Andy Dodd is no longer a trim, 235-pound tight end at Pepperell High in Georgia.
He no longer plays basketball as the Dragons' small forward, and he’s no longer a backup at LSU, apparently.
Dodd could get his first start Saturday when LSU hosts Southern Miss in Tiger Stadium, part of shuffling on a unit that has suffered a rash of injuries during the first month of the season. The fourth-year junior’s move into the No. 1 group follows a decision to shift starting center Ethan Pocic to right tackle and move Maea Teuhema from right tackle to left guard.
“I’m pumped for this weekend,” Dodd said Tuesday.
The Tigers (3-2) began practicing with the new group last Monday, a change proposed by offensive line coach Jeff Grimes after their win over Missouri, interim coach Ed Orgeron said. Injuries spawned the move. LSU is expected to be without starting left guard Will Clapp (right shoulder) and right tackle Toby Weathersby (right ankle) for another week.
Grimes delivered the news to Dodd last week before LSU’s scheduled game at Florida — he’d start at center. Dodd’s mother, even, planned to attend the game in Gainesville, Florida, one washed out by Hurricane Matthew.
“It’s disappointing, but it was a natural disaster. Everybody has their own theories and everything about what happened, but all we can do is prepare to play,” Dodd said. “We didn’t get to unfortunately. So we just move on to this week, and hopefully they can get it rescheduled for us.”
That’s another matter completely, of course, one sending shockwaves through college football.
Moving the Southeastern Conference title game to use Dec. 3 for LSU vs. Florida's makeup gam…
Meanwhile, Grimes is rearranging his offensive line, placing Pocic in a spot that many thought he’d move to after the loss of tackles Jerald Hawkins and Vadal Alexander last season.
The biggest benefactor is Dodd, a 6-foot-4, 308-pounder who has played in just 12 of a possible 30 games and only 28 snaps of more than 315 this season. He didn’t see time in the season opener against Wisconsin, and he redshirted in 2013. He’s another new face promoted after the ouster of Les Miles and Cam Cameron.
Miles, a former Michigan offensive lineman, had a heavy hand in coaching the line. Orgeron is allowing Grimes “to manage his position,” the coach said. The key decision was shifting Pocic, a two-year starter at center, to tackle, a spot for which many believed he is well-suited.
It’s not so easy, though, said Pocic, who played tackle while in high school.
“It’s so much different once you get to college,” he said. “Things you learn ... you think you know it in high school and then you know, like, 5 percent of the information.”
Pocic played a couple of series at left tackle against Mississippi State, when K.J. Malone was briefly sidelined. Officials flagged him for holding on his first snap.
There are obvious differences in the positions.
The center is the quarterback of the line, a player who handles calls and gets blocking help from either side of him. He faces a nose tackle or defensive tackle, a large, physical player. Tackles face different kinds of guys — defensive ends, outside linebackers, blitzing defensive backs. They’re smaller, quicker athletic types.
"You’re going to get more speed, more finesse," Pocic said. "Not as much power.”
Teuhema knows about the woes of facing speedsters on the outside — while on a bum ankle, too. He’ll move from right tackle to left guard while still dealing with a high ankle sprain he suffered three days before preseason camp began.
Teuhema, a Texas native who started 11 games at left guard last season, injured the ankle during one-on-one practice with his cousin.
“I’m still not even 100 percent right now, but I’m used to the pain now. It’s tolerable. Probably won’t get any better until after the season.”
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Meanwhile, Dodd is ready for his first career start at his fourth different position. He played tight end for much of his high school days until moving to tackle halfway through his senior season. He has played some guard, but mostly center, while at LSU.
Dodd is from Lindale, Georgia, a town of 4,000 people that sits just south of Rome, Georgia. He signed with the Tigers as the ninth-best guard in the 2013 class, according to ESPN.
And, now, here he is, ready to start at center. His biggest concern: being loud. He must make the calls for other linemen.
“Ethan’s loud. He’s a very vocal kind of person, and I’m really not, kind of stay-to-myself,” Dodd said. “It’s not really a challenge because I’m used to it now. When I first got here, it was kind of hard for me to open up and be loud and make everything known and control the huddle, but I think that’s something I can do well now.”