The most satisfying place to watch a touchdown is from on top of an opponent.
“That’s the best feeling ever,” LSU guard Josh Boutte said. “Pancaking a guy and seeing the running back running full speed ahead with nobody in his way? That’s the best feeling ever. And we saw that a lot last Saturday.”
As LSU running back Derrius Guice put it Monday, LSU’s entire offensive line deserved to win offensive lineman of the week after Saturday’s 42-7 win over Missouri. And this is a particularly impressive feat given the fact that the unit was missing as many as three starters at various points throughout the game.
Regular offensive tackle Toby Weathersby didn’t play at all Saturday thanks to an ankle injury that his kept him out for two weeks. On top of that, starting guards Will Clapp and Boutte both sustained injuries Saturday, forcing LSU’s new offensive staff to play a significant portion of a conference game with inexperienced backups Garrett Brumfield and Donavaughn Campbell in the lineup.
But to starting tackle K.J. Malone, this wasn’t an issue.
“I really don’t see a difference,” Malone said. “Whoever is by me, I’m going to trust 100 percent. (Offensive line) coach (Jeff) Grimes wouldn’t put someone out there that he doesn’t trust. Whoever coach Grimes trusts, I trust.”
If that’s the case, it looks like Malone will have to keep trusting Brumfield for a little bit longer. At his press conference Monday, interim football coach Ed Orgeron said that he expects both Weathersby and Clapp to miss a little bit more time with their respective injuries.
And in reigning SEC offensive lineman of the week Ethan Pocic’s mind, there’s no reason for them to rush back either.
“You’ve got to focus on what you’ve got to do,” Pocic said. “There’s always some minor injuries that all college football players have to deal with. Say for me for instance. If I can’t go, I’m not going to go. If I can’t do my job, I don’t want to let my teammates down. That’s basically how that is.”
As for the offensive linemen who will be playing, the focus is simply on following directions. Boutte said between Leonard Fournette, Guice and Darrel Williams, all he and his position mates have to do is just manage the front lines and the backs will make highlight-reel caliber plays.
Nowhere is this more evident than when LSU runs plays out of a zone scheme. Simply put, zone blocking involves all five of a team’s offensive linemen moving in unison in the same direction, as if they were marionette dolls connected by common strings. This sort of blocking is famous for creating cut-back lanes, the sorts of lanes that made players like Terrell Davis (video above) and Arian Foster forces to be reckoned with in the NFL.
Looking at the similarities between Guice’s style and that of Davis or Foster, one commonality is that everything hinges on how the offensive line collaborates. Zone blocking is a lot like passing a baton in a relay race; in order for a defensive lineman to be blocked without impeding the forward momentum of the offensive line, blockers have to pass defenders off to one another without losing leverage, oftentimes shifting from a solo block to a double team to a different solo block in a matter of seconds.
“It’s kind of a matter of just giving your guy a hand,” Boutte said. “If you’re a guard, give your tackle a hand, getting to the linebacker. Guice is going to be in the backfield (in a snap). Leonard is going to be in the backfield (in a snap). Darrel is going to be in the backfield (in a snap). It happens in a matter of seconds. So it’s just getting there and being able to hold your block and maintain it.”
Expect this scheme to become more prevalent as Ensminger continues to install more spread concepts into LSU’s offense strategy. Because, as Guice explained, when the defense is spread out, all it does it make plays like this even easier to run.
“I actually do like the spread because the box isn’t as loaded and I don’t have as many players to worry about,” Guice said. “And with the offensive linemen, they don’t have as much to worry about. So whenever we spread it out, it opens up passing lanes and also running lanes for us.”