football Edit

LSU’s makeshift OL strives for improvement before Auburn

Sam Spiegelman

BATON ROUGE, La. — Is Joe Burrow holding onto the football too long or is the offensive line failing to hold up its 1-on-1 blocks?

That’s the mystery that the LSU coaches and players are attempting to solve this week at practice, but the answer may ultimately be both. There’s a unique blend of reasons stymying the Tigers’ passing attack, beginning with issues in pass protection, as well as a quarterback taking too much time in the pocket and so many extra blockers, that the receivers are blanketed in coverage.

Regardless of what’s to blame, the end result speaks for itself. Burrow was sacked twice and hit a third time, and overall, the offense managed only 151 yards through the air. Needless to say, it’s an area that LSU is itching to shore up before it’s showdown with No. 7 Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend.

“It’s a little of both,” said Burrow. “They kind of go hand-in-hand every pass play. When protection isn’t great, I get the ball out of my hand faster. When I hold the ball longer, we need to be a little more firm up front. We take off each other and we can help each other do that and work together. You have to practice getting the ball out faster against their defensive line, one of the best units the country, and I’m excited to go against them and see how we stack up against them.”

If the Tigers are going to stack up with Auburn’s ferocious defensive front, which is littered with players that coach Ed Orgeron once recruited to LSU, then the adjustments being made must yield results.

Sophomore Austin Deculus, who started left tackle at left tackle in place of Saahdiq Charles against Southeastern and has seen reps at left guard and right tackle during camp, will shift back over to the right side and compete with Badara Traore for the starting tackle spot this week. Deculus was originally battling with Adrian Magee at the start of fall camp, but Traore replaced him in that competition and inherited the job when Magee was injury against Miami.

“It was his first start,” senior tight end Foster Moreau began. “You know it’s your first start, you’re anxious, studying up on a bunch of film and it’s a lot of information in your head. I think he handled it beautifully and did a great job every time I saw him and I was with him. He did a pretty good job and the coaches and his teammate would agree.”

“I’m really proud of Austin,” senior guard Garrett Brumfield added. “He’s developed in a pretty good football player with a really high ceiling, and he’s only going to get better. Competition also makes you better. He (Traore) was in an intense battle with Adrian Magee. I think competition can only help the offensive line as a whole.”

The competition at right tackle will command attention, but quietly, LSU will welcome Charles back on the left side. Orgeron confirmed the sophomore will be back to face Auburn on Saturday.

Charles played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2017 and started nine, mainly at left tackle in place of an injured K.J. Malone. Orgeron often refers to him as the line’s “bell-cow.”

“Coach O always preaches next man up,” Brumfield said, “but of course we’re excited to get Saahdiq back. The more bodies we have, the better situation we’ll be in. I’m looking forward to getting him back in and ready to go.”

Elsewhere, freshman Dare Rosenthal saw his first taste of offensive tackle after switching sides of the ball and working at both the left and right tackle spots in practice. Rosenthal, originally a 4-star offensive tackle by Rivals, preferred to be recruited as a defensive lineman. Queue Orgeron.

LSU’s coach reeled in the Ferriday High product by allowing him to compete for playing time in the trenches. Rosenthal is listed as a third-string defensive end and has yet to see the field through two games. A switch to offensive tackle could change that or at least shore up the Tigers up front for the foreseeable future.

“We want our guy to take as much time as he wants,” said Brumfield. “Some of it was scheme, having to finish on blocks. I think that with time, with good practices this week, we’ll make sure our guys are up to speed on everything. Everything will be smooth and I think we’ll definitely see improvement.”