)

 

 

66 John Young

6-3       295

Sr.        2VL

Ruston  Ruston HS

 

The Tigers had to turn to Young in the spring when Ben Wilkerson suffered his knee injury, and coaches were pleased with how well Young had progressed while waiting in the wings.

Heading into his final season, Young will vie for playing time at center and guard.

 

70 Kade Comeaux

6-6       310

Soph.   1VL

Rayne   Notre Dame HS

 

Coaches have been highly complimentary of Comeaux's off-season work and believe it will translate into him having an impact in the 2002 season. He could challenge for one of the guard positions and might get a chance to compete at tackle.

Although used sparingly as a reserve lineman last season, Comeaux was able to help out on special teams.

 

72 Steven Peterman

6-4       300

Jr.        2VL

Waveland, Miss.           St. Stanislaus Prep       

 

After getting a chance at tight end and defensive end, Peterman found a home on the offensive line in 2001 and developed into one of the Tigers' best players in the trenches. He started 12 out of 13 games at left guard last season and earned team recognition as Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Florida and Arkansas.

 

73 Rob Sale

6-2       310

Sr.        2VL

Monroe            Neville HS

 

Sale is considered the most flexible lineman on the LSU roster, having played extensively at center and guard. He is the man to beat for playing time at right guard and could be used to relieve Wilkerson at center if necessary.

LSU has a growing rotation of players capable of manning the interior line positions, but the experience Sale brings to the equation is certain to guarantee him a fair share of the playing time.

 

74 Brad Smalling

6-7       305

Sr.        3VL

West Monroe   West Monroe HS

 

Smalling was placed on academic suspension in the late stages of spring practice but has an avenue to rejoin the team for the fall. If he gets things in order, he can look forward to contributing to the Tigers as a right tackle.

When focused, Smalling is capable of making an impact in the game.

 

 

76 Andrew Whitworth

6-7       315

Fresh.   RS

West Monroe   West Monroe HS

 

Head coach Nick Saban talked about the need to recruit bigger linemen when he took the LSU job, and Whitworth was just who he had in mind. One of the prize catches from the 2000 signing class, Whitworth appears destined to make his mark this year.

He is in the thick of the battle at right tackle and stands a good chance to emerge as the starter. Not only gifted with great size and strength, Whitworth moves very well along the line.

 

 

77 Jonathan Autrey

6-3       275

Jr.        Sqd.

Cecilia  Cecilia HS

 

The Tigers asked Autrey to step up when Wilkerson succumbed to injury last spring, and the junior lineman helped fill the void. Autrey could see spot duty as a back-up center or even make contributions on special teams.

 

NEWCOMERS

 

Peter Dyakowski

6-4       295

Fresh.   HS

Vancouver, British Columbia     Vancouver Coll.

 

A search of the LSU annals indicates that Dyakowski is likely the first LSU signee from Canada. The Vancouver product should be in for quite a shock when he enters a packed Tiger Stadium for the first time. The average crowd at his high school games was in the neighborhood of 50-100. 

 

Paris Hodges

6-6       340

Fresh.   HS

Vacaville, Calif.            Vanden HS

 

The second LSU commitment from California in the last two years is a big one. Hodges comes to LSU with a solid reputation as a run blocker. He chose LSU over Arizona State and UNLV.  

 

Brian Johnson

6-6       340

Fresh.   HS

Tallahassee, Fla.           Godby HS

 

Considered the best lineman in the Florida panhandle, Johnson's stock rose with strong performances in a pair of post-season all-star games. He picked the Tigers over Arkansas, and Clemson. 

 

Nate Livings

6-5       300

Fresh.   HS

Lake Charles    Washington-Marion HS

 

The wait continues for the player considered the best lineman in Louisiana in 1999. After signing with LSU three times, Livings' qualifying status is at the center of an internal investigation into academic fraud. 

If he qualifies, Livings will get a shot on the defensive line first in fall camp and will move to the offensive line if he doesn't pan out there.

 

Terrell McGill

6-4       320

Fresh.   HS

Miami   Norland HS

 

The Tigers continue to make in-roads into south Florida and were successful in grabbing one of the state's top linemen from the clutches of the in-state schools. McGill picked LSU over offers from Miami, Florida and North Carolina State.

 

Garett Wibel

6-3       300

Fresh.   HS

Metairie            Rummel HS

 

LSU continued its run on the best linemen in the state of Louisiana with the commitment of Wibel. With Wibel on the offensive line, Rummel churned out a succession of 1000-yard rushers during his career. Wibel picked the Tigers over Notre Dame and Nebraska.  

 

WALK-ONS

 

David Neubauer

6-0       300

Soph.   Sqd.

Baton Rouge    Broadmoor HS

 

Ryan Phillips

6-0       265

Fresh.   RS

Baton Rouge    Christian Life Acad.

 

Seth Wilson

6-6       275

Fresh.   RS

Winter Haven, Fla.       All Saints Acad.

 

Jimmy Courtenay

6-2       285

Jr.        Sqd.

New Orleans    Jesuit/Ole Miss

 

Harold Bicknell

6-5       275

Soph.   HS

Monroe            Ouachita Christian Acad.

 

Bradley Sowa

6-1       283

Soph.   Sqd.

Greendale, Wisc.          Greendale HS

 

Michael Dupuis

6-3       270

Jr.        Sqd.

Lafayette          Acadiana HS


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