Leader of the line
Barksdale talks blocking, new attitude for spring
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Acting Editor
Coming into the 2010 season, Joseph Barksdale (6-5, 315) is the only senior projected to start on the offensive line. Considering the group’s well-documented struggles in 2009, you’d think he might be concerned.
Not so for the Detroit, Mich. product. In fact, Barksdale sees an improvement due to the overall versatility of the bunch, allowing them to play different positions across the offensive front.
“Just like with any team, if you’ve got people who can play more than one position, you’re gonna be good because if you need them to step in somewhere or move them to another spot (you can),” Barksdale explained. “It’s just like with Hurst, what he’s doing right now.”
That would be rising redshirt sophomore Alex Hurst, who played in 12 of 13 games last season at the guard position. This spring, the coaching staff is working Hurst out at right tackle. That frees Josh Dworaczyk up to remain at his more customary right guard spot.
With that alignment on the right-hand side, the combination of Will Blackwell and up-and-comer Josh Williford will compete for time at the left guard spot.
Williford, in particular, has caught the eye of coach Les Miles. Has he had the same affect on Barksdale?
“He (Williford) is definitely getting a lot better. He’s a lot stronger than he thinks, and he’s pretty strong right now,” said Barksdale, laughing a bit before he continued. “I wouldn’t wanna line up in front of Williford because he’s big and strong and he can move. When he gets it, it’s gonna be nasty.”
As for the center spot, the T-Bob Hebert-P.J. Lonergan battle looks to be one of the most intriguing throughout the spring. Barksdale noted the fact that both were making better calls in practice, working on their footwork, and, most importantly in his mind, “we haven’t dropped a snap yet in team runs.”
But what about Barksdale himself? Making the transition from left tackle to right tackle brings an enormous change. In his estimation, the senior-to-be expects he’ll see more true speed rushers on that side, noting that at his former spot (right tackle) the defensive ends were typically slower as coaches save their quickest guys for the quarterback’s blind side.
To prepare, Barksdale has enlisted the help of some of his defensive line teammates. In particular, he referenced a drill he works on post-practice with guys like Sam Montgomery, Lavar Edwards and Drake Nevis.
“I get them to line up a yard offsides so I can work with the speed and get used to the speed of things,” continued Barksdale. “That’s definitely helping in practice. I just gotta keep repping it out and not get frustrated because I know it’s not gonna come tomorrow.”
With the team working out only in shells (helmet and shoulder pads) today and just helmets Monday and Tuesday, one would think heavy contact isn’t part of the prescription yet. Barksdale begged to differ.
“It’s been physical for these last three days,” he said with a sheepish smile. “When you’re on the line of scrimmage, it starts out slow. But after awhile, you get tired of getting beat and the defensive lineman gets tired of getting beat. So it’s like ‘Hey, lets go.’ So I’ll anxious to see how it’s gonna be tomorrow.”
Much like Patrick Peterson and Terrance Toliver on Monday, Barksdale told me that’s just something the Tigers have taken upon themselves as a whole.
“I think it’s a team thing. I feel like the team comes into this spring knowing we’ve got to get better on everything because if we stay the same, we’re not gonna win,” Barksdale explained. “It’s a constant progression, and we’re a competitive group of guys. So, honestly, you just need to put us all on the field together and some work’s gonna get done.”
Wherever the source of inspiration comes from, it’s obvious the team has entered spring reinvigorated. For the offensive line, however, more tenacity is just part of the recipe for a better product.
“If we can knock somebody off the ball, the running back will have his pick of the litter on what hole to go to,” Barksdale recognized, before adding that making calls and talking constantly pre-snap is also valuable. “It’s a lot of communication. We all need to be making the calls together, and that’s what we’ve been working on this spring just to help with the unity and cohesion.”
Ben Love is the acting editor of Tiger Rag, covering primarily LSU football and basketball. Reach him at email@example.com.