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2018 LSU Football Preview: Receivers & Tight Ends

Tigers plan on featuring their pass catchers in 2018 — are the players up to the task?

Tigers are hoping for Giles to be a constant in 2018.
Terrill Weil

For all the buzzwords about the offense that Steve Ensminger wants to run in 2018 here — spread, RPO, zone-blocking, etc... — the one constant has been talk of featuring the wide receivers.

That’s something LSU hasn’t really done since the 2013 group with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. and before that, the 2006 group with Dwayne Bowe, Buster Davis and Early Doucet.

It’s easy to say, but a little more difficult to sell when you see a group of pass-catchers of which the leading returnee caught just 24 passes for 278 yards as a tight end. Among wide receivers, the most experienced target caught just 11 passes for 219 yards.

Look for some talented newcomers, and a veteran transfer to lead the way here.

2018 LSU Football Roster: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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 19 Derrick Dillon (Jr.) 5-11, 184 22 14 125 0 8.9 5.7 63.60% 50.00% 7.50% 15 carries for 86 yards.
10 Stephen Sullivan (Jr.) 6-7, 232 28 11 219 1 19.9 7.8 39.30% 39.30% 9.60% 1 rushing touchdown.
11 Dee Anderson (Jr.) 6-6, 229 5 3 45 0 15 9 60.00% 60.00% 1.70%
14 Drake Davis (Jr.)* 6-4, 220 9 3 134 2 44.7 14.9 33.30% 33.30% 3.10%
17 Racey McMath (So.) 6-3, 221 Three-star recruit appeared in two games.
2 Justin Jefferson (So.) 6-2, 185 Appeared in four games, with 1 rushing attempt for 4 yards.
7 Jonathan Giles (Jr.) 6-1, 186 Transfer from Texas Tech -- sat out in 2017.
6 Terrace Marshall, Jr. (Fr.) 6-4, 209 Five-star recruit.
1 Ja'Marr Chase (Fr.) 6-1, 205 Five-star recruit.
83 JaRay Jenkins (Fr.) 6-3, 194 Three-star recruit.
82 Kenan Jones (Fr.) 6-4, 210 Four-star recruit.
TE 18 Foster Moreau (Sr.) 6-6, 256 37 24 278 3 11.6 7.5 64.90% 45.90% 12.70%
88 Jacory Washington (Jr.) 6-6, 245 1 1 6 0 6 6 100% 0 0.3
81 Thaddeus Moss (So.) 6-3, 225 Transfer from NC State -- sat out 2017.
42 Aaron Moffitt (Fr.-RS) 6-2, 262 Three-star recruit.
80 Jamal Pettigrew (So.)# 6-7, 241 2 1 18 0 18 9 50.00% 50.00% 0.70%
34 Zach Sheffer (Fr.) 6-3, 223 Three-star recruit.
*Suspended indefinitely. #Out for the season with injury.

Projected Starting Lineup: As of press time, LSU’s base set of three receivers will feature Texas Tech transfer and former Biletnikoff Award finalist Jonathan Giles, sophomore Justin Jefferson and true freshman Ja’Marr Chase. Senior Foster Moreau will lead the way at tight end, with transfer Thaddeus Moss as the second tight end when Ensminger brings two on the field.

Look for the rest of the receiver rotation to largely feature Chase’s fellow five-star freshman Terrace Marshall Jr., sophomore Racy McMath and junior Stephen Sullivan, who also may get some looks as a tight end in certain sets.

Power Point: This group is deep with talented athletes.

Ensminger and passing-game coordinator Jerry Sullivan have no excuses to not find somebody that can produce out of this group, just on sheer numbers alone. Yes, it’s true that there’s some underachievement: LSU wasn’t counting on junior Drake Davis to do much anyway before his arrest and indefinite suspension, and that won’t change even if he is completely exonerated; likewise, his classmate Dee Anderson has more games missed for suspension than he does receptions through two seasons. They’re both huge, athletic targets, but at some point you have to be able to get open and catch the football, and this team trusts neither to do that.

That’s something that Giles was brought in here explicitly to do. He had an All-Big-12 season in 2016 catching passes from Patrick Mahomes, before falling out of favor with the coaches at Texas Tech and following teammate Breiden Fehoko to Baton Rouge. On film, Giles doesn’t wow you physically, but he gets open and catches the ball with a consistency that LSU hasn’t had since the Landry/Beckham days. Look for him to work mostly out of the slot on option routes, with some healthy involvement in the RPO game. Giles may not be the best playmaker out of this group, but I expect him to be the constant that the quarterbacks rely on.

Jefferson is a player that the staff has liked since he arrived late in the 2017 cycle. He brings a trust factor that some of the other, older veterans, just haven’t.

Chase getting on the field should be no big surprise, as he was a five-star prospect in the 2018 class, but he has, to date, proven to be the more college-ready of the freshman class, Marshall included. He’s a physical 205 pounds, and it would not surprise me at all to see Ensminger game plan around getting him the ball.

Marshall will rotate in early and often, as will McMath, who was slated to be one of the top three targets before Chase arrived. McMath is an interesting option for this group as well — he was only a three-star prospect out of Edna Karr in New Orleans, but he checks all of the boxes in terms of size and speed.

At tight end, Moreau is another lightly regarded prospect that has more than proven his worth as a top-shelf blocker, and a consistent receiving target as well. He’ll never be a field-stretching weapon, but he’s a reliable target on third down and in the red zone. Moss, on the other hand, is somebody the staff thinks can maybe provide a little more punch as a receiver. Although he has battled injuries through camp.

Pressure Point: Who steps up?

There’s no getting around the fact that this group remains unproven. It feels like somebody will emerge, just on raw numbers — you throw enough bodies at a problem, somebody will emerge (the inverse of tailback, where there aren’t nearly as many options). But even with what Giles accomplished at Texas Tech, it’s hard to know who exactly will be reliable on a consistent basis.

And if the receiving targets aren’t reliable, it’s really hard to lean heavily on the passing game and be successful.