You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right?
Well, LSU hopes it can teach an old offensive lineman new tricks.
Of course “old” is a relative term when talking about a college kid, but sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk has been around the program since the 2007 season. To put that in perspective, center P.J. Lonergan and RT Alex Hurst are the only other offensive starters or contributors who were even around the program in the 2008 season.
But following a position change to left tackle in his sixth year of eligibility, the long-time guard doesn’t feel like a wily veteran.
“I do feel like a young guy out there as far as the experience,” said the 26-game starter at guard. “…. Different position. Different feel. Your muscle memory’s not the same. I’ve gotta get it. I will.”
Josh D. has been inserted into duty at left tackle since starter Chris Faulk injured his knee in practice the week prior to the Washington game.
He did a nice job versus the Huskies keeping pass-rushing fiend Josh Shirley off of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. However, his last two outings have not gone nearly as well. LSU has surrendered five sacks in the past two games versus Idaho and Auburn, and four of those can be placed directly at the feet of the sixth-year senior.
“It’s a lot more footwork. On the inside at guard, you’ve got guys on both sides, and it’s really confined. You don’t have to worry about the speed as much as anything, and most of those guys at D-Tackle are just big, strong guys, and their main pass rush is a bull rush. So you get outside to the edge, and it’s more of a footwork thing,” Dworaczyk said.
In his latest outing, 2011 First-Team All-SEC defensive end Corey Lemonier (a guy who full-time tackles struggle to block) really exposed Dworaczyk on a pair of pass rushes. On both, Dworaczyk acknowledged that his inexperience on the outside got the best of him.
With LSU leading 9-0 in the first, Josh D. tried to cut-block Lemonier, but he left his feet too early and allowed the Auburn rusher to maneuver around him. Lemonier stripped Mettenberger, leading to seven Auburn points.
“I stepped back to cut and didn’t get the guy down,” Dworaczyk said. “At the end of the day, when you cut a guy, you only get one chance. [Offensive Coordinator and O-Line Coach Greg Studrawa] talks about, ‘Wait till you see the whites of their eyes.’ I might have cut too early and should have set it up better. It’s all on me.”
Then right after Auburn took a 10-9 lead late in the second quarter, the Bayou Bengals moved the ball into Auburn territory before Dworazayk reverted back to his guard training and surrendered another sack to Lemonier. This mistake likely took a potential field goal attempt away.
“That turning my shoulder thing that I did in that one instance was kind of an instinct to try to get my hands on the guy as soon as possible, but Coach Stud talks about it all the time, ‘When you do that Josh, you give up the edge, and when you give up the edge to a guy that’s strong and has some speed, that’s when problems are going to happen,’” Dworaczyk explained… “Coach Stud has been working with me a lot about it that, ‘Josh, you just keep kicking, and eventually the guy’s gotta come through you to get to your quarterback.’”
Of course those two plays are the pair that will be magnified by the media and fans even though Lemonier only had one additional tackle in the ballgame, going one-on-one with Dworaczyk for the majority of it. But both were game-changing plays, and the offensive lineman who is very receptive to coaching knows he needs to get better.
“I know, for me, just getting that game experience, I’ve got to continue to show progression there,” he said. “It’s one thing to go out there and practice at tackle, and it’s another thing to go into the game and get some experience, so that’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
LSU head coach Les Miles shot down the notion of replacing Dworaczyk at left tackle during his weekly Monday press conference.
“I like the line up, I think we have the potential to be a very, very good offensive line long term,” the coach said. “If I make a move, it would not be to disrupt many. If you move one out and move one back in, it becomes disruption as you prepare what is the change. I like where we’re at, and we’ll see if we can make this work.”
Look for LSU to use tight end Chase Clement as well as whichever running back is in the game to chip on Dworaczyk’s opponent across the line of scrimmage from him. For instance, LSU implemented Jeremy Hill in shotgun sets to help chip on Lemonier in the second half, and the freshman did a nice job slowing him down and aiding Dworaczyk.
With strong pass rushers and defense remaining on the schedule, Josh D. has his work cut out for him.
Good thing few players give as much of an effort and care as much as the sixth-year senior.
Check back in six weeks, and we’ll let you know if that will have been enough to keep LSU in the national title picture.