QUESTION: How does the 2013 offensive line grade out?
Ben Love: I'll give a collective grade of C-plus, although I admittedly thought long and hard about B-minus due to the durability of this group. That, above anything else, was the calling card of this O-Line, and it was paramount considering the utter lack of depth, especially experienced depth, on the line. The quintet of (in order from left to right) La'el Collins, Vadal Alexander, Elliott Porter, Trai Turner and Jerald Hawkins played in and started 58 of a possible 60 games. The only two missed, Collins and Porter against Furman, was planned by the coaching staff to heal minor injuries leading up to the Alabama tilt.
But, once you get past the near-perfect attendance, the play on-field was largely average as Porter and Hawkins had plenty of learning moments as first-time starers and Alexander adjusted to a new position and new side of the ball. LSU struggled to keep penalties down all year, and the O-Line was a significant contributor to the Tigers' 7.0 penalties per game, a mark that ranks 13th in the SEC (only Florida was worse, but not by much) and 104th nationwide. The purple and gold also finished near the middle of the pack in the SEC in a number of other major categories: sacks allowed (sixth), time of possession (eighth), total offense (sixth), rushing offense (sixth) and passing offense (fourth).
Collins and Turner were the bright spots, with the former making a successful move out to left tackle (from left guard) and the latter garnering a number of All-SEC team looks. There's a distinct possibility that Collins and his huge frame test the NFL Draft waters this offseason, but the rest of the starting line should be back. That bodes very well for the Tigers, who will break in a new quarterback in 2014. But, as far as putting the season that was under the microscope for the LSU line, it's hard to venture too far north of average.
Hunter Paniagua: I'll agree with Ben and give the offensive line an overall grade of C-plus, though I could go as high as B-minus if I was feeling a little generous. The line as a whole showed flashes of above average play, but did spend a little time below average as well, leaving us with a shrug of the shoulders and a feeling that they played fairly decent overall. With two new starters and two returners, some early growing pains were expected, but the up-and-down of their performance didn't really show steady improvement.
Ben already went over a lot of the statistics and primary issues that plagued the offensive line, especially the penalties that showed a continued struggle with discipline and communication. And if you look at LSU's three losses, the line surrendered 11 sacks in those games. They also allowed three in that near-loss to Arkansas. LSU did pitch shutouts in the sack department against Florida and Texas A&M, so the line was capable of holding its own, but the consistency was just lacking.
A lot of pressure this year fell on Greg Studrawa as the offensive line definitely struggled in the past with him in the box as offensive coordinator. The line did show improvement with him back on the field, and the struggles weren't so concerning that his job is in jeopardy. But the success likely wasn't enough that the monkey's off his back, and Stud will still likely be target for blame moving forward. But with at least four offensive linemen returning next season, there's reason for optimism in 2014.
12/10 – Most surprising player in 2013
12/11 – Most disappointing player in 2013
12/13 – Can LSU return to DBU in 2014?
12/16 - How will the offense change with Jennings at QB?