Updated: May 23
Here we geaux with #3 in our "5 Reasons Why LSU will Defend their title in 2020"...it was hard to whittle it down but we figured we'd show the 5 facets of LSU everyone is doubting most, from which everyone is expecting the worst...and flip that script on its head like an M. Night Shyamalan re-write.
#3 OFFENSIVE LINE WORRIES??? OR ANSWERS?
So...you're just going to let Bama pick up where they left off? All because we lost some guys to the NFL Draft?
You're gonna "stand down"..."back off"..."hold serve" on a 9-3 / 10-2 "great effort" of a season?
We'll just....let things get "back to normal" and allow Saban's Bama to walk into an undefeated season and another national title?
Didn't think so....
You agree, too?
Didn't think you'd give in either...
Sure, we lost four of our five offensive linemen to the clutches of the NFL Draft, yet so many of 2019's backups received massive amounts of crucial reps during big moments against top defensive linemen...and won most of those one-on-one battles:
Guys like Lloyd Cushenberry, Adrian McGee, Damien Lewis and Shaadiq Charles left an imprint upon the future of LSU's offensive line:
We've got Joe Moore Award-winner and Super Bowl Champion James Cregg looking like Vic Mackey up in here, stalking the sidelines as if we have to repeatedly hold his ass back from running on to the field without pads or a helmet, blood covering his mouth after ripping a D-tackle's ear off.
He wants it....he wants it all...and we want him at LSU for life.
Leading the charge for Offensive Line Coach Cregg's returning National Champion trenchmen will be guard Ed Ingram aka Mr. Evernasty, left tackle and NFL-ready stalwart Dare Rosenthal, underrated (though extremely good) left tackle Cameron Wire....but then we have the center position to worry about most:
Junior Chasen Hines looks nervously poised to take over Lloyd Cushenberry's role at center (study Lloyd right now, Chasen!!!) and while injured for all 14 games until his appearance vs Clemson in the title game, 5 Star sophomore guard Kardell Thomas comes back as a near-literal, newly minted 5 Star recruit.
Harvard graduate and transfer portal must-have Liam Shanahan, a versatile, offensive line genius out of Marlborough, Massachusetts is yet another indicator of LSU's ever-expansive recruiting base.
Starting 8 games at guard and 11 at tackle, Shanahan is adept at helping the younger galacticos fall into place along the line as well as ironing himself out a spot along the front, pushing competition for places and forcing everyone in the O-line room to up their football IQ to keep pace with Liam's natural bookish obsession with protection schemes just as much as he pours over The Wall Street Journal.
Liam isn't in Baton Rouge to hook up with a beautiful Louisiana girl or to get his Graduate Masters, he's here to win a National Championship.
Those young guns he's helping along are serious contenders for starting spots, the two St. Thomas Aquinas teammates Marlon Martinez and 4-Star left tackle superpower Marcus Dumervil, a tackle-guard pairing we earlier believed would be a future partnership on our line.
Cregg has already gone on record to announce "Martinez and Dumervil are the two hardest working freshmen I've ever seen, in any position, since my time here at LSU", taking note of their relentless workouts in Florida during the pandemic.
So what we have is a fortified line of new faces buoyed by the returning anchors of veterans like right tackle Austin Deculus and guards Ed Ingram or Kardell Thomas (his horrific injury cost him the 2019 season up until the title game vs Clemson, so as much as he's a veteran of the Orgeron LSU environment, we know he can't wait to get back on the field). This offensive line needs reps more than anything, they need meetings, they need constant, consistent open lines of communication between James Cregg through to Austin Deculus and from #76's incendiary histrionics, the litany of freshmen and returning sophomores will have a prime example of success and sustained reliability right in front of them.
If we can't build the chemistry on the field right now, it must be established off the field while our guys work individually on their own.
James Cregg is also recruiting like a workhorse, trying to snag the pair of 2021 Clarkston, Michigan teammates Garrett Dellenger and Rocco Spindler, two Michigan Wolverines-locks we've ransacked from Harbaugh's clutches. We covered both Dellenger and Spindler in great detail during a recent episode of the Mark Rogers show.
Since he was hired as Offensive Line Coach, former USC line coach (and Super Bowl winner with the 2016 Denver Broncos) James Cregg is building a towering depth factory which won't just service our 2020 requirements, these recruiting chess moves will echo for the next two or three years down the line.
So....the success or failure of LSU's offensive line (2018's biggest weakness and 2019's secret strength) lies in the coaching and development of Cregg, specifically when it comes to Chasen Hines figuring out the center position...
My only wish was for Shaadiq Charles and Lloyd Cushenberry to have stayed for their senior years, just to give us that extra veteran depth (Lloyd was never having any other college quarterback's hands get close to his nether-regions after the Midas intimacy of Joe Burrow).
But we have veterans (just not in the usual sense of the word) in guys like Ed Ingram (though he was suspended for 2018 entirely and the first few games of 2019), Kardell Thomas will bring the needed chill vibe (as well as knowledge of the protection schemes from his 2019 practices), center Chasen Hines is surprisingly a junior and Joseph Evans reminds Coach Orgeron of "Lloyd Cushenberry"...plus, if there's ever been a perfect leader for this squad layered with a mixture of extreme youth and mid-classmen (new word), then right tackle Austin Deculus is the man.
Had it not been for an annoying foot injury, Deculus's streak of consecutive starts would be at 27 heading into the 2020 season...instead it stopped at 22...however, this shows his overwhelming reliability.
It would've been nice for Chasen Hines to have a full season as the "center-in-waiting" (he did play 36 snaps vs Vanderbilt at guard and appeared in 10 games with 0 starts); However, he's now being thrown into the deep end of a dry pool...at 6'2 340, it's up to him to scrape the blood from his ripped up face, heal the bruises, nurse the still-gaping wounds, and get on with it...
We need Chasen Hines or Joseph Evans to grow into a high caliber center....everything else we can figure out later....
We can plug in, mix and match or experiment with our personnel surrounding the center, Anthony Bradford at right guard, 6'4 354, could very well be our most physically imposing linemen...nearly every other position already has more than enough bodies and veteran presence...but, center is where the offensive line either transcends into a delirious fever dream or falls flat on its face, scraping skin on the pavement as we're dragged away in humiliated, piss-poor demise.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
LT: Dare Rosenthal
LG: Ed Ingram
C: Chasen Hines or Joseph Evans (toss up)
RG: Liam Shanahan or Kardell Thomas or Anthony Bradford (tossup)
RT Austin Deculus
Great Depth In Behind: Anthony Bradford (could be a dynamic starter), Joseph Evans, Liam Shanahan (G/RT, LT), Marlon Martinez (G), Marcus Dumervil (LT), Cameron Wire (LT), (next 5 are all freshmen) Austin Harden, Thomas Perry, Charles Turner
WE LOVE YOU MOTHERS!
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
COPYRIGHT 2020 UNINTERRUPTED WRITINGS INC. LLC
"PURPLE REIGN THE 2019 LSU TIGERS:
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE G.O.A.T"
COMING SOON...PRE-ORDERS THIS WEEK