The next few weeks will tell us a lot about the future of the LSU football program under first year coach Brian Kelly.
The Tigers have plenty of work to do to build out a roster that can remain competitive in 2022 and beyond, starting with making the right coaching hires, locking in on the right recruits, hitting the transfer portal for interested veterans and of course convincing the young talent in Baton Rouge to stick around. One position that will be going through nearly an entire rebuild is the offensive line.
At minimum, LSU is expected to lose four starters including center Liam Shanahan, guards Ed Ingram and Chasen Hines and right tackle Austin Deculus. This was a group that came back for one last season with the program but just weren't able to get on the right page.
It didn't help that offensive line coach Brad Davis, a highly respected and talented recruiter and developer of talent, was brought in late to the process or the myriad of injuries this group suffered throughout 2021. But there are some pieces who can return that won't empty the room completely. One of the areas Brian Kelly had success with at Notre Dame was pushing offensive linemen to the NFL and that's something LSU hopes will carry over.
"You're looking at what their demeanor is. Playing that offensive line position requires a profile that I like to stick with. I'm not going to get into the specifics right now, but there's a demeanor, there's a profile," Kelly said. "There's a brotherhood on that offensive line that we build, and that brotherhood is real. Those guys are selfless, and they are the backbone of any great offense that I've ever coached. If you have that kind of resume, sign up. We're looking for you. That's the starting point."
LSU could return a number of young and talented but raw players to this room next season, including Anthony Bradford, Garrett Dellinger, Marlon Martinez, Kardell Thomas and Marcus Dumervil. These are all current freshmen or sophomores who earned playing time at some point during the regular season and showed flashes of potential.
It remains to be seen what happens with Davis returning as the o-line coach but he's been known to develop talent and a whole offseason with these players should have its benefits.
"When it comes to development, it's hard work," Kelly said. "We're ready to take on those kind of young men that have those special qualities and are ready to really dig in and put in the time."
Of course LSU also has a firm commitment from Neville star Will Campbell as well as Catholic's Emery Jones and Newman's Bo Bordelon. With 14 total commitments and as many as seven transfer spots available, depending on who ultimately elects to transfer from the current roster, LSU should and likely will be loading up on offensive line talent over the next several months.
The case for keeping Davis on is pretty strong. Davis is well liked by the o-line group, the current commits and he really didn't get much time before fall camp to start getting to know the offensive line. As the 2021 season wore down, while there were still breakdowns, the group showed signs of improvement against teams like Florida and even Texas A&M.
If he can work in coordination with Kelly, this is a partnership that absolutely could work and where significant strides up front can start to be taken immediately.