There is no doubt that superior play at the line of scrimmage can lead to a championship season.
LSU has a veteran up front on each side of the football heading into the 2017 season.
Mike Scarborough, TigerBait.com
Fourth-year junior Will Clapp, a two-year starter at guard, will be shifting to center where he replaces Ethan Pocic. Fifth-year senior Christian LaCouture, a two-year starter at defensive tackle, is ready to play at end.
Both Clapp and LaCouture have started 23 games in their Tigers careers. Clapp was redshirted in his first year in 2014 before moving into the starting lineup. LaCouture was redshirted in 2016 after suffering a season-ending knee injury last August.
LaCouture, who was recently awarded jersey No. 18 for the 2017 season, was ready to give up his final season of eligibility. He went through Senior Day ceremonies prior to the Florida game last November.
LaCouture was then re-recruited by head coach Ed Orgeron, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and defensive line coach Pete Jenkins. LaCouture, who has made 86 tackles in his LSU career, had a change of heart and decided to play one more season.
“I believe I’m all the way back from the injury,” said LaCouture, who sat out the Tuesday practice because of some scar tissue in the knee. “On the first day of spring practice, I felt like a freshman all over again. But, this is my last go-around. I have to go full throttle. I want to leave here on a good note.”
Clapp also had injuries bother him last season, but he missed only one game. A shoulder injury he suffered in the season-opener against Wisconsin never totally healed. Clapp had surgery for the torn labrum in January. As a result, he is not participating in spring drills.
“I’m seeing more of a big picture thing right now while I’m out,” Clapp said. “I am not seeing what a player normally sees. I am seeing what everybody’s doing and how it affects the defense.
“The linebackers and the safeties are rotating with the amount of shifts we are doing on offense. I am working through what we (offensive linemen) have to do. I am learning the new offense from that point of view.”
Clapp is ahead of schedule in the rehab from his shoulder surgery.
“I’m ten weeks out of surgery,” Clapp said. “I am about four weeks ahead of schedule in my rehab. I am doing everything I’m supposed to be doing.”
Clapp will be playing a new position this season although he did work at center during his redshirt year. Clapp was slated to be the starting center for the 2015 season. However, Clapp and Pocic swapped positions about ten days before the opener.
“I almost played center my freshman year,” Clapp said. “In my redshirt year, I split second-team reps at center with Andy Dodd. I have played a lot of center, just not in a game. Making calls won’t be new for me. Everybody on the line knows the calls. The center just sets it in stone.”
Clapp and projected right tackle starter Toby Weathersby are unavailable in spring practice. When everyone is healthy, LSU will have a veteran group up front consisting of four players with starting experience – left tackle K.J. Malone, Clapp, right guard Maea Teuhema and Weathersby.
Garrett Brumfield is working with the first unit at left guard during spring practice. Two redshirt freshmen are replacing Clapp and Weathersby – Lloyd Cushenberry at center and Jakori Savage at right tackle.
“Guys are playing different spots,” Clapp said. “So, we’ll have to jell with each other. All of us are interchangeable on the line. We can play multiple spots.”
LaCouture made his position changes a year ago when Aranda came on board as Tigers defensive coordinator. Shifting to a 3-4 defense, LaCouture moved to nose tackle at the beginning of 2016 spring drills. Near the end of spring practice, LaCouture was moved to defensive end.
Then, LaCouture injured his knee early in preseason practice. LaCouture’s family had moved to Baton Rouge. Less than week after LaCouture got hurt, his family lost its house in the August floods. There was no football upon which LaCouture could fall.
“It was hard the first couple of days not being out there,” LaCouture said. “Then, coach O gave me a job as an assistant defensive line coach (after Les Miles was fired). I watched the guards who would be blocking my new position.
At defensive end, I am outside more. I am going to get (offensive) tackles more and not the guards. There is more area to move around in. You have to strike the tackle and make sure the guard does not move you back off the line. You have make sure the lineman doesn’t get to the linebackers.”
With LaCouture returning, there are three fifth-year seniors on the defensive line – Frank Herron and LaCouture at end and Greg Gilmore at nose tackle. Gilmore is a returning starter. LaCouture should do fine if he’s healthy. The main concerns center on Herron.
“Frank is a guy who has been here as long as I have,” LaCouture said. “Frank just has to be himself. He understands this is his last go-around. If he’s Frank Herron, he’ll just be fine.”
LaCouture has been impressed by the three youngsters who are the primary backups – ends Rashard Lawrence and Glen Logan and nose tackle Ed Alexander. Lawrence and Alexander saw some playing time as true freshmen last year, while Logan was redshirted.