Q & A: Greg Studrawa
LSU offensive line coach previews 2011 front five with TR Radio
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
Any time you return four starters to the offensive line, there’s a good chance your offensive line coach is pretty fired up about the new season.
That’s definitely the case with LSU’s Greg Studrawa, who was good enough to join myself and Jeff Palermo for 10 minutes earlier this week while enjoying a brief vacation.
Studrawa, set to begin his fifth season in Baton Rouge, went one step farther, noting that while it’s great the Tigers have four of last season’s main five back, he’s most excited to have eight linemen in total who have starting experience.
The returning four starters project to be Josh Dworaczyk (LG), P.J. Lonergan (C), Will Blackwell (RG) and Alex Hurst (RT). As Studrawa pointed out, there are four additional linemen who started games last season, and he trusts them all in game situations. They are Chris Faulk, who heads into fall as LSU’s starting left tackle, Greg Shaw (tackle), Josh Williford (guard) and T-Bob Hebert (center/guard).
Only Joe Barksdale is gone from the 2010 line.
In our interview LSU’s O-Line coach (AUDIO BELOW), Studrawa previewed each position and much more, detailing what he expects to be a good battle between Faulk and incoming freshman La’el Collins at left tackle, explaining how valuable it is to have a three-position back-up with starting experience like T-Bob Hebert, and sharing the latest status of injured guard Josh Dworaczyk leading up to Fall Camp.
CLICK HERE to listen to Tiger Rag Radio’s interview with Greg Studrawa in its entirety.
Here is a portion of that interview transcribed in Q & A format.
Jeff Palermo: How exciting is it when you get ready for a season where the expectations are as high as they going into this 2011 campaign?
Greg Studrawa: I’m going to tell you, it’s very exciting. It’s exactly what you coach for. That’s why you spend the hours and the time coaching is to have the expectations that we have. And then to play an opening game like Oregon. Some people tell me ‘Boy, you guys have got a tough schedule’ and those things. But I’ll tell you right now, I’m so looking forward to this game and this season, it’s unbelievable.
Ben Love: Coach, you really return a veteran group, losing only Joe Barksdale at left tackle. Talk about the advantages that gives you in the play calling, the communication, everything, having guys who have been together now for a couple of years.
GS: Let me tell you something, it’s unbelievable. I’m going to have eight guys, I think, that have started at least one SEC game. That’s incredible. You just start day one so much further ahead. I mean we’re working on Oregon now. Those kids are there getting ahead on Oregon and looking at their fronts and what they’re doing.
Then it’s the ability, like you said, just in the communication with the ‘What’s up, man?’ And knowing that you got guys out there who have been through it, know what to do and really are good players. We lost Joe (Barksdale), who’s a great player. But I’m going to tell you, Chris Faulk, with all the expectations I had for him in the spring, he had a wonderful spring. I think he’s going to be outstanding. I tell you, I’m fired up about this group of guys, and they’re hungry. I mean they really, really want to be good.
JP: I know it’s still early, but does it appear right now that Chris Faulk is your starter at left tackle for the time being? And where does La’el Collins, who received a lot of credentials as a high school prospect, fit into the mix?
GS: He’s going to fit in right there behind Chris. I’ve been working with him for a while now, and he’s been in there this summer starting to learn things and get his feet wet. He really looks good. I mean he came in in great conditioning, in great shape. It’s just a matter of getting him learning as quick as he can learn it. And he’s going to challenge for the spot.
The best thing about it, guys, is competition. You’ve got a guy behind you that you’ve got to work every day and work in practice and turn around (and realize) ‘If I take a play off, that guy’s in.’ And that’s what I’ve got at all the spots across the board is that kind of competition. And La’el adds into that depth and the competition. When you’ve got guys fighting and you’ve got to compete to get the best guy out there, you’re that much better.
BL: On the right side of the line in Blackwell and Hurst, you’ve got a good bit of strength. Talk about what they bring to the table and what they allow you to do in the run game.
GS: I’m telling you, last year that was a crushing blow people don’t realize. Losing Will Blackwell on the first play of the North Carolina game, that was a critical blow to us up front. Because Hurst was a new starter at right tackle, P.J. (Lonergan) was starting his career off as a sophomore at center, so Will was kinda the glue that held that side together and really held the whole line together going into last season. And those guys were in such a groove playing through spring ball.
Now, with him back healthy and his leg back, that is a tremendous side of the line for us. They have confidence. Hurst has confidence getting Blackwell back in there. And they have competition with Josh Williford behind him (Blackwell) now. There’s Williford, at 6-5 and 335 pounds, he’s in the best shape of his life, ready to play. Now there’s competition on the right side of the line and experience. That’s going to be a tremendous asset for us.
JP: You mention Josh Williford. Where do guys like Williford and T-Bob Hebert fit into the mix?
GS: Well, right now they’re going to battle at that (left) guard spot. You know, (Josh) Dworaczyk is kind of the question mark for me right now because he missed spring. We cleaned his knee up at the end of that Cotton Bowl, and it was a little more severe than we thought initially. So he was held out of spring, and T-Bob (Hebert) played the whole left side at spring. So, I’m going into camp letting Dworaczyk and T-Bob battle on that left side for that position, and Williford and Blackwell battle on the right side for the right guard position. With the ability to have four guards, all of whom can play right or left, I’m going to have great competition with four guys and play the best two.
Editor Ben Love covers LSU football and men’s basketball for Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.