Fall Camp Preview: OL & TE's

TigerSportsDigest.com is taking a look at each position as LSU prepares for the start of fall camp and we move on to the offensive linemen and tight ends.

When LSU walked off the field in the Georgia Dome after hammering Georgia Tech, 38-3, few would have thought that LSU’s offensive line in 2009 could be one of the strongest during Les Miles’ tenure.

 

The Tigers were losing two senior starters – Brett Helms and Herman Johnson – and the general consensus was that Ciron Black would forego his senior season and declare for the NFL draft by the Jan. 15 deadline.

 

The feedback that Black received from the NFL was that he could be a first round selection and many felt that he would not slip past the second round. The big 6-foot-5, 325-pounder certainly had the résumé to support those projections.

 

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Following the 2008 season, Black had been a three-year starter and had started 40 straight games at left tackle. He had a school-record 1,031 snaps from scrimmage in 2007 and followed that up with 884 in 2008. Factor in 68 pancakes and a grade of 85 percent or better in nine of LSU’s 13 games last season and the writing was on the wall.

 

Or so they thought.

 

Black surprised many when he opted to return for one more year and he bolstered what would have been a young and inexperienced unit into one that Miles feels confident about entering fall camp.

 

“The young centers will be good, I like both of my guards and both of my tackles,” said Miles when he spoke with the media on Wednesday. “We look pretty good. I think there were some other great offensive line classes that we have had here, and this may well be one.”

 

The line is going to be strong on the edges, which is good news for LSU’s quarterbacks, with Black protecting their blindside and Joe Barksdale taking care of business on the opposite edge.

 

Barksdale, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound junior, started all 13 games last year and played in all 14 contests as a true freshman in 2007.



Lyle Hitt and Joe Barksdale will once again anchor LSU's right side

Playing alongside Barksdale is Lyle Hitt (6-2, 289), who started 13 games in each of the last two seasons after being moved from defensive tackle midway through his redshirt freshman campaign.

 

Hitt doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the other two returning starters but he has not gone unnoticed by the headman himself.

 

“I think Lyle Hitt is one of the strengths of the offensive line, when at one point in time he was one of the newcomers,” said Miles. “I don’t quite know how they match up [to the past], but I like them. We will have some advantages there.”

 

Three starters back from a group that helped pave the way for LSU’s running game that finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference – 166.8 yards a game – and allowed 22 sacks – which placed them sixth in the league – is a big reason for Miles’ optimism.

 

Another reason that Miles is so excited about this group’s potential is the outstanding spring that projected starting right guard Josh Dworaczyk had, along with T-Bob Hebert and redshirt freshman Patrick Lonergan at center.

 

Dworaczyk, a 6-6, 285-pound sophomore, was the only offensive lineman to receive the Eric Andolsek Leadership Award at the conclusion of the spring game. The award is given to those offensive players who show outstanding leadership in spring drills, and that could be a sign of many more awards that Dworaczyk could haul in before his playing days are done.

 

The last memory that most fans had of Hebert was him being helped off the field against South Carolina with a torn ACL last year. Prior to the injury in week six, the 6-foot-3, 301-pounder played in six games and showed his versatility by playing on kickoff coverage and serving as a backup at right guard and center, along with playing some fullback in short yardage situations.

 

Hebert, a redshirt sophomore, responded better than many expected in rehabbing his injury and had a good spring and summer while competing with Lonergan (6-4, 301) for the starting job. That battle will continue into fall camp and it’s one that will be closely monitored by Miles and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa.

 

LSU’s No. 2 offensive line is young with a pair of sophomores on the left side in Greg Shaw (6-5, 289, So.) and Will Blackwell (6-4, 298) at tackle and guard, respectively, and a pair of redshirt freshmen on the right side in Thomas Parsons (6-5, 276) at guard and Alex Hurst (6-6, 332) at tackle.

 

Redshirt freshman Clay Spencer (6-6, 281) will push Blackwell and Parsons for playing time, while another redshirt freshman, Matt Branch (6-6, 246), will press Hurst after moving from tight end.

 

If there’s one position that coaches hate to throw a true freshman into then it is the offensive line. However, with the numbers the way they are do not be surprised to see one of the 2009 signees – Chris Faulk (6-6, 310), Stavion Lowe (6-5, 294), Josh Williford (6-7, 345) and Carneal Ainsworth (6-4, 296) – thrust into a reserve role if the Tigers suffer a couple of injuries up front.

 

LSU has good leadership returning on the line and the same can be said at tight end where second-team All-SEC performer Richard Dickson returns.


Dickson has a chance to break nearly every school record for TE's

The 6-foot-3, 246-pounder from Ocean Springs, Miss. caught 31 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns last season and he goes into his senior year with an opportunity to break nearly every receiving record in LSU history for a tight end.

 

Dickson, who has 69 career receptions for 795 yards and 10 scores, needs only 19 catches to break Mitch Andrews’ record (87) for career receptions. He also needs just 87 yards to break David LaFleur’s mark of 881 career yards, and his first touchdown catch in 2009 will break the career mark that he currently shares with Brad Boyd.

 

Mitch Joseph served as LSU’s No. 2 tight end last season and the 6-foot-5, 261-pound sophomore will be pushed by redshirt freshman Tyler Edwards (6-3, 234) as well as sophomore DeAngelo Peterson (6-3, 242), who moved from receiver to tight end in the spring.

 

There are some holes to fill on the offensive line but there is enough talent to warrant the optimism. And the level of talent at tight end is as good as anyone else in the SEC.

 

It’s easy to see why Miles smiles when he talks about his men in the trenches for the upcoming campaign.

 

 

Offensive Tackles

70 Ciron Black   6-5, 325, Sr.

78 Joe Barksdale   6-5, 315, Jr.

75 Greg Shaw   6-5, 289, So.

72 Alex Hurst   6-6, 332, Fr.

79 Matt Branch   6-6, 246, Fr.

76 Chris Faulk   6-6, 310, Fr.

 

Centers

53 T-Bob Hebert   6-3, 301, So.

64 Patrick Lonergan   6-4, 301, Fr.

62 Carneal Ainsworth   6-4, 296, Fr.

 

Offensive Guards

68 Josh Dworaczyk   6-6, 286, So.

65 Lyle Hitt   6-2, 289, Sr.

60 Will Blackwell   6-4, 298, So.

73 Thomas Parsons   6-5, 276, Fr.

51 Clay Spencer   6-6, 281, Fr.

74 Josh Williford   6-7, 345, Fr.

69 Stavion Lowe   6-5, 294, Fr.

 

Tight Ends

18 Richard Dickson   6-3, 246, Sr.

83 Mitch Joseph   6-5, 261, So.

19 DeAngelo Peterson   6-3, 242, So.

47 Tyler Edwards   6-3, 234, Fr.


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