The name Benson Mayowa won’t likely resonate through the annuls of LSU football history.
In fact, few, if any, around the LSU program could identify him today.
He’s the Idaho Vandal defensive end who exploded off the edge to blast LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger for consecutive sacks in a 21-14 game in mid-September. He wizzed by new left tackle Josh Dworaczyk with ease and made it very clear that LSU had some problems up front.
Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier did his part a week later to strike fear and uncertainty into everyone associated with the program, even in a winning effort.
“We knew we had depth going into the season,” Dworaczyk said. “I think everybody understood that, but no one wants to have to test the depth the way we’ve had to test it.”
The Tiger offensive front appeared to be one of the strongest in school history entering the season. Only two pieces remain.
Starting left tackle Chris Faulk went down after one week. Starting right tackle, turned left tackle, Alex Hurst left the team. Starting right guard Josh Williford sustained a concussion.
No team could be expected to patch every hole seamlessly. The reformation of the offense’s foundation took time.
Florida, a team that entered the game against LSU as one of the worst pass rushing teams in the SEC, recorded four sacks of Mettenberger.
The passing game sputtered, and the running game failed to gain traction. LSU failed on 12 of 13 third down attempts in Gainesville and dropped a regular season game for the first time since 2010.
But the week after that contest South Carolina came calling, riding high after a 35-7 route of Georgia. In tow was one of the fiercest defensive fronts in the SEC.
The Tiger front, anchored by two freshmen on the right side and a refocused Dworaczyk on the left, imposed its will on the Gamecocks, paving the way for a rushing attack that piled up 258 yards and yielding only one sack.
Since that night, the Tiger offense has soared to new hieghts.
Freshman tailback Jeremy Hill has eclipsed the 100 yard mark three times. The passing game has clicked, and points have followed.
It all starts up front, where the same five players have started all four games. Seniors P.J. Lonergan and Dworaczyk are surrounded by freshmen in Vadal Alexander and Trai Turner as well as true sophomore La’El Collins.
Not only do Lonergan and Dworaczyk have to prepare themselves to play every week, they have to make sure the youngsters have it figured out.
“La’El is there,” Dworaczyk said. “I talked to him last week about how proud I was of him for picking up these things. I think it came down to experience, and I think those other guys are getting close. They’re starting to learn things about themselves.”
Turner added, “I’m just getting comfortable. Comfortable with my technique and comfortable with my assignment. Sometimes I still question myself, but I believe the game is more mental than physical. So once you have the mental standpoint of the game down everything comes naturally physically.”
Dworaczyk spoke to the media about his Friday night study sessions with Turner as the two go over assignments on a test given to every lineman prior to each game. The sixth-year senior said having the youth around him makes him better, perhaps even younger.
Turner, who plays alongside a fifth-year player in Lonergan and a first year player in Alexander says the age gap is an easy hurdle to clear.
“Those are two characters,“ Turner said. “Those guys are funny at all times. So there’s not a very serious moment. We just take it, make sure we know what we have to do and go out there and do it. There’s no pressure, it’s just football.”
Speaking of 'no pressure'.
Mettenberger has had ample time to throw the ball down the field the last three weeks, and the result has been 666 yards passing and four scores.
“As a whole, (the offensive line is) playing outstanding right now,” Mettenberger said. “You’ve got two freshmen playing on the right side. That’s a lot to ask for to ask them to go block Alabama’s front seven. If they can keep building off that, they’re going to be a pretty dominant offensive line all year.”
A dominant offensive line. A staple of a Les Miles team. But a new one for the head coach in 2012.
“I don’t know that I have run into just tremendously talented freshmen that had the mental capacity to step onto the field and play aggressively,” Miles said. “I’ve had guys that are very capable, but it just takes a little maturing.”
Obviously that process has moved rapidly for Alexander and Turner. Dworaczyk’s maturation at left tackle has done much the same.
A shattered unit has picked up the pieces and rebuilt itself into one of the strongest in college football.
“We’re better physically, mentally and we’re still getting better,” Collins said.