Lloyd Cushenberry isn’t one to make a lot of noise.
A former three-star offensive lineman from Dutchtown High , Cushenberry wasn’t a highly sought after recruit. He didn’t participate in any of the high-profile recruiting combines or elite camps. For a while his only major offer was from Mississippi State before a few other Southeastern Conference schools followed suit late in the process.
Despite committing to South Carolina at first, Cushenberry accepted an offer from LSU two days after National Signing Day. A late signing, but an easy decision when the opportunity to stay close to home became available.
He played tackle in high school, but most coaches told him he’d move to center, maybe guard, for college, a promise kept at LSU and one he doesn't mind.
And last year, when LSU decided to redshirt him, again, not a word.
Quiet in nature, Cushenberry took it all in stride. He knew if he put his head down, did his work and studied the playbook, he would eventually reach his goals.
“I always came with the same mindset: I prepared like I was a starter,” he said. “Even though I knew I wasn't going to play last year, I knew one day my time would come.”
He was right.
Cushenberry’s time finally came, maybe more so than any other player on LSU’s roster.
There’s been a lot of talk about the 6-foot-4, 316-pound lineman around the program since the Tigers reported for camp a week ago.
The redshirt freshman’s importance skyrocketed over the past few days after projected starting right guard Maea Teuhema left the program last Wednesday after being indefinitely suspended earlier that day.
The departure of Teuhema marks the 10th player to leave LSU during the offseason, five of which were linemen.
But that isn’t the reason Cushenberry caught the eye of his teammates and coaches.
Whenever asked about who are the up-and-coming lineman, Cushenberry was always at the top of the list.
The talk on Cushenberry was his strong work ethic, intellect and versatility as a guard or center.
The only thing is, none of that talk ever comes from him.
“I don’t think I’ve heard him say a word,” coach Ed Orgeron said. “All he does is work — in a positive way. He’s a great kid. The guys love him.
“I think playing center against Greg Gilmore and Ed Alexander every day in the spring helped him. … He’s able to go to guard. He’s very smart. He picks up everything. Makes the calls at center, goes to guard and can make the calls there. We’re very impressed with him.”
LSU’s quiet giant is one of the favorites to replace Teuhema at right guard, although he was originally projected as the backup center to Will Clapp.
Orgeron said on Saturday Cushenberry could still play center this season while Clapp shifts back to guard, but LSU wants the more experienced player anchoring the middle of the line, meaning Clapp. If Clapp goes down at some point — he sat out Saturday’s full-team scrimmage with what Orgeron described as a regular camp injury and doesn’t expect him to be out long — Cushenberry would return to center.
He said he feels slightly more comfortable at center right now, but after tightening up a few of the techniques and footwork at guard, believes he should be ready to go.
Either way, he better be ready. Orgeron said the excitement surrounding Cushenberry is what he’s able to provide now and not his potential.
“His work ethic and how smart he is,” Clapp said of what stands out the most about Cushenberry. “Every day he showed up in the summer, and we watched him get stronger every day. He studies that playbook and always asks intelligent questions in the meeting rooms He gets it, and in such a young player, you don’t get that much.
From the description of Cushenberry’s demeanor given by his former offensive coordinator at Dutchtown, Blake Kling, not much has changed.
Kling describes Cushenberry as a quiet leader, never one to stand up in front of a group but thriving in one-on-one interactions with teammates.
Former Dutchtown coach Benny Saia echoed those comments, saying Cushenberry was always the epitome of a team player, never seeking the spotlight but earning it on the field. Saia couldn’t recall a time Cushenberry was so much as late for a meeting.
“He always did a good job out on the field being a leader,” Kling said. “When he did say something the other kids really responded to him because he didn’t say a whole lot. I had kids tell me he didn’t say much in front of everybody, but he’d get a couple of them on the sideline, and when he talked to a couple of them, everybody fell in line behind him.”
Right now, most of the praise about Cushenberry is only speculation as he’s yet to play in a college game, and there’s a big difference between practice and blocking an SEC lineman on Saturday.
But what he’s shown so far has the makings of a solid lineman, whether it be at guard or center somewhere down the road.
Cushenberry and those around him credit his strong first impression to, first and foremost, his intellect and commitment to learning the playbook.
“In my free time I just take time to use my iPad and look at the playbook,” Cushenberry said. “That’s all I like to do. I don’t like to go out or anything. I’ve always been a huge football fan. Just a student of the game. I just love watching film.”