It became an oft-repeated maxim last season: "If we just had a big receiver." Sure, Odell Beckham flashes explosive moments. Sure, Jarvis Landry plays bigger than his size. Sure, James Wright is actually big. Sure, Kadron Boone is good for a spectacular play here and there. But none of these guys possess that size we've come to be familiar with in the LSU receiving corps. There is no Bowe, no Randle. There's not even a Toliver.
As Mettenberger struggled with the deep passing game in 2012, we all sat and wished to ourselves that Randle had returned or that Travin Dural wouldn't have torn his ACL or that Cordarrelle Patterson would have picked Baton Rouge, not Knoxville. Alas, there we were in game 6, 7, 8, Mettenberger flinging deep balls and jump balls to 6'0" speedsters that simply are equipped to make those type of plays. It was a solid stable, but one that lacked that game-changer quantity. By midseason it was absolutely evident that adding WRs with size would be a recruiting priority in 2013.
Quantavius Leslie comes to LSU by way of Hinds Community College in Raymond, MS. Originally hailing from Hogansville, GA, Leslie committed to West Virginia out of HS, pledging to Bill Stewart. He failed to qualify and head to Community College to get his grades in order. At the time, Leslie was hardly a name quantity. He was listed at 6'4" and a thin 175 pounds, but noted for his explosive abilities. He was tall, and he was raw. They listed him with 4.4 speed and a 33-inch vertical. His recruiting profile lists LSU as a team that offered, so there was at least cursory interest from the Tigers even back to his HS days.
Community College proved a good detour for Leslie. Not only did he boost his recruiting profile, he added around 20 lbs. of muscle to his lanky frame (or so the recruiting sites said). The increased production kept Les Miles and company interested. Leslie's original plan was to enroll in December to be ready to go for Spring Practice, but he failed to make the grades, which pushed back his arrival. Fortunately, he got his academics in line and completely qualified to enroll for summer practices.
Leslie comes to LSU with two years to play two. He's listed as a Junior and while I don't suspect he'll be "Corrdarrelle-Patterson-one-year-of-awesome-then-done," he should be ready to see the field immediately. Oh, and about that 20 pounds, I guess he lost it all. He's currently listed at 175.
Let's take a look at some of Leslie's JUCO film from this past season to see what he brings to the fold.
Off the bat, his size sticks out. Despite adding 20 pounds of muscle, he's still pretty long and lanky. So, in the very least he answers that need for the "big WR." But what about playing big? Terrance Toliver was listed as 6'4", but I would argue he rarely played up to that size. The notable exceptions are the jump balls he reeled in notoriously against Florida and A&M. So, is Leslie in that mold? Can he be a field stretcher like Demetrius Byrd? Let's check and see.
One thing I like is that he's got really strong RAC ability. Starting at the :02 mark you see him take a screen pass. He's pretty agile for a long, lanky guy. Usually guys with that type of length lack that quick change of direction, but Leslie has it. The reason for this is that Leslie is a fairly short-strider, despite his long legs. We've seen guys before who take lengthy strides and look like they are moving in slow motion, but run past everyone (Julio Jones, Cam Newton). Leslie is kinda the opposite. He's a pretty choppy strider, which should help him in his routes.
Now fast foward to the :49 mark. This gives you a good indication of how strong his hands are. He slides down and picks the ball off the ground. That's all hand strength.
Fair warning, the next portion of this film study won't be roses and parades, so if you are looking for the happiness choo choo, just skip ahead. I think it's only fair to give a level perspective on every player.
There's quite a bit that worries me about Leslie. He does not attack the football. He reminds me a lot of Terrance Toliver in this regard. He waits for it to come to him. He lets the ball get into his body some, rather than using his strong hands to pluck it from the sky. Look at the play at the :24 mark. It's a slant, and the ball is a little low, but he scoops, rather than plucks. :14 mark, also. He uses his arms to catch it, not his hands. The frustrating thing is that I feel like he has a better set of hands, naturally.
My other major qualm is the despite his choppy steps, he illustrates zero skill as a route runner. He frequently rounds things off. He rarely sells his routes well. This will cause issues when he needs to get separation, and could potentially be a kiss of death to what we really need from him: a deep threat.
Now, on the bright side, at 1:10, and 1:17 both show that Leslie can still get deep. I'm a believer in his raw speed. The question is how to utilize it.
Leslie is expected to play now, but as Billy discussed, I'm not quite sure he hasn't been passed already. I don't think the coaches will simply not play him, but they may find it hard to justify time for him when players like Dural and perhaps even Spears are showing out more in practice.
What Leslie can bring to the 2013 is deep speed and RAC ability. As Billy noted, this doesn't mean he needs to catch 60 balls, or even 20. Q can have big impact on the 2013 season simply by showing up, stretching the field and commanding attention. Do that, and you could see the LSU passing game make serious strides.
What do I expect? I expect him to play, likely have some flashy plays, but never be a consistent threat.
Leslie's 2011 highlights excited me A LOT more than what I see on the 2012 tape. I'm still VERY optimistic about his speed and RAC ability. He could turn out to be a real weapon on screens. He could also be a quiet weapon simply by being the guy who takes the top off the defense. Believe me, the first time he gets behind a defense, he will command attention the rest of the year..
When Leslie committed, or was rumored to commit, since he didn't actually pledge until May of 2012, I was really excited for his potential. I've cooled a lot. I don't think he's a wasted offer, but there's a reason LSU continued to pursue a lot of top flight WRs while Leslie's academic standing wavered. I think he's definitely a guy that will make an impact, but I'm not sure it's in the way I once envisioned.
I see Leslie as a premium role player. When we spread things out, he presents one more viable deep threat the defense has to account for. That's valuable. Hell, that's one more than we had all of last year. I'm still bullish on what Leslie can bring to the table.
High End: Demetrius Byrd-esque. 30ish catches, 600-ish yards, a few TDs, a few big plays.
Low End: Never plays significant minutes at LSU.
Realistic: I think he'll wind up something like Kadron Boone. 20ish catches, 300 yards, maybe a highlight play here or there. I think a lot of his impact may wind up being "invisible."