BATON ROUGE, La. -- Even if he doesn’t participate in LSU’s spring practices following offseason hip surgery, Ethan Pocic is the safest of bets to maintain a starting role on the Tigers’ offensive line.
Where he will play is another question entirely -- and LSU offensive-line coach Jeff Grimes might not make that decision for months, until Pocic gets back on the field.
When Pocic joined Kendell Beckwith, Tre'Davious White and Christian LaCouture in announcing they would return for their senior seasons with the Tigers, he said he would like to shift from center to offensive tackle. But even then, in late January, he was unsure as to where he might play.
“I still don’t know yet. Whatever’s best for the O-line,” Pocic said at the time. “If one of these young guys comes and steps up and plays tackle, then that’s fine. All I told them is I’ll play left tackle, I’ll play center, I’ll play guard, right tackle, left tackle, whatever y’all need.”
The good news is that LSU coach Les Miles has repeatedly stated that Pocic could play any of those positions. That will not only ease Grimes’ decision-making process, it should make Pocic even more valuable as an NFL prospect next year. But as Pocic noted, his younger teammates’ progress will likely help determine his eventual landing spot.
The Tigers have two starting spots to fill -- right tackle Vadal Alexander was a senior and left tackle Jerald Hawkins was a fourth-year junior who declared for the NFL draft -- although the two new starters might not necessarily have played tackle in 2015.
Pocic, an All-SEC center last year, is among Grimes’ many possible replacements at tackle, as are Maea Teuhema and Toby Weathersby, who will both be sophomores for the 2016 season. Teuhema started the final 11 games at left guard in 2015, while Weathersby played both guard and tackle and emerged as one of the Tigers’ top reserves by season’s end.
“I’m really high on Toby Weathersby,” Pocic said. “The amount he’s gotten better since camp, it’s unreal. He’s like a sponge, he just soaks it all in.”
Grimes has a host of options at his disposal, such as Andy Dodd, Will Clapp (an SEC All-Freshman honoree last season after starting every game at guard) and Pocic at center. Clapp, Garrett Brumfield, Josh Boutte, Teuhema and Weathersby are among the possibilities at guard. Pocic, Teuhema, Weathersby, K.J. Malone and others can play tackle.
And then there are the redshirt freshmen -- Chidi Okeke, George Brown Jr. and Adrian Magee -- and the signees -- Willie Allen, Donavaughn Campbell, Jakori Savage and Lloyd Cushenberry -- who will arrive this summer.
Grimes typically experiments with different lineups in the spring and preseason, and that will remain the case in 2016. Because of Pocic’s springtime absence, LSU’s eventual starting lineup will be even less certain than normal once the Tigers complete their spring game April 16.
LSU’s line coach has plenty of available talent, however. The next several weeks and months will be where he determines how it fits together best.