The defensive improvement from last year to the first five games of this year has been exponential…
New next man up
One man goes down, the next man steps up.
When Chris Faulk went down days after the North Texas game, the deck had to be re-shuffled. Josh Dworaczyk and since Alex Hurst have been called upon to fill in for the All-SEC-level performer at left tackle.
Center P.J. Lonergan has experienced his own issues with injury, more of the chronic type and less of the sudden sort, and sophomore Elliott Porter has been the go-to backup when Lonergan's needed a rest.
But the latest call for "next up" has occurred at guard, an area previously pretty secure with La'el Collins and Josh Williford manning the left and right sides, respectively.
Williford was forced out of action at two separate points in the first half of the Florida game, with the first nick appearing to be ankle-related and the second, one that removed him from the game permanently, being concussion-related, according to sources.
The answer to plug the leak in the dam in Gainesville was Trai Turner, a 6-3, 310-pound redshirt freshman from St. Augustine.
"Last week was a great experience for me," Turner told TSD recently. "It was my first time really getting into SEC play, going against some good players and getting a lot of experience to continue developing as a player."
As for how it played out compared to his expectations?
"More physical. Every snap is physical," said Turner without hesitation. "You can't take a snap off because somebody is going to get you, and you don't want to get got. So it's all about making sure you play every snap the hardest (you can)."
Turner, part of a youth movement of second-string players being thrust into starting roles suddenly (a group that also includes Collins, a sophomore, right tackle Vadal Alexander, a true freshman, and, occasionally, Porter, a sophomore), has been running with the first team this week as Williford's condition remains uncertain.
He hasn't been told for sure one way or the other yet, but he's hopeful he'll be back in the starting lineup versus South Carolina.
"I have been (working with the ones)," he confirmed. "I don't really know the status of Williford, but I've been getting some work and preparing so when my number's called I'm ready to go out there. But currently I am (with the first group)."
According to Turner, playing alongside Alexander on the right side has been easy, a partnership which has roots all the way back to Spring Ball 2011, when Vadal was around as an early enrollee.
"Me and Vadal have been working with each other since the spring, so I know him and he knows me. We're pretty comfortable with each other," explained the soft-spoken Turner. "I think if we are in there together this Saturday, we'll have a good game.
"Yeah it helps us (that we're familiar), but we also have to have the mindset to come in and contribute as much as possible. Now we're starting to get that chance, so we'll continue to go out there and give it all we've got with this chance."
LSU's No. 56, who at 310 pounds says he enjoys being "a little lighter than what I was," indicated the biggest hurdle this line has as a whole is pass protection. He talked about regaining form and chemistry in that department with a return to familiar digs this weekend as opposed to last.
"Last week we held hands being as we were in a loud stadium to get up and get off the ball quicker," said Turner of the team's strategy in pass protection pre-snap. "This week we're going to be in our house, so I don't really think it (communication) is going to be a problem. Everything's fine. We're just working on getting the chemistry back on the offensive line, just ready to be physical this week."
It's to be expected that injecting one young player into an SEC offensive line will bring growing pains.
LSU's hope is that, despite starting two or three youngsters, players like Turner will step up and talent plus needed exposure at the collegiate level will eventually minimize those growing pains.
All signs point to the fact that Turner will get another opportunity this Saturday.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: LT Alex Hurst (Sr.), LG La'el Collins (So.), C P.J. Lonergan (Sr.), RG Trai Turner (R-Fr.), RT Vadal Alexander (Fr.)
UPDATED PROJECTED STARTING LINE (8:45 PM Wed): LT Josh Dworaczyk (Sr.), LG La'el Collins (So.), C P.J. Lonergan (Sr.)/Elliott Porter (So.), RG Trai Turner (R-Fri.), RT Vadal Alexander (Fr.)
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