LSU has plenty of bodies with experience, but how will they work as a group?
This time last year I asked one simple question in regards to LSU’s 2021 offensive line: if you bring back the entirety of a bad group from the year before, will they magically get better?
Turns out the answer was no but there was room for some optimism.
If the 2021 group was better than the 2020 offensive line it wasn’t by much but it certainly had its fair share of adversity: Dare Rosenthal was supposed to be the starting left tackle but transferred toward the end of June to Kentucky after one violation of team rules too many; if that wasn’t enough, offensive line coach James Cregg was fired by LSU for cause after admitting to visiting and giving gear to a prospect during a recruiting dead period.
With Cregg relieved of duty, Ed Orgeron brought in Brad Davis from Arkansas and considering when he came in and what he had to work with did about as good a job as you could ask. It speaks to his ability as a coach that Davis—who served as interim head coach for the Texas Bowl—was the only one retained by Brian Kelly.
There’s reason to think LSU will have much better play along the trenches, and if not in 2022 definitely in 2023 and beyond. Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame teams had seven offensive linemen drafted, four going in the first round, and if one particular incoming freshman lives up to the hype Kelly may have another future first rounder already on the roster.
**At East Tennessee State University
***Was a defensive tackle in high school but recruited to play center
First things first yes I see that I have stats for some non-freshman and no stats for others. I don’t have a PFF subscription so I could only get what I could. If you’re reading this and have a PFF subscription by all means leave a comment below with the missing data.
Anyway. As much as I hate putting this kind of pressure on an 18-year-old true freshman I’ll go ahead and say it: everything starts and stops with Will Campbell.
Campbell’s the best offensive lineman LSU’s signed since La’el Collins and has been on campus since January getting stronger in a collegiate weight program…but he’s still a true freshman trying to win the most important job along the offensive line. Can he handle the job despite his youth? So far signs point to yes, and in fact spring practice reports suggested the line stabilized once Campbell started taking first-team reps at left tackle. He’ll certainly be battle-tested by the time the Florida State game gets here, you don’t go up against BJ Ojulari and Maason Smith and Ali Gaye every day at practice and not improve after all.
An offensive line is only as good as its center and LSU has questions there too. Is Charles Turner the answer at center or does Brad Davis look elsewhere? Davis mentioned in the spring he was cross-training five different players at the position, which to me says they still don’t have an answer there yet. Maybe that becomes clear as fall camp progresses, but right now center is the ahem center of attention.
Don’t look now but LSU actually has a lot of depth along the offensive line, and most of the group has started previously. I count 15 scholarship linemen and 10 have started before in their careers. But of that group of 15 it’s a pair of transfers that could potentially take LSU’s offensive line to the next level. Miles Frazier was a freshman All-American last season at FIU; Tre’Mond Shorts was a two-time FCS All-American at East Tennessee State. The two have dominated before but that was at the C-USA and FCS level. Will their LSU careers be like Damien Lewis where they come from a lower level and shine? Or will it look more like Liam Shanahan’s where they’re certainly doing their best but they maybe aren’t SEC caliber players?
While LSU’s got some new faces in the offensive line, the group brings back plenty of familiar ones with Cam Wire as the most experienced of the bunch. If Campbell has usurped Wire for the starting left tackle role, I’d imagine Wire slides over to the right tackle spot or perhaps slides in next to Campbell at left guard. Other guys like Anthony Bradford, Garrett Dellinger, Marcus Dumervil, and Xavier Hill are all another year older and should improve now that they’ve had a full offseason with Brad Davis; the Tigers have also done a good job of building the offensive line for future seasons by signing incoming true freshmen Emery Jones, Bo Bordelon, and Fitzgerald West Jr.