BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU, a team that has become increasingly dependent on freshmen, lost arguably its best one Saturday against Florida and might call on another to make his first start this weekend against South Carolina.
Tigers coach Les Miles said Monday linebacker Kwon Alexander, who had started the last two games, is likely out for the season with a foot injury suffered in the 14-6 loss to the Gators. Also questionable for this weekend's game against No. 3 South Carolina at Tiger Stadium is right offensive guard Josh Williford, who Miles said was "nicked" after suffering an apparent head injury against the Gators.
They are the latest in what has been a rash of injuries and attrition for No. 9 LSU, which has lost five starters, likely for the season, since August camp.
"Our football team is going through some change," Miles acknowledged Monday. "We need to play better in a number of ways."
While Williford might play, his potential loss for the South Carolina game could have a huge impact. The junior has been one of the better players on an offensive line that has, in general, struggled in the Tigers' 5-1 start. The Tiger are going up against a Gamecocks defense that is third in the league in total defense (278 yards per game) and leads the SEC in sacks (25, eight more than the next team).
Led by defensive end Jadaveon Clowney's 6.5 sacks, South Carolina's front is considerably better statistically that the Florida defense that sacked Zach Mettenberger four times and held LSU to 200 yards and two field goals. The Gamecocks are coming off a 35-7 win over high-powered Georgia in what was one of most impressive performances of the season.
LSU could be going up against that defense with a patchwork offensive line, potentially having three starters who weren't starting at their particular position when the season opened.
If Williford can't go, LSU could go with two freshmen on the right side of the O-line, true freshman Vadal Alexander at tackle and redshirt freshman Trai Turner at guard. Both would be playing because of injuries. Alexander has settled into a starting spot at tackle after left tackle Chris Faulk, arguably the Tigers' best offensive lineman, was lost for the season after the first game with a knee injury suffered at practice.
Initially, sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk played in Faulk's place at left tackle, but after three games, Dworaczyk was benched and Alexander was inserted at right tackle with Alex Hurst sliding over to left tackle for the Towson game.
This week, Dworaczyk is listed as a possible starter at left tackle along with Hurst, perhaps a sign that Hurst has struggled some with the switch. Another possibility is that Dworaczyk, a former starter at left guard, could be inserted in Williford's right guard spot.
"The good news is that Dworaczyk's a guy who has age and he can fit into any spot (on the offensive line)," Miles said. "Certainly he figures, without question. I think (Williford) is a little bit nicked and hopefully he'll be able to return this Saturday.
"It he doesn't, we'll have an able-bodied guy ready to step in."
Able bodies have been hard to come by in some spots this year. Alexander started the Towson and Florida games at strong linebacker for the Tigers before going down with an ankle injury. He was the third player to top the depth chart there this season. Tahj Jones was initially the starter, but was ruled academically ineligible during August camp.
Luke Muncie became the starter in Jones' absence and was effective in starting the Tigers' first four games, but was troubled by an illness that he said caused him to lose weight. He never completely missed a game, playing special teams against Towson and Florida, then sliding back in at linebacker for a couple of series against Florida before he was pulled for another true freshman, Lamar Louis, after committing a personal foul.
Middle linebacker Kevin Minter said he thought Muncie was close to 100 percent and said he would take on the responsibility of helping prepare Louis, who had an interception for a touchdown in the spring game and four tackles in brief playing time against Florida.
"We have to prepare him a lot more, get his mind right," Minter said. "Just have to make sure he's paying attention at practice because it's all or nothing this week."
LSU has started three true freshmen this year, all because of attrition: Vadal Alexander, Kwon Alexander and cornerback Jalen Mills, who became a starter after Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the team.