It's been quite some time since an LSU offense truly featured the tight end. Even the last one that was even remotely productive as a pass catcher never totaled more 400 yards receiving, nor 5 touchdowns. Since Miles arrived, it's really just not been a piece of our offense. The hiring of Cam Cameron would seem to bring some hope there. Cameron's offense, historically, feature strong tight end play, most notably from future hall-of-famer Antonio Gates. We hoped to see some building blocks toward that in 2013, especially considering highly ranked tight end Desean Smith played heavy minutes in the season's opener. Instead, Zach Mettenberger honed in on Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry while all of the tight ends combined managed just 12 total catches. Smith's playing time dropped notably and LSU stuck to the model they've so regularly used from tight ends in recent years: big, burly extra blockers.
Recruiting trends dictate the big-bodied blockers will continue to be a factor in the LSU offense, but Cameron is also placing a heavier emphasis on landing athletic receiving targets at the position, including 2015 athlete recruit Jazz Ferguson. But while Ferguson is still a year from even showing up on campus, Cameron nabbed another athletic target in the 2014 class in Jacory Washington.
While not enjoying the many accolades of Leonard Fournette, Jacory Washington is a recruit that's been on the radar for quite some time. He was first offered in July of 2012, after attending camp at LSU. The Tigers remained hot after him despite the early offers abounding. Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, UCLA, Florida and on down the line offered Washington as a rising junior.
Still, it was clear throughout the process that Washington wanted LSU. He verbally pledged in January of 2013 and despite playing some recruiting games on Twitter and through the media, he never truly wavered, in large part due to the outstanding relationship he and his family maintained with LSU tight ends coach Steve Ensminger.
Washington ranks as a composite 4-star prospect, rated as a .9225. He's ranked among the top five tight ends and a top 200 prospect nationally.
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has "can’t miss" talent.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
Tale of the Tape
Weight: 215 pounds
Short Shuttle: 4.51
Vertical Leap: 27"
Most noteworthy is Washington's size. He's not filled out yet, but clearly standing in that 6'4" range with an exceptional frame. The athletic testing times aren't off the charts, but he can still move pretty well for a big guy, as you'll see on tape. You can watch him run a 40 at the UA Combine here. Getting into the LSU training program will not only add the muscle, but should improve his overall athleticism. Though LSU's depth chart is currently pretty deep, there's a chance for him to emerge a pass-catching threat.
As a prospect, let's see what Washington offers the LSU coaching staff.
Strengths: Size, Catch Radius, Hands, Competes for the Ball
Weaknesses: Route Running, Speed, Blocking?
Size: As noted, standing at 6'4"-6'5" he's got a great frame for the modern TE. He's a big guy and it shows on tape.
Catch Radius: Part of that size comes with some long arms that allow him to extend and pluck the ball away from his body. While he lacks great leaping ability, he does a good job of using his frame to make a nice, big target for his quarterback.
Hands: Along with his frame, Washington does an excellent job of catching the ball with his hands. The play at :15 is a great example. He works back to the football and then snags it with his hands. :47 seconds watch again. 1:36 might be my favorite clip, as he catches the ball in stride, away from his body, tucks it and runs. 1:57 you'll see him do it again. In fact, pretty much every clip on the reel he does an excellent job of plucking with his hands. If there's anything I love to see from a WR, it's the ability to snag the ball with the hands. He also won the Hands competition at the Under Armour combine.
Competes for the Ball: In HS, Washington was used primarily running down the field and thrown deep to or on fade routes. Both take advantage of Washington's natural size, but Washington also does a superb job scaling up and plucking the ball as high as he can. He's big and strong and uses it to his advantage. Watch 1:30 and see how he uses his size and strength to create separation and then go up and get the ball. 1:43 he does it again, coming down with a contested ball. 2:07 he fights off a face guard and pulls it down again. He's a guy that's comfortable with defenders draped on him, which should benefit him transitioning into tougher coverage in college.
Route Running: As noted above, Washington didn't run a wide variety of routes in HS. This is part of his game which will require some development as it's unclear how far along he is in that regard.
Speed: You can tell from the tape that he's not an open-field burner. Speed simply isn't his game. I do think he can get faster, but that's not how he will win on the next level.
Blocking: At :42 you can see the aggression and physical nature, but there's not much tape of him blocking. We know good and well he will be asked to block to get on the field, so that's something he will need to develop.
There's a ton to like about Washington's game. Last year LSU took a tight end in Desean Smith that I think possesses a little more overall upside. But Washington is quite the receiving threat in his own right. While I think Smith is a bit more fluid and athletic, Washington is a guy who knows how to use his frame exceptionally well. Smith could be a guy that turns out big plays, but Washington can be a better version of an underneath security blanket.
Washington's size and competitiveness in catching the football could help him develop into an outstanding red zone target. He's a guy that should win battles for fades. But he's also a guy I think can tuck underneath and become a welcome target for our QBs. At UA practices, Sonny Shipp wrote:
Washington has had two solid days of catching the ball and worked the middle of the field extremely well. He caught the ball well and showed strong hands on a couple of occasions when a defender got a hand on the ball that ended in a completion. Washington also got some action with his hand on the ground and looked more comfortable and fluid coming out of a three-point stance than I expected. He did a good job of walling off his defender on one play and powering him to the inside.
That's promising to read and backs up what we see on tape. I'm curious to see how Washington progresses athletically. If he's able to get a little faster he could really become a dangerous threat in the passing game. As it stands now, I suspect he'll be a solid receiving threat alongside the more dynamic Desean Smith.
High End: Multi-year starter.
Low End: Rotational back-up. A better version of current LSU tight end Travis Dickson.
Realistic: I see Washington emerging as a dependable, solid receiving option. I don't quite see an All-SEC caliber player, nor a guy that could potentially change the complexion of our passing game, like I think with Desean Smith. But he's a talented prospect and one that should become a quality contributor in time.