East: ‘Program guys’ making impact for LSU football team

LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri has a term for a certain type of player — “a program guy.”

Coach Les Miles has several program guys on this year’s Tigers football team.

There are several ways someone can qualify as a program guy. Most are not highly recruited and have to wait one or more seasons for a significant playing opportunity.

Some have to overcome adversity during their career, perhaps due to injury, academic shortcomings or a behavior issue. Some even fail in their first playing opportunity, slide down the depth chart and have to rebound.

But they’re program guys because they don’t quit and they don’t transfer; they’re loyal to the program.

They’re patient and persevere. They remain dedicated to the program and continue to work hard to improve.

They accept that their time in the spotlight will arrive later than others’ and will be relatively short when it does arrive. But they also have faith that their time will come, and they have faith in themselves being prepared to succeed when it does.

On Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, a bunch of program guys can help LSU set a couple of significant records when it plays Idaho. A victory would give the Tigers the FBS record for consecutive regular-season nonconference wins (40) and the school record for consecutive home victories (20).

The program guy who has been in the program the longest is offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk, who will start at left tackle. Dworaczyk redshirted in 2007 and was a backup as a redshirt freshman before starting at left guard as a sophomore and junior.

He missed all of last season because of a knee injury and became a de facto assistant coach so he could continue contributing. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility and began this season as a backup, then moved to tackle and into the starting lineup when Chris Faulk was injured.

Fullback J.C. Copeland arrived on campus as a defensive lineman, but moved to fullback for a better opportunity to contribute. Copeland has scored a touchdown in each of the first two games after having two carries for zero yards in his first two seasons, which he spent as primarily a blocker.

Speaking of blocking, that’s what wide receivers James Wright and Kadron Boone did most of their first two seasons, but both have earned more prominent roles in the passing game as juniors. Wright has as many catches (seven) in the first two games as he had in his first two seasons. Boone has as many touchdowns catches (two) in two games as he had in his first two seasons.

The Tigers’ star-studded defensive ends are sharing time with late-blooming Lavar Edwards. After being mostly a backup for three seasons, Edwards started the opener, had one of LSU’s four sacks last week and leads the team with two tackles for loss. At tackle, senior Josh Downs has emerged as a starter after starting one game in three seasons.

The outside linebackers — Lamin Barrow and Luke Muncie — have become starters as juniors after Barrow started two games and Muncie none in their first two seasons.

Senior place-kicker Drew Alleman redshirted in 2008 and didn’t attempt a place-kick for two more seasons before getting his chance in 2011. He’s now the most accurate place-kicker in school history.

This nonconference winning streak began well before these players — and even this coaching staff — arrived at LSU. Other program guys such as Jacob Hester, Kirston Pittman and Matt Flynn got the streak going.

Miles talked this week about players that are able to wait their turn even as younger players pass them on the depth chart, players who stick with the program instead of abandoning it.

“There is one of two ways that a guy could go,” Miles said, “but here, it’s only ever been about getting to the field and being prepared to play once you get there.”

This streak was compiled by 11 different teams, making it one that belongs to the program, thanks in large part to a lot of program guys.