LSU 2013 Optimistic/Pessimistic/Realistic: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

Chris Graythen

On to one of the 2013 Tigers’ biggest question mark positions.

Entering last season, we talked about wide receiver being a question mark. Could a smaller group of wideouts handle a heavier passing load without the presence of a true, go-to, No. 1 target like Rueben Randle.

Unfortunately, the answer was in the negative. The position was plagued by drops, and it's clear that there was never one guy that Zach Mettenberger felt 100-percent comfortable with, or that defenses felt the need to focus on.

Whether that's improved, and whether this area of the team is ready to step up in unison with their quarterback, will depend on how another year of development and a little new blood impacts things.

Player

Ht/Wt

2012 (raw stats)

Advanced Stats

2 Avery Peterson (Fr.)

6-1, 189

Hargrave Military Academy.

N/A

3 Odell Beckham, Jr. (Jr.)*

6-0, 193

43 catches, 713 yards (16.6), 2 TDs.

72 total targets/9.9 yards per target/21% of team pass targets.
Catch rates: 59.7% on all downs/62.8% on standard downs/55.2% on passing downs.

15 Quantavius Leslie (Jr.)

6-4, 175

517 yards receiving, 7 touchdowns in six games.

N/A

80 Jarvis Landry (Jr.)*

6-1, 195

56 catches, 573 yards (10.2), 5 TDs.

87/6.6/25.4%
64.4/68/59.5%

81 Armand Williams (Jr.)

6-3, 196

No catches in one game appearance.

N/A

82 James Wright (Sr.)

6-2, 203

18 catches, 242 yards (13.4).

30/8.1/8.7%
60/66.7/50%

83 Travin Dural (RS-Fr.)

6-2, 182

Redshirted.

N/A

86 Kadron Boone (Sr.)*

6-0, 202

26 catches, 348 yards (13.4 ypc), 4 TDs.

52/6.7/15.2%
50/48/51.9%

87 Kevin Spears (Fr.)

6-3, 189

60 catches, 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns at Holy Cross High School.

N/A

88 John Diarse (Fr.)

6-1, 205

1,685 yards and 18 touchdowns passing, 1,327 yards and 21 touchdowns rushing as QB at Neville High School.

N/A

It looks like there's going to be some shuffling to some roles here, but we'll start with the incumbents that we know will still have a major role in this offense: Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.

Landry could be ready to emerge as not only one of the best wideouts in the SEC, but one of the best overall football players. He's not the biggest, he's not the fastest, but he's a pure receiver that runs outstanding routes and has a real mind for the game. Landry received a quarter of the team receiving targets, and it wouldn't surprise me him match that number as LSU's go-to receiver on short and intermediate routes. He won't be the guy stretching the safeties, but, provided he can avoid the occasional drop or two that happened at times, he'll be the player moving the chains in the passing game.

For Beckham, I'll call back to what I said of him during the spring:

Beckham might have been, in many ways, emblematic of LSU's passing game issues. He hit the season with significant expectations, but when struggles began one problem begat another and he appeared to wear every single one of those mistakes on his sleeve. One drop became two drops, which led to a poor decision on a punt return, or a fumble after a long catch-and-run versus Florida.

He had the look of a player that was pressing. Trying too hard to make the big play too often, and letting the mistakes stay with him. Beckham might not be a Randle- , Bowe- or LaFell-type go-to guy, but there's no question he has big-play speed and quickness, and can make plays after the catch. He struggled more than anybody with hands at times, but I believe that problem's more mental than anything. Mechanically, he's always been a guy that snatches the ball with his hands, which is exactly what a receiver needs to do. Guys like Brandon LaFell or Terrance Toliver, at times, had problems letting too many passes getting to their bodies. Doing that always runs a greater risk of a dropped ball, and that's why those two always struggled in that area (even as LaFell became one of the more prolific wideouts in program history). Even with just a little bit of natural development, Beckham could emerge as a consistently dangerous receiver. If he makes a major leap, you're talking about a dangerous weapon.

