LSU counting on veteran offensive line

There is a dispute among LSU’s offensive linemen.

La’el Collins said he recently caught Vadal Alexander breaking his diet by pulling into a McDonald’s drive-through.

Alexander shoots down the charge as being from months, if not years, in the past.

“Looong time ago,” Alexander said.

Maybe the two 300-plus-pounders can wrestle over it in the apartment they’re sharing during fall camp (the third roomie is 309-pound Jerald Hawkins).

No matter when the McDonald’s incident took place, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

This is a seasoned, talented and reshaped offensive line — linemen who are the proven stars of the 2014 team.

Collins, the team’s NFL-worthy talent at left tackle, casts a shadow over the group, but all are worthy of mention — most notably Alexander at left guard.

The Georgia native has lost more than 20 pounds over the offseason, using a diet consistent with many of those followed by nonfootball folks: Don’t eat unhealthy foods, and don’t eat any food after 8 p.m.

Alexander’s weight has plummeted from the 340s to his current 317.

One thing hasn’t changed, though: He’s still an intimidating figure, said a smiling Hawkins, LSU’s right tackle.

“He’s a big guy, but he’s kind of slimmed up,” Hawkins said. “He’s still massive at the top but kind of slim now.”

Hawkins, a redshirt sophomore, did the opposite. He gained 11 pounds during the offseason, most of it coming in non-stomach areas.

Collins, meanwhile, has a frame more reminiscent of a third-year NFL veteran than a senior in college. Since appearing at Southeastern Conference media days in mid-July, Collins’ physique has created a buzz throughout the Internet.

“He’s matured his body,” Alexander said. “He’s in prime shape to have one of those special seasons.”

That trio — Collins, Hawkins, Alexander — anchor a unit that may serve as the driving force on this year’s team.

After all, who else will LSU lean upon? The Tigers lost their starting running back, quarterback and top two receivers.

The line is the sturdy group ready to meet the challenges and live up to the hype.

“We have a real, true brotherhood,” said center Elliott Porter, a fourth returner on the five-man line. “We share something special. We want to do something special.”

The spotlight during LSU’s fall camp — entering its fifth day Friday — has dropped on a fierce quarterback battle between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris and a No. 2-ranked freshman signing class. That group already includes household names like Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn.

Those players have little experience to show.

The offensive line has a ton of it. Each of the four returners on the line has started at least 13 games, and the group combines for a whopping 73 starts.

“We’ve seen all the fronts and defenses known to man because we’ve all played for years now,” Alexander said. “We kind of know what’s coming.”

The left-side duo of Alexander and Collins has started a combined 47 games. They played alongside each other for the first time last year.

Alexander played right tackle in 2012.

LSU ran left a majority of the time last year, a direction in which so many of running back Jeremy Hill’s 1,401 yards originated.

Alexander and Collins say they’re more in sync than ever before. The chemistry is strong. Alexander, even, helped coax Collins to return for his senior year, snubbing the NFL draft in a rare move for an LSU player projected for second-round selection.

The duo knows the scheme, the reads and the blocks. So they’re using the first week of fall camp to work on fundamentals, like footwork, Collins said.

“We really, really connect,” Alexander said. “I think we have something special.”

That goes for off of the field, too. Collins makes sure Alexander keeps his diet straight.

He never eats after 8, eats mostly healthy and consumes six to eight small meals per day instead of four big meals.

Those trips to McDonald’s are nonexistent — mostly, at least.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv . For more coverage of LSU football, follow our Tiger Tracks blog at blogs.theadvocate.com/tigertracks/