Ethan Pocic chuckled when the suggestion was presented to him.
LSU's senior center, who saw action at left tackle for the first time Saturday night, was the only starting offensive linemen who did not require attention from the medical staff during the Tigers' 23-20 win against Mississippi State at Tiger Stadium. The Tigers used at least five offensive line combinations, incorporating reserves such as center Andy Dodd and guard Garrett Brumfield, but they did not allow a sack.
“It’s just football,” Pocic said. “Battling injuries, that’s just part of the game. It’s just a part of it. I’m thankful I didn’t get hurt, but at the end of the day, it’s football.”
For a group needing to replace two starting tackles from last year’s team, LSU experienced plenty of movement in the offseason. Maea Teuhema, a starter at left guard in 2015, moved to left tackle but then suffered an ankle injury over the summer and missed at least a week of camp. Will Clapp’s development at left guard was delayed by hip surgery. Clapp then twisted his ankle in the days leading up to the season opener.
Coach Les Miles said left tackle K.J. Malone suffered an injury in the preseason, too. Right guard Josh Boutte then was suspended for last week's home opener against Jacksonville State for a personal foul penalty he committed late in the season-opening loss to Wisconsin.
Then came Saturday night, when four of the line's five starters at least briefly went down with injury.
Clapp didn’t miss a snap but appeared to suffer a right arm injury. Right tackle Toby Weathersby had a right ankle sprain, according to a midgame ESPN report, and he did not play in the second half, replaced by Teuhema. The LSU Sports Radio Network reported Weathersby wore a boot in the second half.
Teuhema replaced Boutte when Boutte went down with a knee ailment. Clapp then slid over to left tackle when Malone was hobbled by “significant cramps,” Miles said. Still, Miles said he believes all of the injured linemen will be ready for Saturday's game at Auburn.
Many thought Pocic would move to tackle in the offseason. Pocic said he practiced at tackle perhaps for a few plays during practices, but never in live situations.
“Maybe like a one-on-one pass rush rep here and there,” he said. “Not much. Like I said earlier, guys just had to go on the fly. Learn on the fly and make the most of it.”
He said he prefers to play center but believes he would be “fine” at tackle in the future. Pocic was called for holding on his first snap near the goal line, when he was matched up against State's top pass rusher, A.J. Jefferson.
"It's on me," Pocic said.
Go go gadget plays
Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron opened up their bag of tricks Saturday, but the gadget plays were not the highlights of a successful first half of offense.
LSU ran a reverse to receiver D.J. Chark on its first play, but Chark was dropped for a loss of 4 yards. Leonard Fournette’s halfback pass, while a sharp throw, floated just out of reach of receiver Travin Dural. Wide receiver Malachi Dupre’s pass off a reverse sailed well over the head of wide-open quarterback Danny Etling.
All of that came in the first quarter.
“Just a feel about the counter-action (by Mississippi State) and making sure that they were not just running to the ball,” Miles said when asked about his reasoning for the gadget plays. “And I would like to have those reverse calls back if I could get them back right now.”
Perhaps the first-quarter trick plays were in response to two weeks of slow starts on offense. LSU didn't score in the first quarter of its first two games, combining for just 19 yards on 12 plays.
Saturday night was a different story: The Tigers ran 21 plays in the first quarter for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
“It felt great starting off fast,” Dural said. “It’s something we’ve been preaching. We can’t keep the defense on the field the whole first quarter.”
The Advocate reported in Sunday's edition that Bailey Raborn, a walk-on punter from Lafayette, dressed out for the first time in the game against Mississippi State. That is not accurate, his mother, Michelle, said Sunday. Raborn dressed out for the home opener against Jacksonville State, and he did not incur a suspension for LSU's first two games this season, Michelle Raborn said. He was arrested in July for suspicion of operating a vehicle while impaired and careless operation of a vehicle. ... LSU moved to No. 17 in the coaches poll and No. 18 in The Associated Press poll. … The SEC Network’s traveling pregame show, “SEC Nation,” chose Auburn, LSU’s next opponent, as the site for its broadcast Saturday. The show will originate from Wellness Kitchen, south of Plainsman Park. … Redshirt freshman punter Josh Growden, who averaged 49.2 yards on five punts Saturday, recorded his career-long in the first quarter, a 65-yarder that was downed at the Mississippi State 2-yard line. … Kicker Colby Delahoussaye, who had an extra point blocked for the second time this season, connected on his first field-goal attempt of the year and the 25th of his collegiate career.
Ross Dellenger contributed to this report.