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LSU Football 2016 Position Preview: Receivers & Tight Ends

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Even with a former five-star transferring out, there’s a lot to like here.

Arkansas v LSU Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

**Ed. Note: Well, I’m still here, and I’m still moving forward. Not sure how long it will be until I’m back at this regularly, but I had written this position preview up on Saturday before all the shit hit the floor. At some point I’ll definitely have something to say about the last few days. I have seen all of the comments, concerns and prayers, and I and my entire family appreciate them more than I can properly articulate at the moment. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. Now, on to football.**

There is a lot to like here -- size, speed and experience. Now sure, LSU always has great receiver talent you might say. Well, this is a position that hasn’t totally carried its weight in recent years, but with the top three starters back, a new, high-profile position coach, a helluva spring and a very strong recruiting class this has suddenly become one of the deepest areas of LSU’s team.

Wide Receivers (returning starters in bold)

Player

Ht/Wt

2015 Stats

15 Malachi Dupre (Jr.)

6-4, 195

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, 207

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, 187

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

39 Russell Gage

6-0, 179

Played defensive back in 2015.

86 Jazz Ferguson (So.)

6-5, 223

No stats accumulated in two game appearances.

19 Derrick Dillon (RS-Fr.)

5-11, 181

Redshirted.

10 Stephen Sullivan (Fr.)

6-6, 235

Four-star recruit.

11 Dee Anderson (Fr.)

6-5, 202

Four-star recruit.

25 Drake Davis (Fr.)

6-3, 217

Four-star recruit.

The top two are set in stone with senior Travin Dural and junior Malachi Dupre. Both have flashed elite talent at times, but consistency has eluded them. If they can find that -- watch that catch rate in particular. If both get that north of 60, they could become one of the best duos in the country. Dupre has the most complete package of skills. His 10.1 yards-per-target figure on standard downs illustrates that he’s a deep threat on play-action passes, but his 7.8 YPT on passing downs indicates some comfort from Brandon Harris at using him to move the chains. Dural has always had the speed, but he showed a little more ability to get open underneath on early downs last season to go with his gift for stretching the defense.

Junior D.J. Chark got a ton of pub in the spring of 2015 and failed to catch a single pass last season, languishing behind Dural, Dupre, Trey Quinn and John Diarse in the depth chart while he butted heads with receivers coach Tony Ball. Fun fact about Chark -- he was 16 years old when he enrolled at LSU, and will only turn 19 this September. He’s very much still a maturing human. He’s definitely in a better chance to contribute this season, and as his 79-yard run in the bowl game illustrated, he definitely has the speed. We’ll see how that translates.

After that top three, sophomore Jazz Ferguson, redshirt freshman Derrick Dillon and true freshmen Drake Davis, Stephen Sullivan and Dee Anderson are competing for the remaining playing time, along with junior Russell Gage, who has moved back to wide receiver from defensive back. Ferguson received a major look in the spring, with Dural rehabbing an injury. Look for him to work a good bit from the slot, where his size could provide a very different matchup.

Size is a big theme with this group -- seven out of nine wideouts are at least 6-2, the tallest in the conference. Might help with a quarterback that had a tendency to overthrow guys at times last season.

Tight Ends

81 Colin Jeter (Sr.)

6-7, 254

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, 249

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

88 Jacory Washington (Soph.)

6-6, 249

Did not play.

84 Foster Moreau (So.)

6-6, 250

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

80 Jamal Pettigrew (Fr.)

6-7, 250

Four-star recruit.

85 Caleb Roddy (Fr.)

6-5, 276

Three-star recruit.

Well, here’s a position we love talking about.

In 2015, Colin Jeter caught the most passes any LSU tight end has in four seasons with a grand total of 12. Twelve.

Again, most of LSU’s targets at this position haven’t exactly been the kind of guys you really had any strong urge to get the ball to in the first place. They run routes, and clearly have some sort of role in the play, but just haven’t caught passes for years, going back to Richard Dickson.

Is that going to change this year? I wouldn’t bet on it, but last year was at least a start. As I’ve previously written, one catch a game becomes two pretty easily, and from there you’re not really that far off to the 30-ish catches Dickson averaged per year. If you’re looking for some sort of O.J. Howard-versus-Clemson type of explosion, there just isn’t that kind of talent here.

Jeter is going to make his best effort though. He’s definitely the most balanced tight end LSU’s had in recent years, in terms of being solid hands while still being a competent blocker -- although he struggled against the better defenses on the schedule. He’ll never be a true seam-stretcher, but at 6-7, he could maybe help move the chains or provide some help in the redzone. Although the Tigers definitely aren’t lacking for height in the passing game.

Sophomore Foster Moreau is likely the second tight end, after seeing some significant playing time as a true freshman due to his blocking. Moreau was something of a throw-in recruit last season, but he moves relatively well for his size and he’s also dropped 10 pounds hoping to improve his quickness.

Of course, it would be great to see former stud recruit DeSean Smith get more involved as well, but he’d have to stay healthy after missing a huge chunk of last season and all of the spring. Sophomore Jacory Washington, who has really bulked up after playing at around 220 pounds last season, and true freshman Jamal Pettigrew are probably the next big contributors here, they’re just behind the upperclassmen for the moment. True freshman Caleb Roddy made the move to tight end to try and develop as a blocker, but given the injuries on the defensive line moving back could be a possibility. Either way, seems likely to be in line for a redshirt.

Depth Chart

X (split end)

F (slot)

Y (tight end)

Z (flanker)

Malachi Dupre

Jazz Ferguson

Stephen Sullivan

D.J. Chark

Jazz Ferguson -or- Derrick Dillon

Colin Jeter

Foster Moreau -or- DeSean Smith

Jacory Washington

Jamal Pettigrew

Caleb Roddy

Travin Dural
D.J. Chark

Drake Davis

Dee Anderson

This is a best guess from the right to the left of a formation.

Possible X-Factor: Drake Davis or Derrick Dillon

Look, we’ve all talked about Davis. He has as much raw athletic ability as any receiver LSU has recruited since Odell Beckham Jr. Size, speed, coordination, the total package. But he knows it. I’ve used the “bored genius” metaphor with him before, but it works. You read stories about brilliant physicists or mathematicians who struggle in school because they’re just so advanced that everything bores them, and they act out. That was Davis in high school. Football. Basketball. Soccer. He’d just jump in between them because well…he felt like it. But that’s not going to fly here, especially at a position this crowded. If he wants to play, he’s going to have to outwork the other players and prove to the coaches that he can be counted on. If he does that, he will definitely get on the field and it will be really tough to keep the ball out of his hands. But so far, it seems like a big “IF.”

As for Dillon, he’s was a bit of an afterthought in his own recruiting class despite being a four-star prospect, but word has been that he’s taken advantage of his redshirt year and really dedicated himself through the summer. From an athletic standpoint, he always had an edge on the more ballyhooed Tyron Johnson, he just played at a very small, rural school that needed him to play multiple positions. If his work in the weight room translates to the film room and some polish on his game, he has the speed to stand out, even as LSU’s shortest wide receiver.