Lloyd Cushenberry admitted it felt "weird" knowing he was the veteran of the offensive line when they held their first position meeting of spring practice, but LSU's soft-spoken center knew exactly what to say.
"Really, it was just being honest with ourselves," said Cushenberry, a 6-foot-4, 309-pound Dutchtown High grad who started in every game as a sophomore last season. "Knowing we didn't perform to our standards last year. Like the games we lost? Those were on us. I've been saying that since last year. So, we've got to step up."
There's little surprise that LSU football's annual spring game on Saturday will feature a pr…
Cushenberry knew all the statistics: LSU was tied for 106th nationally with 35 total sacks allowed in 2018, and the team ranked 110th with 89 tackles for loss allowed.
The rankings are the team's lowest since at least 2009.
The protection and blocking issues were most evident in LSU's three losses to Florida, Alabama and Texas A&M — a series of games in which the Tigers allowed a combined 16 sacks and 33 tackles for loss, making up for more than one-third of the season's total.
The man tasked with vaulting the LSU offense into the new age took center stage.
Yes, there were depth issues.
Cushenberry and right guard Damien Lewis, a junior college transfer, were the only offensive linemen to start in every game last season.
Right tackle Adrian Magee missed four weeks of play after suffering an injury in the season-opener against Miami; left guard Garrett Brumfield missed four games with a Week 4 knee injury he suffered against Louisiana Tech; and Saahdiq Charles, the left tackle, missed three games for undisclosed reasons.
And before the season began, projected starting guard Ed Ingram was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested on two counts of aggravated sexual assault.
Ingram's court case is still ongoing.
The final week of LSU spring football practice began on a 70-degree Tuesday afternoon that w…
But beyond the depth issues, there was some consistency by the end of the season.
Austin Deculus started at tackle for 12 of the 13 games, and most of the depth returned in the final five games of the season — which included Alabama and Texas A&M — when Magee, Brumfield and Charles were all playing and the Tigers played with the same starting offensive line rotation.
Within those games remained the same issues that plagued the line since the beginning of the season.
And as soon as the offseason began, Cushenberry noticed his position group's dedication toward improvement.
Charles would call him on Saturdays to talk protection schemes. Once spring practice began, they'd all get together and watch extra film.
"We all know what we've got to work on to get better," Cushenberry said. "I feel like the whole group has taken accountability for their own technique."
They've become familiar phrases with each passing spring for LSU football: Faster tempo. Imp…
Some of the protection issues may be alleviated in LSU's new run-pass-option scheme, which has plays that develop faster and are usually designed off run-block schemes.
"We're getting rid of the ball quick," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. "Our quarterback knows where to go with the ball, and we're not holding it."
Orgeron called the offensive line "the most improved group this spring," saying "I think those guys have done a phenomenal job."
Orgeron said both Cushenberry and Charles were standouts of the team's "fourth quarter" offseason program, a rigorous workout regimen under strength coach Tommy Moffitt.
But there remains questions at left guard, to replace Brumfield, and right tackle, where Deculus struggled last season.
The question at left guard has been difficult to answer this spring, with sophomore guard Chasen Hines, who recorded the most recorded plays of any non-regular starter (286), still out while recovering from an ACL tear.
Orgeron said the left guard spot "is still open."
LSU regained a key player Thursday, when starting cornerback Kristian Fulton practiced for t…
Magee has been working with the first team, and on Tuesday, early enrollee Charles Turner, who has also played tight end and center, rotated in at second team left guard.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 245-pounds, Turner, a graduate from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, still has a ways to bulk up to be a lineman in a major college football conference.
Magee, a 6-foot-4, 335-pound Franklinton High grad, offers the most experience as a fifth-year senior who has played in all but three games out of the last two seasons.
"I feel like he's stepping up," Cushenberry said. "It's about time for him to do some things this year, and I think he will. He's focused and he's got a point to prove, and I think he'll be ready.
Bennie Brazell walked across the track, wraparound sunglasses reflecting the sun, his men's …
At right tackle, Deculus has still been rotating in with the first team during spring practices, but Orgeron said Badara Traore is "one of the most improved players on the team."
The 6-foot-7, 323-pound Traore was expected to contribute more last season, when he transferred in from ASA (New York) College as the nation's No. 1 JC lineman, according to 247Sports. But Orgeron said Traore had difficulty transitioning to Division I play, and Traore rarely played in the second half of the season.
Traore has been rotating in with the second team this spring.
"He's come along," Orgeron said, adding that Traore has improved in his "toughness" and technique. "He's so tall. I think that obviously coming from junior college and going to the SEC is really different. He's a tough kid and he's done a really good job."
Kickoff specialist Avery Atkins, who helped LSU lead the nation in touchback percentage as a…
A reinforcement of high-caliber line recruits will arrive in June, including Southern Lab's Kardell Thomas, the nation's No. 4 guard, and Michigan native Anthony Bradford, a 6-foot-5, 367-pound tackle who is athletic enough to dunk a basketball.
By the fall, LSU could have the pieces to build a much-improved offensive line.
"I feel like they're going to be great," Cushenberry said. "They're big guys who can move people, maul people, do whatever you need them to do. I look forward to them going and getting work."
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