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LSU Spring Football Five Things: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

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Lot of size and a lot of talent at this position, as usual.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Depth Chart

Wide Receivers

Player

Ht/Wt

2015 Stats

15 Malachi Dupre (Jr.)

6-3, 190

43 catches on 77 targets (55.8% catch rate) for 698 yards (16.2 yards per catch, 9.1 yards per target), 6 touchdowns. 29.1% of total team targets.

83 Travin Dural (Sr.)

6-2, 203

28 catches on 56 targets (50%) for 533 yards (19.0 ypc, 9.5 ypt), 3 touchdowns. 21.1% of targets

82 D.J. Chark (Jr.)

6-3, 186

Appeared in 5 games with no catches or targets, 1 carry for 79 yards and 1 touchdown.

3 Tyron Johnson (So.)

6-1, 189

9 catches on 18 targets (50%) for 150 yards (16.7 ypc, 8.3 ypt), 1 touchdown. 6.8% of targets.

86 Jazz Ferguson (So.)

6-5, 215

No stats accumulated in two game appearances.

19 Derrick Dillon (RS-Fr.)

5-11, 178

Redshirted.

87 Stephen Sullivan (Fr.)

6-6, 228

Four-star Recruit.

11 Dee Anderson (Fr.)

6-5, 204

Four-star Recruit.

Tight End*

81 Colin Jeter (Sr.)

6-7, 244

12 catches on 18 targets (66.7%) for 132 yards (11 ypc, 7.3 ypt), 1 touchdown. 6.8% of targets

89 DeSean Smith (Jr.)

6-5, 243

4 catches on 6 targets (66.7%) for 82 yards (20.5 ypc, 13.7 ypt). 2.3% of targets.

88 Jacory Washington (Soph.)

6-5, 228

Did not play.

84 Foster Moreau (So.)

6-5, 261

Two targets in 12 game appearances (3 starts), no catches.

32 Tony Upchurch (So.)

6-1, 241

No stats accumulated in 8 game appearances.

*Pending news on a fifth year for Dillon Gordon

What's Good?

Honestly, there's enough depth and talent here that even with losing two of the top four veterans to transfers, it still feels like a pretty comfortable "next guy up" situation. LSU returns the No. 1 and 2 guys, plus a number of big, fast, athletic, talented backups, including a youth infusion with two freshmen on hand, plus Drake Davis arriving in the summer.

Emphasis on the "big" part of that statement -- six of the eight scholarship receivers are at least 6-3.

The returning headliners are obviously Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. The two battled consistency problems over the course of 2015, but did progress over the previous season. They both took turns alternating between making big plays down the field and the dirty work of moving chains. If they can find that consistency, I think they both could rise to whatever level the quarterbacks could take them.

There's also last year's spring superstar, junior D.J. Chark, who received a ton of pub but then failed to catch a single pass during the regular season. Of course, he did manage to leave a nice impression in the bowl game with a 79-yard touchdown on an end-around. He and sophomore Tyron Johnson are pushing to make impressions while Dural is out rehabbing his hamstring injury. The former five-star recruit had some slow going early on in 2015, but came on down the stretch and pushed Trey Quinn and John Diarse for snaps at the slot receiver position, which seems like a role he'll reprise again.

Behind the more experienced vets are sophomore Jazz Ferguson, who saw limited snaps in two games but failed to log a catch. Then there are the freshman, redshirt Derrick Dillon and a big pair of early enrollees, Stephen Sullivan and Dee Anderson. Sullivan in particular is an impressive, imposing figure who moves really smoothly for a kid his size. After originally thinking that he might wind up changing positions down the line, Sullivan looks really comfortable out wide. His potential could be exciting.

And of course, the biggest news at this spot would be the addition of new wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig. I can't speak all that well to the differences between Craig and his last two predecessors, Adam Henry and Tony Ball, but so far Craig seems very vocal and has really emphasized increasing the physicality. That's definitely a quality that has been lacking at this position the last year or two, and it's exactly the way a receiving corps built like this should play.

