LSU won’t be waiting until game time to decide on a starting right tackle after all.
Sophomore Austin Deculus will get the start against Auburn on Saturday afternoon, LSU coach Ed Orgeron announced Thursday at his post-practice presser. Junior Badara Traore, who started the Southeastern game at right tackle, will also see time, the coach added.
“Austin Deculus is going to start,” Orgeron said. “He’s had a good week, but Badara is going to play. (Deculus) has done a good job, but we’ve still got work to do. It’s going to be a big challenge for our whole offensive line.”
Deculus made the start at left tackle last week, but with Saahdiq Charles back from his one-game suspension, LSU opted to flip him to the other side of the line and compete with Traore for the starting job in practice.
Ultimately the deciding factor was experience, according to Orgeron. Traore may be the older of the two players, but Deculus played in hostile venues at Florida and Alabama last season, making him a bit better prepared to deal with the noise at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“I just think his experience of playing last year in a game situation,” Orgeron said of what separated the two. “It was Badara’s first start last time … Austin’s not there yet, but he’s more experienced than Badara.”
Preparing for that crowd noise has been an emphasis in practice all week. It’ll be the first road start for quarterback Joe Burrow, who is ultimately responsible for making checks and calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.
Burrow said earlier this week that Penn State was far and away the loudest road environment he’d ever been in, adding that you couldn’t hear yourself think in Happy Valley. Hand signals, silent counts and other non-verbal communication is a necessity when playing on the road in the SEC.
“It’s a big emphasis for our offense,” Orgeron said. “We’ve got to be on the same page. It’s critical. Everybody does it, and you’ve got to know it. It’s the first time (LSU has played on the road this season). We’ve worked on it in practice, but you never know until you get in a game.”
The attention will be on the quarterback, but center Lloyd Cushenberry must be equally sound when it comes to keeping the offensive line on the same page. Like Deculus, the third-year sophomore can fall back on the experience of playing at Florida last season heading into this Saturday’s game.
“You know Lloyd has probably been the most consistent linemen this year,” Orgeron said. “He’s played well. He’s smart. One of the things Lloyd can do is make the calls. He can do all the things a good center needs to do.”