The Southeastern Conference named LSU offensive lineman Vadal Alexander the league’s offensive lineman of the week Monday.
In the 35-28 win over Florida on Saturday, Alexander shoved defenders down the field, put them on their backs and protected quarterback Brandon Harris during, maybe, his most dominant day as a lineman.
It wasn’t coincidence, Alexander said Monday. His good friend and classmate, tight end Dillon Gordon, suffered an injury on LSU’s second series.
Alexander was mad.
“When I saw him go down,” Alexander said, “I had extra passion, extra motivation to handle my business.”
Gordon, the Tigers’ 310-pound senior tight end, is likely out for the season, coach Les Miles revealed Monday — a blow for a run-centric squad that relies heavily on big bodies like Gordon.
Gordon is arguably LSU’s best run-blocker who’s not on the offensive line.
The other? Fullback JD Moore. He’s out, too.
“It just means I’m going to have to step up even more,” said Colin Jeter, Gordon’s replacement.
No. 5 LSU (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) could play at least one more team without Moore and Gordon when the Tigers get Western Kentucky (6-1) this Saturday at Tiger Stadium. Moore, who suffered a knee injury against South Carolina on Oct. 10 and did not play against Florida, is not expected back yet.
Leonard Fournette, the Heisman Trophy front-runner, will be without two of his best blockers.
He seemed just fine against the then-No. 8 Gators, rolling up 164 of his yards after Gordon’s injury.
Gordon reinjured his left Achilles while catching a pass on his fourth or fifth play in the game. His left foot appears to give out on his last stride before falling to the turf in obvious pain. Trainers hunched over him, and Miles rushed out to visit his big man.
Miles said Gordon “may be” eligible for a medical redshirt, but he’s uncertain. According to the NCAA rule, a player can receive another year of eligibility if he played less than one-third of the season and didn’t play during the second half of the year. Gordon played in part of three games, and the Tigers played their sixth game against Florida in an 11-game regular season.
LSU often uses Gordon as a third tackle in the I-formation set, a guy who walls off the edge, using his massive frame to help clear the way for Fournette and others.
According to ESPN, more than 70 percent of Fournette’s carries come out of the I-formation.
The Tigers lose something other than Gordon’s physical presence, Jeter said.
“You lose a guy like that, a leader in the tight-end (meeting) room, huge blocker for us. I think, not only myself but all of the guys in the tight-end room are going to have to step up this week and work to improve and make up for what Dillon does in our offense,” Jeter said.
“He’s always done a great job of basically seeing out what the defense does and communicating that to all of us,” Jeter said of Gordon. “(It’s) really replacing him as far as the mental aspect as well as the physical aspect.”
Gordon’s exit affects more than just Jeter. LSU uses two tight ends or more on a quarter of its plays, according to ESPN’s stats.
Foster Moreau is likely to see more snaps, as he did with Gordon out the past four games. LSU’s depth at tight end isn’t particularly strong.
For example, Jeter is a former junior-college recruit coaches stumbled upon last summer, and Moreau is just a freshman. DeSean Smith, LSU’s pass-catching and No. 3 tight end, had admitted in the past that blocking isn’t the strongest part of his game.
“It’s going to be tough, but we have really good tight ends all around,” Alexander said. “He’s definitely one of the best tight ends in the country as far as blocking, but Jete, DeSean and the freshman Foster are doing a great job. I have all of the confidence, trust in them. They’re doing well.”
They’re no Gordon, though. Smith, Moreau and Jeter all are at least 50 pounds lighter than Gordon.
Said a smiling Alexander when asked about that: “Just a little smaller.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.