Craig is mostly known for his prowess as a recruiter and his time coaching quarterbacks at Florida State (and of course, he is a former QB), but players cite him as incredibly detail-oriented in terms of technique. And in addition to the new energy he's bringing to his own position, the reports have been that he's impacting the rest of the passing game as well. It's not so much about a "new offense" or new concepts so much as another voice in how things are coached. Craig has a strong relationship with Brandon Harris, and Cam Cameron has given him the green light to help out as needed. Another tutor or teacher's aide, so to speak. Craig has also been authorized to offer quarterback recruits as well -- that in particular is a welcome perspective that should help out in the coming cycle.

There's also an experienced group of tight ends that could still get yet another boost if senior Dillon Gordon receivers another injury hardship year. It's a position that gets forgotten about here, but there was something of an effort to involve the position more -- Colin Jeter was targeted 18 times and probably should have had more. But stud recruits DeSean Smith and Jacory Washington are still yet to make an impact regularly. Still, they bring experience to the table. And sophomore Foster Moreau was a nice addition as a blocker as well.

What's Bad?

There's a feeling of optimism around this group, but improvement's still needed. Dupre has every tool to be a top-shelf receiver. Dural can be one of the best deep threats in the SEC, and he showed nice improvement on the underneath routes as well.

But consistency was a real issue, particularly with regards to playing the ball. Dural and Dupre just seemed to struggle with their concentration at times, dropping easy passes and often allowing the issue to linger. The Eastern Michigan game last year was a low point, with six drops or miss-played passes leading to a really frustrating effort. Dupre can also get into a habit of failing to high-point the ball properly, miss-timing jumps and failing to really use his height and long arms to screen off the defender.

There's no doubt that Brandon Harris's issues at times frustrated the receivers, but if they can't hold up their own end it doesn't really matter.

Also, as a general practice observation, Johnson has a bad tendency to letting passes get into his body, often leaving his feet to try and cradle the ball instead of snatching it or cradling it with his hands.

And of course, there's the frustrating lack of production from tight ends like Smith and Washington. Smith in particular gets on the field, and has shown big-play ability at times, but struggles as a blocker and just can't seem to get looks when he's in on passing downs. Some of that is on Smith himself, but there's no question it's frustrating to see him on the bench in favor of players like Moreau. Jeter is easily the most balanced tight end LSU's had in a few years, but even he can be more consistent as a blocker.

What's the goal this spring?

It's refreshing to lose two guys who played a ton of snaps and still feel pretty good about the state of this position, but that comes from good recruiting over the years. The big thing is to just keep things moving forward. Continue to develop the talent that is on hand.

In some ways, Dural's absence is almost helpful for guys like Chark, Ferguson and Johnson. Dural is who he is as a wide receiver for the most part -- that tall, lanky speed guy who's going to be at his best stretching the defense vertically. And consistency issues aside, he did take some steps forward as a route runner on the underneath stuff. Spring practices aren't going to make much of a difference for him.

Dupre didn't quite make "the leap" in that clichéd sports-writer-y way, but he did show some improvement from year one to year two, and if the quarterbacks can rise to meet him, I could easily see him breaking through a la Odell Beckham Jr. in his third year. He has the tools to be a complete receiver in this offense.

LSU played more three receiver sets than people think, but between the numbers and experience on hand there's no one guy that "needs" to step up. The iron just has to sharpen itself. If Dural struggles to get through his rehab, Chark is almost a carbon copy of him as a player. And then there are a couple of 6-5 guys that could be really inviting down the field.

Johnson has the potential to be similarly well-rounded as Dupre, but he needs to get past his high school habits.

What am I watching for?

When it comes to the specifics of building that depth, this team really does need to find a third pass-catching target. Whether that's Chark, Johnson, one of the freshmen or one of the tight ends, Harris needs somebody else that he can go to besides Dural and Dupre. Zach Mettenberger could make that work with a couple of guys in 2013, but LSU hasn't really had that true No. 3 guy since maybe the 2007 season when Demetrius Byrd stepped up in addition to Early Doucet and Brandon LaFell.

There's talent enough here to spread the ball around, and the top two guys are definitely good enough to handle a heavy workload. If Harris can find ways to keep multiple guys involved, that's great. But it always helps having that third guy that the defense has to be aware of.