Offensive line has been a position of concern this offseason for LSU, but with just one returning starter from last year’s Joe Moore Award-winning unit, how good can the group be again in 2020?
With the departures of key veterans like center Lloyd Cushenberry, right tackle Saahdiq Charles, right guard Damien Lewis, and Adrian Magee, coach James Cregg and the Tigers have some re-building to do. But can they be a solid group with the loss of production? Without question.
“It’ll be interesting, I’ll tell you what,” Cregg said in a recent 104.5 ESPN interview. “Austin Deculus has played a lot of football for us. Ed [Ingram] is a lead by example guy, a lot like Lloyd [Cushenberry] was. Chasen Hines didn’t play much his first year, and last year wasn’t really right with his knee situation, but he’s battling back and working hard, and I expect a lot out of him this year as well.”
It goes without saying the new spread scheme and the heroics of Joe Burrow masked at least some of the deficiencies of last season’s unit. Burrow’s ability to get the ball out quicker than most, scramble in the pocket and create plays from nothing played a big role in staying clean.
But the biggest component to the success in 2019 was the chemistry. They became the most improved position group on the team, and with the return of Ed Ingram, sophomore Dare Rosenthal and new Harvard grad transfer Liam Shanahan, the unit could be primed to surprise.
Right now, it seems Rosenthal has the advantage at left tackle, Ingram at left guard and of course Deculus over at right tackle. The other two spots are wide open as no clear favorite has emerged yet.
“We have some athletes there, we just don’t have a lot of experience,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a recent interview with 104.5 ESPN. “We’ve got to get our snaps down. Most of our snaps are from shotgun. We’ve got a new quarterback and a new center.”
The loss of Cushenberry is the biggest blow. Center is a thankless position, and the only time you recognize a center is when they do something wrong. Cushenberry’s tight relationship with Burrow directly translated to smooth snaps on the field, and new quarterback Myles Brennan is going to need to find that type of rapport with whoever lands the starting center role in the fall.
Orgeron mentioned the staff moved freshman Joseph Evans over from defensive line to offensive line, and from what they’ve seen, he already reminds them of Cushenberry. Orgeron says it will be a battle between Evans, junior Chasen Hines and freshman Charles Turner for the starting role.
Will the unit be as dominant in 2020 as they were in 2019? Probably not. But can they post another solid season with who’s returning? Absolutely. Like Orgeron said, they’ve got a ton of talent, but the experience isn’t there yet. And we’ll see who separates themselves when September rolls around.