It took just a week of spring practice for LSU coaches to realize who their new center would be – it’s Will Clapp.
“It stuck,” Clapp said recently.
A few days through LSU’s preseason camp, Clapp, a redshirt freshman from New Orleans, is quarterbacking the offensive line as the man in the middle. That’s just becoming clear to fans and reporters, but Clapp’s been knowing for some time that he’ll replace Elliott Porter as the Tigers’ center.
Clapp and Ethan Pocic began spring practice in March rotating at left guard and center. A week into drills, coaches made a decision: Clapp moved to center permanently, and Pocic settled at left guard.
More than four months later, Clapp remains in the starting role at one of the team’s most critical positions.
“It’s been exciting,” said Clapp, a consensus four star-rated prospect out of Brother Martin last year. “I was able to have a great spring, started the spring game. Been a fun couple of months.”
A year ago at this time, Clapp weighed 285 pounds, wasn’t sure what position he’d play on the line or if he’d get a shot at seeing the field as a true freshman.
He’s at 305, has settled in at center and is poised to be one of the team’s youngest starters. In a way, it’s a surprise he’s here.
Pocic, a junior who started three games at center last season, seemed an obvious choice for the gig. Or there was Andy Dodd, a redshirt sophomore who played in four games at center last season.
Thing is, Clapp seemed to be the guy all along. In fact, coaches had insisted that he be ready last season as a true freshman to play center. He said he worked with No. 2 quarterback Brandon Harris snapping for the first half of last season.
And then coaches made the decision to redshirt him before Game 7 at Florida, the halfway point in the season. Clapp went from the immediate backup to Porter to the third-string.
“If I wasn’t going to get a lot of playing time, I didn’t want to waste a year so it made sense to me,” he said.
But why center? Clapp played tackle in high school, and many recruiting sites projected him as one of the nation’s top 15 guard in the 2014 class. Coach Les Miles, a former offensive lineman at Michigan who works heavily with the O-line, made the decision.
“I know Coach Miles likes to cross-train all of his guys. He just saw that there was an opening there and he thought I could possibly be there and stuck at it,” Clapp said.
And, now, here he is – the young guy on a starting line that’s expected to include three juniors and a senior.
“For the most part, if I ever make a call and it’s not right, they’ll tell me, ‘hey, we’re going to go here and here,’” Clapp said. “It always helps having someone else to read the defense.”
Linebacker Lamar Louis practiced the entire summer in sweat pants. Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux went through outdoor summer drills in a long-sleeve sweatshirt.
The Tigers are preparing for the heat of the first month of the season, specifically the home day game against Auburn on Sept. 19. CBS has already picked that game for its 2:30 p.m. time slot.
The high temperature on Sept. 19 in Baton Rouge is about 87 degrees, according to weatherspark.com.
LSU is prepared.
“We go hard every day in this (heat). Playing Auburn can’t be worse than fall camp,” Godchaux said.
Southern Louisiana is experiencing a drought and heat wave. The heat index on Sunday reached 116 degrees. The field temperature for LSU’s practice on Friday, for instance, was 94 degrees.
The Tigers practiced indoors on Sunday afternoon. Trainers make determinations on moving practice if it gets too hot. Temperatures are expected to reach 102 degrees on Monday and hover at about 99-100 degrees throughout the week.
So how was Godchaux’s sweater after an outdoor workout during player-only summer drills?
“Sweaty,” he said before adding, “I wore long-sleeve tights, too.”
In the final day reporters can view practice, two players joined the veterans for morning drills on Sunday: receiver Tyron Johnson and defensive end Sione Teuhema.
Defensive end Tashawn Bower moved from the morning practice – with starters and veterans – to the afternoon, which includes mostly younger players and reserves.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.