LSU offensive lineman Maea Teuhema, a junior projected to start at right guard, has been indefinitely suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules, the school announced Wednesday.
The suspension may involve academics. Coach Ed Orgeron said Monday that Teuhema did not begin preseason practice because of "academic stuff."
Teuhema’s departure, even if it's temporary, means the Tigers are down to 11 scholarship offensive linemen, barely enough for a backup at each of the five starting positions and well below the 15 to 18 that many programs keep on the roster.
The news is a significant blow to Teuhema's chances of playing this season, and it came on the third day of preseason camp. Teuhema started 21 games in his first two seasons in Baton Rouge, and he was expected to anchor an offensive line that returned four starters from a unit that Pro Football Focus ranked No. 1 nationally in 2016.
Redshirt freshman Lloyd Cushenberry and sophomore Donavaughn Campbell are expected to contend for the right guard job during camp. Third-year sophomore Adrian Magee and freshman Austin Deculus are also working some at right guard, center Will Clapp said Tuesday.
“We’re throwing people in there, making sure we have the best options to go forward with,” Clapp said. “We’ve got 28 practices left, and we’ll find that guy by the time it’s over.”
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Teuhema's backups don't have much experience. Cushenberry sat out last season as a redshirt, and Campbell played in just four games in 2016. Teuhema was versatile, too: He played both guard spots and tackle. He entered preseason camp last year as LSU’s projected starting left tackle before a summer ankle sprain knocked him off course.
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Teuhema, a Texas native ranked as high as the No. 1 guard in his recruiting class, signed with LSU in 2015. He came aboard a year after his brother, Sione, signed with LSU. Sione Teuhema never completed his career with the Tigers. He was suspended in the spring of 2016 and left the program that summer; he's now about to begin his second season at Southeastern Louisiana.
As for the younger brother, all signs point to academic trouble. Orgeron said Monday that he was “unsure” of Teuhema’s status and that he was not practicing because of “academic stuff.” Orgeron would know more, he said, in the “next couple of days.” Final exams for summer school were Thursday, and summer-school grades were due Tuesday, according to the school’s academic calendar.
Even before news of the suspension, Orgeron expressed "concern" with his depth on the offensive line, specifically at tackle. Earlier this summer, after tackle Willie Allen left the program, the coach said he planned on recruiting a junior-college tackle for immediate help next year on a line that'll lose senior left tackle K.J. Malone.
Allen was one of four offensive linemen to leave the program this offseason, joining tackle Chidi Okeke (Eastern Kentucky), center Andy Dodd (McNeese State) and 2017 signee Seth Stewart, a tackle who left the team in June after just a couple of days in Baton Rouge.
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The top candidates battling for Teuhema’s spot are Louisiana natives. Campbell, a Ponchatoula product, signed as a top-10 guard in the 2016 recruiting class. He played in four games as a reserve last year. Cushenberry, who redshirted last season, was a more lightly recruited player out of Dutchtown.
Cushenberry was one of the more talked-about players of the spring. He filled in for Clapp at center while Clapp recovered from shoulder surgery. He impressed coaches so much that they toyed with the idea of moving Clapp back to guard and having Cushenberry play center.
As for the search for a backup center, that’s ongoing, Clapp said Tuesday.
“We’re in the process of training a bunch of centers,” he said.
LSU is down to 11 scholarship offensive linemen after Maea Teuhema’s suspension Wednesday. Here’s the current depth chart, as outlined by coach Ed Orgeron:
Lloyd Cushenberry -OR-
* — Note: Adrian Magee is a “swing guy” who can play multiple spots.