Garrett Brumfield couldn’t remember who he first heard say it, but there’s an expression that’s stuck with him when it comes to building an offensive line: It doesn’t take a lot of guys. It just takes the right guys.
“And I think we have the right guys,” he added.
Rarely do the same five guys start every game of a given season due to the physical nature of playing in the trenches. LSU has taken the adage a step further by seemingly losing its starting right guard on the eve of fall camp in consecutive seasons — Maea Teuhema last year and now Ed Ingram.
Teuhema left the program shortly after being suspended indefinitely and was replaced by a then-freshman Ingram. There’s less clarity about if and when Ingram may return — he’s suspended for a violation of university policy — but in the meantime LSU is pressing on without him.
“Ed’s our friend, he’s our brother and we wish the best for him,” Brumfield said. “We don’t have specifics on the situation … We still have to play games and keep trying to get better with the guys that we have.
“It’s a thing that happens. You’re never certain about what the future exactly will hold. In the event of things like that, it’s good to have a group of guys that can get in those spots and do well.”
From a depth perspective, LSU is better equipped to handle losing Ingram for the time being than they were when Teuhema left last fall. JUCO transfer Damien Lewis was likely to start somewhere up front anyway, and he’s since slid in as the starting right guard.
Last year LSU had true freshmen competing for starting roles and walk-ons on the second-team offensive line due to a lack of healthy bodies. This camp LSU can build around returning stalwarts in Brumfield and left tackle Saahdiq Charles while allowing a three-way battle to play out at right tackle.
That doesn’t mean there’s not plenty of work ahead for new LSU offensive line coach James Cregg.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron cited a need for improvement from his offensive line after what he characterized as a “sloppy” performance in the first preseason game of fall camp. Orgeron bemoaned a litany of procedural and holding flags and the constant pressure his quarterbacks were under off the edge.
“Not good,” Orgeron said. “We made too many mistakes. We gave up too many sacks. We had too many penalties.”
For what it’s worth, Brumfield felt it was just a day that the defense won, not a sign of problems to come along the offensive line. It’s not unusual for it to take some time for the five-man unit to build cohesion, particularly when one of its penciled-in starters goes out before the first day of practice.
“Communicating, having chemistry and working together,” Brumfield said when asked what it would take to improve off Saturday’s performance. “Being a cohesive unit.”
The coach hinted that there could still a shuffle in the interior between now and when LSU opens the season against Miami on Sept. 2. Center Lloyd Cushenberry has taken all the first-team reps to this point, according to Orgeron, but it seems he’s battling for his job, too.
Orgeron had previously floated the notion of moving Brumfield to center in order to get Lewis on the field. Despite the suspension of Ingram, Orgeron again said LSU needed to get Brumfield live reps at center after seeing the offensive line struggle in the first scrimmage of camp.
“If Lloyd couldn’t play, we’d put in Bruiser,” Orgeron said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
That seemed to be news to Brumfield, who was the first and to this point only offensive lineman made available to reporters since Ingram’s suspension became public.
Brumfield has snapped with the centers during individual work dating back to his freshman season and took some reps there this spring, but if a change is indeed coming, he didn’t tip LSU’s hand.
“I’m the starting left guard,” Brumfield said. “I’ve snapped the ball since I was a freshman just to do it. It’s always good to be useful and be valuable, but Lloyd Cushenberry, to my knowledge, is our starting center. He’s a great center. He’s an amazing guy on and off the field. He has a great brain, a great work ethic.”