Replacing Will Blackwell

Les Miles said that he is looking at three different names to step into the void at right guard.

Just one play into the 2010 season, T-Bob Hebert was thrust into a position he hadn’t played since he was nine years old.

Junior right guard Will Blackwell’s leg injury created an immediate void in the Tiger offensive line, but it was one that Hebert was more than willing to fill.

“I kind of expected that if one of the guards went down my number might be called,” said Hebert, a one-time starting center. “I had talked to (offensive line coach Greg Studrawa) before the game just letting him know that if somebody did go down that I felt confident that I could fill in for them on either side.”

Hebert started 11 games - and played every snap of the first seven - at center last season. The transition to guard presents a few changes, but Hebert doesn’t anticipate a hurdle he can’t overcome.

“Playing center you’ve gotta know all the positions, and during the game I wasn’t having to waste a lot of energy on the mental aspect and knowing my steps,” he said. “ We have tests that we take before the game. You have to draw out every position’s block. Every play I was drawing up I was focusing on the three interior positions just in case something happened.”

Continuity and chemistry are vital to any productive offensive line, and Blackwell’s absence creates a number of issues on the Tiger front right out of the gate.

“Losing Will really is a blow,” said head coach Les Miles. “I think he’s a good player. He was a tremendous leader in that line.”

Judging by the comments from the men he blocked for, Blackwell’s presence, even for an experienced name like Hebert, will be tough to replace.

“Will brings that intensity and that fire,” said quarterback Jordan Jefferson. “ He’s always talking trash, and it really motivates us a lot.”

“For Will to go down like that, I hate it for him. I hate it for our team,” said junior running back Stevan Ridley, a member of the 2007 signing class which included Blackwell. “We’ve got to gel together. We lost our starting guard. Somebody’s gotta step in, and Will’s gonna be a coach.”

On a promising note, many of the Tigers were quick to praise Hebert, stating that if the coaches were to go with Hebert there would be a minimal drop in productivity.

“T-Bob is a smart guy,” Ridley said. “A lot of people want to say that T-Bob is undersized, but he can go at any spot. He didn’t miss a stride.”

“T-Bob’s a great player and one of the veteran guys on this offense,” said Jefferson. “Coach (Miles) has that trust in him to go out there and do what he has to do at guard.”

Blackwell underwent surgery early Sunday morning and will miss what Miles called a substantial amount of time. Miles said that outside of Hebert, Josh Williford and Matt Branch are candidates for the starting spot at right guard.

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Returning to his home state of Georgia and playing in the Dome…

“I went (to the Georgia Dome) a lot as a kid. I always aspired to get there in high school, and we always aspire every year to get there … A bunch of my friends came down and were at the game.”

Being a lifelong center…

“I feel like the position I am still best at is center. Will is a better guard than I am. I just want to help the team anyway I can; stay ready and be ready to fill in.”

The possible move to right guard…

“Depending on what decision (the coaches) make, if I stay out there I will put my all into learning that position and excelling at that position so teams aren’t able to point me out as a weak link or try to pick on me. I am going to work my hardest.”

On playing in the team’s opener…

“It felt good. The thing is, we work so long and so hard and there are only a few days where you go out there and have fun and beat up on other people. I am just thankful I got the opportunity to go out there and play, even though it was under terrible circumstances. I’ve said it a million times. I’m just trying to stay ready.”

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