Upon first glance, the fact that Rashard Lawrence was in and out of practice during fall camp seems like a troubling sign that 2018 could be another injury-plagued season for the standout defensive end.
According to Lawrence and LSU coach Ed Orgeron, it actually implies quite the opposite.
Lawrence battled nagging ankle injuries throughout the 2017 seasons because LSU needed him to. He missed three games last September, including humiliating 37-7 rout at Mississippi State and the now infamous 24-21 upset against Troy.
It was a completely difference defense once Lawrence returned to the lineup, even though he played just about every snap without being close to 100 percent physically.
With that in mind, LSU managed Lawrence’s reps throughout fall camp and made sure to give him maintenance days while he dealt with the kinds of bumps and bruises that’re typical of a physical fall camp.
“Just a little maintenance, that’s the biggest thing,” Lawrence said. “That’s really it. I’m healthy. It was just a little nick and bruise, nothing major. It’s just camp days, you know, and I respect Coach O for giving me a little time off. It was nothing major and I’m glad to be back.”
Lawrence understood that the time off his feet would prove beneficial in the long run. Nobody wants to be confined to the training room while their teammates get after it, even in a practice setting, but the veteran took a big-picture view of the time off LSU gave him.
And with the season opener against Miami just days away, Lawrence declared himself fully ready to go before putting in a full week of practice.
“It was just about being careful and being ready for this week,” Lawrence said. “I want to be ready for the long haul. It’s a long season. We’re going to be playing til January.”
The biggest difference between this year and last is that LSU had the requisite depth to give Lawrence some time off in camp.
The emergence of Neil Farrell as a capable spell for either Lawrence or Glen Logan at defensive end and the versatility of Breiden Fehoko to play any position will allow LSU to have more of a rotation up front. Nose tackles Ed Alexander and Tyler Shelvin could allow Fehoko to slide to end in a pinch.
“It helps this year that we have two full defensive lines,” Orgeron said. “We have a third defensive line, some of those guys just aren’t ready yet, a big group of freshmen. We have Neil Farrell. We have Justin Thomas. We have Breiden Fehoko who can play nose or end. Ed Alexander is healthy now, so we have a full rotation that enables us to give him some rest.
“He doesn’t have to play every play.”