Seniors Kadron Boone and James Wright return as nice complimentary players, but neither ever really showed the ability to be more than that last season. Boone got off to a hot start but really cooled off and struggled to make plays in the second half of the season. Wright seems to lack the speed to get open against SEC-caliber corners. Both will play this season, but appear to be passed up by newcomers.

That group will be led by the redshirt freshman Travin Dural, who, by most accounts will be starting along with Beckham and Landry when the Tigers have three receivers on the field. A 6-2 speedster and state high-jump champion, Dural was expected to see significant playing time last year before an injury forced his redshirt. He turned heads this spring and that's only continued in fall camp, flashing the ability to do things like this.


Junior-college transfer Quantavius Leslie was brought in to serve in that deep-threat role as well, but showed up thinner than expected (seriously, 175 on a 6-4 frame is a toothpick), and, by most reports, has really struggled to break into the top four at the position. As previous discussed, he appears to have an issue with letting balls get into his body, something that you can notice in his highlights.

The good news is, be it Dural or Leslie, LSU doesn't need that bigger deep-threat type to come out and catch 60 passes for over 1,000 yards this season. They just need a credible threat that can keep defenses honest and make big plays when they're presented. Remember, Demetrius Byrd took a few games to really come on in 2007, and finished with just 35 catches on the season.

True freshman Kevin Spears is another newbie that appears ready to contribute, and may beat out Leslie for that number four spot in the pecking order. He's a 6-3 ex-basketball player that never played football before his senior season at Holy Cross High School in New Orleans, but showed enough ability to draw a late scholarship offer. The book on him has been that he still has a bit of rawness, but he appears to be progressing really well, and has some really nice hands. He might be able to find a role, even as a bigger red zone target.

And speaking of bigger targets, this may be the first time in a long time that LSU's tight ends will have to be accounted for in the passing game.

41 Travis Dickson (Jr.)*

6-3, 230

6 catches, 73 yards (12.2).

8/9.1/2.3%
Catch rate 75/80/66.7%

84 Logan Stokes (Jr.)

6-5, 253

10 catches for 80 yards at Northeast Miss. Community College

N/A

85 Dillon Gordon (So.)

6-5, 280

Played in all 13 games, but accumulated no stats.

N/A

89 DeSean Smith (Fr.)

6-4, 241

815 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns for Barbe High School.

N/A

One of the big talking points of Cam Cameron has been on getting the tight ends involved again, and for the first time in several years, there appear to be talents that merit it. The nominal starter will likely still be one of the bigger blockers, like the massive Dillon Gordon or Logan Stokes, but look for Travis Dickson and possibly freshman DeSean Smith to have bigger roles as an H-back/second tight end. Dickson showed some nice hands when called upon in the Ole Miss game, and while he's a little undersized he's quick enough to find room against linebackers and possibly serve as a safety blanket for the quarterback.

Smith is the best pass-catching tight end prospect LSU's recruited in recent memory. A big, athletic receiver that spent as much time split out wide in high school as he did on the line. I imagine he'll mostly operate in space when he sees the field, split out in the slot more as a true receiver than a real tight end. And of course in the red zone. Although there have been limited reports that he's struggling a bit with the step up in competition.

Watch for Dillon Gordon as a potential X-factor. At 280-pounds he's never going to be much of a threat down the seams, but the book on him has always been that he has big, soft hands. Another potential bigger target for red-zone offense.

Optimistic

Landry and Beckham become reliable starters in the X and Z spots, while Leslie or Dural develop as the go-to down the field threat. Landry will likely do a bit of everything, while Beckham works the yards-after-catch and deep routes. DeSean Smith works in as a bigger down field/red-zone threats, while the tight ends in general become safety net targets for Mettenberger.

Pessimistic

The drops and other miscues continue and no one truly emerges as the deep threat. The tight ends struggle to prove worthy of more targets.

Realistic

A combination of Landry, Beckham, Leslie and Dural step up as the top three targets in a manner similar to the 2007 Doucet/LaFell/Byrd crew. Landry handles a little bit of everything (Doucet), Beckham becomes a more reliable big-play threat on speed and yards-after-catch routes (LaFell), while Leslie/Dural become the true deep threat that Byrd was in the second half of that season. The tight ends develop into reliable short-range and red-zone targets.

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