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LSU Spring Football 2017: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

There’s a lot up for grabs here.

NCAA Football:  Florida at Louisiana State Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Pun intended.

If there’s any area of the team that has a new lease on life under the regime of Ed Orgeron and with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, it must be LSU’s pass catchers.

The wide receivers, tight ends and fullbacks — who are practicing at more of a true H-back combo position — should all have new opportunities under Canada, who has shown a willingness to involve players that can contribute in multiple ways as both pass targets and runners.

But while there are some seniors that are poised to break out as full-time starters, the rest of the depth chart contains a lot of unproven, albeit talented, players.

LSU Receivers, Tight Ends and F-Backs

Position Player Ht/Wt Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/ Catch Yds/ Target Catch Rate Success Rate Target Rate Misc.
Position Player Ht/Wt Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/ Catch Yds/ Target Catch Rate Success Rate Target Rate Misc.
WR 7 D.J. Chark (Sr.) 6-4, 198 43 26 466 3 17.9 10.8 60.50% 44.20% 15.20% 122 rushing yards on 12 carries, 2 touchdowns
83 Russell Gage (Sr.) 6-0, 184 10 5 62 1 12.4 6.2 50.00% 50.00% 3.50% Appeared in 11 games with 4 starts.
19 Derrick Dillon (So.) 5-11, 178 Accumulated no stats. Appeared in 8 games.
10 Stephen Sullivan (So.) 6-6, 235 Accumulated no stats. 4-star recruit.
11 Dee Anderson (So.) 6-6, 223 7 4 73 0 18.3 10.4 57.10% 57.10% 2.50% Appeared in 11 games with 2 starts.
14 Drake Davis (So.) 6-4, 218 1 1 19 0 19 19 100.00% 100.00% 0.40% Appeared in 6 games.
86 Mannie Netherley (Fr.) 6-3, 194 Three-star recruit.
81 Racey McMath (Fr.) 6-3, 215 Three-star recruit.
3 Jacoby Stevens (Fr.) 6-2, 216 Five-star recruit as a safety.
32 Justin Jefferson (Fr.) 6-2, 185 Three-star recruit.
89 Jonathan Giles (Jr.) 6-0, 189 Transfer from Texas Tech -- ineligible for 2017.
TE 84 Foster Moreau (Jr.) 6-6, 255 9 6 79 1 13.2 8.8 66.70% 66.70% 3.20% Appeared in 11 games with 3 starts.
85 Caleb Roddy (So.) 6-5, 274 Accumulated no stats. Appeared in 12 games.
88 Jacory Washington (So.) 6-6, 248 Accumulated no stats. Appeared in 1 game.
82 Thaddeus Moss (So.) 6-3,, 247 Transfer from NC State -- ineligible for 2017.
42 Aaron Moffitt (Fr.) 6-2, 266 Three-star recruit.
80 Jamal Pettigrew (Fr.-RS) 6-7, 262 Redshirted. Redshirted.
F-Back 18 John David Moore (Sr.) 6-4, 236 12 10 58 0 5.8 4.8 83.30% 58.30% 4.30% 17 rushing yards on 7 carries.
47 Bry'Keithon Mouton (Jr.) 6-1, 261 2 1 4 0 4 2 50.00% 0.00% 0.70% 15 rushing yards on 5 carries, 1 TD
41 David Ducre (So.) 6-0, 236 Accumulated no stats. Appeared in 5 games.
44 Tory Carter (Fr.) 6-1, 258 Three-star recruit.
Players with starting experience in bold.

What do we like? There’s some exciting young talent at receiver, and an extremely balanced group of tight ends. The top options are poised to take the next step and become producers.

Question marks: there aren’t a ton of proven targets on hand, unproven young players have to step up.

We’ll lead with the vets at the top of the list: wide receiver D.J. Chark and tight end Foster Moreau. Chark finally started to show the promise that had been oft-discussed last year, leading all receivers with five combined touchdowns in becoming LSU’s top big-play threat, averaging more than 10 yards per target. It’s easy to see him doubling up his yardage numbers, both as a receiver and a runner; he was already the Tigers’ favorite option for jet sweeps, and Canada enjoys using them even more.

For his part, Chark is embracing his role and its demands, which will require a lot of pre-snap running in addition to the routes.

Moreau, despite catching six passes on nine targets, was a steady feature to LSU’s offense as the second tight end a year ago, and should have no problem in the No. 1 role. His nasty blocking in the running game got Moreau on the field as a true freshman, despite being an afterthought recruit in 2015, but he has the athleticism to be a solid safety blanket for the quarterbacks as well. At the very least, he looks like a target that Canada could isolate, a la Scott Orndoff at Pitt last season.

After the two of them, however, things become rather unsettled. Senior Russell Gage, as of now, is running as the No. 2 wide receiver. He was a surprise addition to LSU’s regular lineup after Les Miles’ dismissal last year, because Orgeron and then-receiver coach Dameyune Craig liked his athleticism work ethic. Neither has gone anywhere. Gage has the coaches trust more than any of the younger players, and while he’s not a speed merchant, he’s considered one of the better pure athletes on the team, with a reported 40-inch vertical leap. His incredible toe-tapping touchdown versus Texas A&M last season showed more potential than we’ve seen from Gage otherwise. He should at least be a solid option.

But after those three, LSU isn’t sure what they have. Oh sure, there’s talent. Sophomore Drake Davis has been having a strong spring and pushing for the No. 3 role, which is good news because he’s easily one of the most special talents on this roster, but also one that has had maturity and consistency issues. Sophomores Dee Anderson and Stephen Sullivan are the ideal body types for receivers when you have an unsure quarterback, at 6-5 and more than 200 pounds, but neither has shown they can be trusted down in and out, either. Derrick Dillon, the lone sub-6-footer of the group, could maybe get some action in the jet sweep game with his speed.

The backup tight ends are even more unproven. Caleb Roddy is largely a blocker, but Jacory Washington didn’t see the field at all last season, and Jamal Pettigrew redshirted. Both Washington and Pettigrew were considered big-time receiving targets though, and if they can handle the demands of Canada’s offense, there could be roles for them.

The roles of J.D. Moore and the other fullbacks are a curious one as well. For now, they’re practicing with the tight ends as H-backs. They’ll still be leading the way in the running game, but from a different look in the Canada attack. They’ll likely be flexed out more often, helping to set the edge or clearing the way on wham blocks, but they’ll also have more chances to touch the ball, even on jet sweeps of their own. That should fit Moore and Bry’Keithon Mouton well, as they’re both already converted tight ends from their high school days.

2017 freshman Mannie Netherly is on hand this spring, and redshirted walk-on Jalen Williams is an intriguing big body as well. Although there’s been no indication that the former pro baseball player is a real threat to grab playing time.

Still, the opportunities will come to the players that are ready to take them.