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LSU Spring Football Five Things: Wide Receivers

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LSU’s deep and talented group of receivers are looking to break out this season.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Roster/Depth Chart

Player

Ht/Wt

2014 (raw stats)

Advanced Stats

83 Travin Dural (Jr.)

6-2, 192

37 catches for 758 yards and 7 touchdowns. 111 rushing yards on 10 attempts.

82 targets, 9.2 yards per target, 45.1% catch rate. 31.3% of LSU's total targets.

9 John Diarse (Soph.)

6-0, 210

15 catches for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns.

27 targets, 10.2 yards per target, 55.6% catch rate. 10.3% of LSU's total targets.

15 Malachi Dupre (Soph.)

6-3, 187

14 catches for 318 yards and five touchdowns.

35 targets, 9.1 yards per target, 40% catch rate. 13.4 percent of LSU's total targets.

8 Trey Quinn (Soph.)

6-0, 194

17 catches for 193 yards, one 2-point conversion.

34 targets, 5.7 yards per target, 50% catch rate. 13 percent of LSU's total targets.

82 D.J. Chark (Soph.)

6-2, 182

Zero catches in six game appearances.

One total target.

21 Avery Peterson (Soph.)

6-2, 200

Zero catches in one game appearance.

N/A

87 Kevin Spears (Soph.)

6-3, 195

Zero catches in three game appeareances.

N/A

What's Good?

In terms of overall potential, this may be the deepest and most talented group of young wideouts LSU has had in some time. Every meaningful pass-catcher returns from last season, and with the exception of Travin Dural, they're all just sophomores.

There's a good mix of speed, size and route-running skill among the entrenched top four, all of whom took terms starting games and making their share of good and bad plays in a growing season in '14. Plus, the reserves all have enough experience in the system to step in if needed, and to help the talented help arriving in the summer.

Dural led the team in every category here, but is going to have to fight off five-star sophomore Malachi Dupre to hold on to the No. 1 job. He has great speed down the field and the size/leaping ability to play the ball in the air, but Dupre brings a little more size and polish on other routes.

Behind them, John Diarse and Trey Quinn each fit in the offense well as slot receivers for different reasons. Diarse is the biggest of the bunch, and showed some ability to make plays after the catch on big touchdowns versus Wisconsin and Notre Dame. It's a cliché to call Quinn the best route runner on the team, but it's true and it got him in LSU's starting lineup in game one last year. He has great quickness and agility in space, and gives the team a similar yards-after-the-catch threat to Diarse, only in a different flavor.

Behind them, Avery Peterson, Kevin Spears and D.J. Chark are similar builds and skillsets. Chark in particular appears to have hit the weight room hard and has been credited with a few big plays in scrimmages. With his speed, he could provide another deep-threat type in case Dural suffers an injury.

What's Bad?

For all the talent, this group really struggled with consistency last season, with all of the aforementioned top-four struggling at different times in the season.

After a hot start for Dural, Diarse and Dupre, SEC defenses began sitting on short routes and slowing the receivers up at the line of scrimmage, which gave all three guys hell for the last half of the season, which contributed to the issues the quarterbacks were already having. Dural's inability to "win inside" on a slant route, which has to be a given on the play, directly contributed to two interceptions. Dupre had similar issues, as well as watching his spacing on some alignments, getting too close to the sidelines and allowing corners to run him too far outside. Diarse's struggles in getting off a jam were particularly noteworthy, given his size. Quinn had no problem getting open, but dropped 6-7 passes. And while that may not seem like a huge total over the course of the season, on 34 targets that means Quinn was basically dropping every fifth pass thrown his way. When the quarterback is struggling to hit guys in the hands anyway, drops like that can be killers. Not that Quinn was the only player that dropped them, but by his own admission he lost confidence down the stretch.

Enter new wide receivers coach Tony Ball, who by most accounts has really attacked this unit with an eye for precision and detail. Adam Henry had more of an NFL mindset, holding players to their own standards. If they didn't do the things he wanted, they just wouldn't get on the field. Ball is much more of a whip-cracker, so to speak. On some practice videos, he can be seen holding up the entire group to make sure a player is performing a drill exactly the way he wants. That's exactly the kind of reputation he brought over from Georgia, and it may be just what this young group needs. That's not to say that Henry didn't do a great job in his own right -- that much is obvious. But Ball may be the right guy at the right time for this unit.

What's the goal this spring?

The issues last year at receiver as part of the overall stalling of LSU's passing game is a theme that I've stayed on from the jump. But the big difference between this position and QB is that I'm not really worried about this end of the passing connection improving.

Frankly, most of the issues weren't all that unusual for young receivers. They made sense in a lot of ways and are all pretty fixable. Dural's always been on the thinner side, so it's not a shock that he wasn't as developed in the upper body to box it out with cornerbacks. Dupre, for all of his 7-on-7 work in the offseason, still has very little experience running more than screens and go-routes in actual games, coming from John Curtis. He also rarely, if ever, saw press coverage. That's also not something you can learn to fight through running around in shorts and a t-shirt in a 7-on-7 tournament, either. Diarse is a converted quarterback without much experience. Quinn took a huge hit in the Auburn game, and while it's only speculation that it maybe got in his head, I wouldn't blame him. And when everything seems to be going wrong with a passing game, letting drops get in your head is understandable. I wouldn't bet on that continuing with Quinn, who has reportedly been something of a pet project for Ball.

Look, no matter what happens at quarterback in the next few months, this unit needs to be ready to hold up its own end of the bargain.

What am I watching for?

It's all about progression. Dural and Dupre both appear to have added weight, and by most accounts Ball has specifically focused on their issues with physical corners. Dural may be the returning No. 1, but Dupre has every tool to surpass him and be the most well-rounded member of the group. Put both guys outside, and Diarse and Quinn are natural slot players when LSU goes four wide.

The competition here is what I want to see. The simple reality is that even if one of the quarterbacks goes absolute gangbusters next season, LSU's still going to be a team that leans on its running game a lot (rightfully so), so between the wideouts, backs and tight ends (don't laugh...yet), chances are there won't be many targets for the third and fourth receivers. And when Tyron Johnson arrives this summer, he's going to be competing for a spot on the field quickly. The guy in the back of the pack here will have to keep hustling if he wants to stay on the field.

Every player here needs to make the most of his opportunities in practices, scrimmages and the spring game. But you factor that competition in with players of this talent level, and it can make for some very exciting possibilities.