The offensive line is the backbone for any offense. There's simply no way to run and execute a successful offense without the big guys up front doing their job well.
It's why Ed Orgeron fed his starting o-linemen poboys and tried to convince each and every one of them to return for one more year with the program. In order for LSU's offense to recapture some of the magic that 2019 season presented, Orgeron recognized that a major component of that was getting those players back.
Orgeron accomplished that mission and the offensive line is back. Here's a look at the depth chart and which players could challenge for playing time with successful development.
Projected Starters: Dare Rosenthal (LT), Ed Ingram (LG), Liam Shanahan (C), Chasen Hines (RG), Austin Deculus (RT)
Those who follow this program closely were teased for the weeks leading up to the end of the 2020 season how important it was for the Tigers to return their offensive line. Orgeron called it the single most important area to address immediately following LSU's win over Ole Miss in the season finale.
Then Shanahan announced his return, followed by Hines, Ingram, Deculus and Rosenthal. The returning group is among the most veteran in the entire SEC next season but will have to make some strides to accomplish the goals of new offensive minds Jake Peetz and DJ Mangas.
In 2020, the unit struggled with consistency in both the run and passing attacks, particularly in losses to Auburn, Texas A&M and Alabama, three of the better defensive units in the conference. In those games, LSU scored 11, 7 and 17 points and just couldn't get into a rhythm.
LSU had times where the run game disappeared and for much of the season, the team could only run to the left side occupied by Ingram, who was without a doubt the best run blocker. What this starting unit needs more than anything is a traditional offseason of development to further build chemistry amongst themselves and the quarterbacks on the roster.
With the returning veteran talent, it's a very similar feel to that 2019 offseason and if the unit can do what that group accomplished with Joe Burrow in the offseason, then the improvement should be noticeable.
Depth Chart: Kardell Thomas, Anthony Bradford, Cameron Wire, Xavier Hill, Marcus Dumervil, Charles Turner, Marlon Martinez, Garrett Dellinger, Kimo Makaneole
The depth up front is young, inexperienced and yet has potential. Thomas and Bradford are two players the coaching staff have been extremely complimentary of in the past but just haven't been able to see the field yet.
In Thomas' case, injuries have played a critical role in keeping him off the field and from developing into the kind of player that made him one of Louisiana's best coming out of high school two years ago. Bradford has battled through weight issues and inconsistency and could very well challenge for a starting spot if he can improve his conditioning.
Dellinger is no doubt the future at one of the tackle positions and is already enrolled, which gives him a leg up and extra time to prove to the coaching staff that maybe he could earn some snaps with the first team during spring ball.
Turner, Hill and Wire all earned spot starts or some level of playing time over the course of the 2020 season. They played well at times but whether or not they're ready to handle anything more than a rotational role remains to be seen.
As far as offseason improvement goes, there's likely no position group on the roster you'd like to see immense growth from more than the offensive line. This unit was rife with inconsistency and the depth will be important in case some the same issues crop up early in the 2021 season.