Boutte, Clapp overcome adversity to earn honors
As expected, LSU center Ethan Pocic was chosen to every All-Southeastern Conference football team.
Moreover, Pocic earned All-America recognition and was a finalist for the Rimington Award, which goes to the best center in the country.
Pocic was not the only Tigers offensive lineman to be rewarded for his performance during the 2016 regular season. The two players who flanked Pocic – right guard Josh Boutte and left guard Will Clapp – were named to All-SEC teams.
The Associated Press selected Boutte to the All-SEC second team, while the league’s coaches picked Clapp on the All-SEC second team. Both Boutte and Clapp should have felt some self-satisfaction after the problems with which both had to deal during the season.
Boutte was suspended for one game after his late hit on Wisconsin defensive back D’Cota Dixon at the end of the game – a 16-14 LSU loss. Meanwhile, Clapp played the entire season with injuries – foot and shoulder. On more than one occasion, Clapp had to leave a game because of his shoulder.
“Making All-SEC meant a lot to me especially after what happened in the Wisconsin game,” Boutte said. “I felt horrible after the game. It was a horrible mistake. I sat out a game and I came back with the right mindset. I apologized to D’Cota. My talk with him helped. Then, I prepared for the rest of the season.”
Clapp did not miss any games, but it was anything but a smooth season for him. Clapp had hip surgery, as did Pocic, last April. This season, Clapp’s work on the field was affected by the shoulder injury. He also had a foot injury just prior to the season-opener against Wisconsin.
“This was a tough year for me,” Clapp said. “I had to get over the injuries pretty quick. I wasn’t 100 percent all year. There was a lot of stuff going on. I thought I had a decent year.”
Both Clapp and Boutte were in the starting lineup for the Tigers in their 2015 opener against Mississippi State. Clapp remained a starter throughout his redshirt freshman campaign. However, Boutte lost his job to true freshman Maea Teuhema during the Mississippi State game.
Boutte played sparingly after he was beaten out by Teuhema. There was certainly the chance that Boutte could lose his spot in the starting lineup after the suspension in the Jacksonville State game. But, that scenario did not play out. Boutte started every game the rest of the season.
“I knew it was going to be fine,” Boutte said. “My brothers (offensive line teammates) had my back after the Wisconsin game. They kept me in the right frame of mind. It was exciting to be All-SEC.
“I called my mom after I found out I had made All-SEC. She doesn’t know much about football. When I told her, she said, ‘I guess that’s good.’ After I explained to her what All-SEC meant, she said, ‘oh, let me call everybody.’”
There were plenty of distractions for the entire LSU team during the regular season. Boutte was satisfied how everyone dealt with the changing situation.
“We had a lot of adversity,” Boutte said. “We lost a head coach (Les Miles). We lost one of our starting running back (Leonard Founette). But, we did a good job of handling it. We made the best of it with coach O. Leonard goes down and (Derrius) Guice is right there and we didn’t miss a heartbeat.”
Clapp praised Orgeron for the manner in which he stepped in for Miles as interim head coach. The support Orgeron had from the players was a factor in his being named the permanent coach.
“Coach O has done a good job,” Clapp said. “He reduced practice time with more walk-through sessions. Some days he expected us to be intense at practice and we delivered it. I loved the way he handled problems on the team.
“Everybody has his way of doing things. Things had been done the same for a long time here. Coach O gave everyone a breath of fresh air with the day-to-day things. I am very excited that coach O got the job.”
Even though three offensive linemen received All-SEC honors, the group had its difficulties during the regular season. LSU’s offense scored a total of three touchdowns in the four losses – against Wisconsin, Auburn, Alabama and Florida. Strong defensive front sevens gave the Tigers problems.
“When we played good teams, it was all about communication,” Boutte said. “You have to work together on the offensive line. We are physical enough, we are strong enough and we are tough enough. When we don’t get yardage, it’s because we are not on the same page.”
Louisville, LSU’s Citrus Bowl opponent, has a high-powered offense with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson. There is more to the Cardinals than offense. Louisville’s defense is ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Louisville’s front is the strong point of its defense.
“We have to stop their front seven,” Clapp said. “They fire up the field. That’s their strength. As an offensive line, we have to be able to set the line of scrimmage. There were some games this where we could have controlled the line of scrimmage better.
“These are two very good teams who had some mishaps during the season. We want to get out there and get a win. Pass efficiency has to be high for us. We can get momentum for next year by winning. We have a lot of guys on offense coming back.”
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