Porter prepares to take over as LSU’s center — despite a challenge from freshman Pocic
Elliott Porter’s outlook on retaining his job as LSU’s starting center can be dissected two ways.
First, the junior might feel comfortable in assuming the role left behind by in P.J. Lonergan. Or is Porter like a midlevel office employee, standing at a water cooler, waiting to be called in for a demotion in favor of freshman Ethan Pocic?
Ten seconds is all it takes for Porter to smoothly, but adamantly, shun the latter scenario.
“I ain’t waiting my turn,” Porter said. “I’m focused on getting it done. I’m going to play a lot of football this year.”
Few members of the No. 12-ranked Tigers might be more accustomed to biding time than Porter, who transferred to Kentucky for one semester to avoid a grayshirt, came back to Baton Rouge and waited behind Lonergan, and then saw a minor injury in spring create a chance for Pocic to try to jump the line.
Porter (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) is a veteran in name only. he started against Idaho last season and spelled Lonergan for a grand total of 71 snaps.
The supposed duel between Porter and Pocic, a four-star prospect and Under Armour All-American tackle, has filtered forth from coach Les Miles. As a former offensive line coach trained at the hip of Michigan’s Bo Schembechler, noting seems to pique Miles’ interest more than a spirited competition along the line.
“That’s playing out pretty well,” Miles said of the position battle after the Tigers’ final scrimmage Tuesday. “Theres’s a good volley there between the centers,” Miles said. “Both centers are seriously improving.”
Ask quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the man who’s receiving the snaps, and you’ll only get his tongue-in-cheek humor.
“Are you trying to get me to say they hate each other?” Mettenberger quiped Thursday.
With LSU shifting its attention to No. 20 TCU, Porter has retained a large portion of the first-team snaps, with Pocic solidifying a backup role and occasionally cycling through with the varsity for select reps. Porter, meanwhile, said allowing any frustration to creep in would be counterproductive.
“I can’t really feel any other way,” Porter said. “If I’m doing what I need to do, what the coaches expect, then I shouldn’t have to worry. That’s why I try not to put to much pressure on myself. I know I can be that guy we need.”
But if Porter is so certain his spot is largely secure, why not necessarily declare the assessment over?
“It’s kind of like having a new toy,” right guard Trai Turner said of the LSU staff’s thinking. “You’ve got your Old Faithful. But with a new toy, you want to see what it can do. But at the end of the day, the coaches set that aside and make the best decision.”
The intrigue might stem, at least partially, from a camp largely devoid of drama and protracted position battles, especially on offense. To hear Porter frame the discussion is starkly simple: It’s LSU, and elite players will duke it out until the best man wins the job. Such is life.
“I know you guys hear about it, and it might sound different,” Porter said. “But it’s just what we do in here. It’s nothing to me. I hear it, and I’m like, ‘OK, I guess that’s happening.’ But it’s SEC football. It’s the best in the country.”
And it might just be Porter’s blunt, matter-of-fact approach that’s reflective of what trait will ultimately carry the day when the depth chart is set.
“It’ll be his composure,” Turner said. “Ethan is still a little young, and he might be a little more easily rattled. That’s just my opinion. But that might be the biggest factor. Elliott can look at the fronts, diagnose them a little better.”
All the machinations and swapping of time won’t alter Porter’s persona, either.
“It’s going pretty good,” Porter said. “I can’t complain or anything. Doing well.”