LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger better watch his blind side, now that anonymous sources have reportedly told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that starting left tackle Chris Faulk is done for the season with a “major knee injury.”
Faulk, a second-team all-SEC lineman and a first-round NFL prospect, was injured during the Tigers’ practice on Wednesday afternoon. Initial reports said only that he’d miss this weekend’s game against the Washington Huskies.
“We’ve had a little bit of bad news,” LSU head coach Les Miles announced after Wednesday’s practice. “It looks like Faulk’s got a bit of an injury, we don’t know exactly how bad. We hope to return him to the game sometime soon.”
The Times-Picayune is reporting that Faulk has much more than “a bit of an injury” and will be out for the year. Multiple anonymous sources have said the lineman will require surgery, followed by a lengthy rehab period.
Faulk was a mainstay on the LSU offensive line, which now has to reshuffle to replace a veteran starter as well as a top talent at the left tackle spot.
“Chris Faulk is the best left tackle in the SEC, no question about it,” NFL Draft analyst Mike Detillier told The Times-Picayune’s Randy Rosetta.
Faulk started 13 of the team’s 14 games in 2011 and played all but five snaps of last Saturday’s opener against North Texas.
He was out for much of the preseason with what he called a “regular camp injury,” but this week’s injury is said to be unrelated.
The Tigers were already exploring their options for temporarily filling Faulk’s spot against Washington, but the composition of the line becomes an even bigger issue with the left tackle out for the year.
“We have some choices. It’s all going to work there. It’s just making it work there in the short term,” Miles said.
One option is plugging sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk into the lineup. A former two-year starter at guard, Dworaczyk missed last season with a knee injury of his own and lost the starting job at left guard to sophomore La’El Collins.
Miles also mentioned moving Collins over to left tackle and putting Dworaczyk back in his old spot at left guard, where he has 26 career starts.
LSU beat reporters have also speculated that right tackle Alex Hurst could move to the opposite side, which would make true freshman Vadal Alexander the starter on the right.
Hurst, a first-team All-SEC lineman, is a three-year starter at right tackle. He missed a significant portion of the preseason with an ankle injury, and Alexander filled in during his absence. Alexander also spelled Hurst for 11 snaps in last weekend’s opener.
Whoever gets the nod in Faulk’s place at left tackle will have a very big role to fill (6’6″, 323 lbs. to be exact). Fortunately for LSU, the Tigers have considerable experience on the line even without Faulk.
Hurst and Dworaczyk have 70 combined career appearances, and more than 50 starts, and Collins has so much talent and athleticism that he won the starting left guard spot over Dworaczyk.
While the Tigers have talented, experienced players ready to step up, no one has the same specific experience at left tackle as Faulk. When the line is rearranged, however it’s finally restructured, the players will have to re-establish their chemistry with guys lining up in different places.
LSU had arguably the most talented and experienced duo at tackle in Faulk and Hurst heading into the season, and losing the big man who was supposed to be protecting his blind side can’t be a comforting notion for transfer quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Mettenberger was sacked hard in the first quarter by North Texas’ Hilbert Jackson, and the quarterback sat out for a series to be checked for a concussion.
While the sack wasn’t necessarily the line’s fault, the loss of one of the most skilled, veteran players on the offensive line can’t be reassuring news for the Tigers as they aim for another run at a national title.