2013 Position Preview: Tight Ends

In the third installment of TSD's position-by-position early preview of the 2013 LSU Tigers football team, Hunter Paniagua takes a look at the tight ends.

TSD returns with the third installment of our early position-by-position breakdown of the 2013 LSU football team. Today we're taking a look at the tight ends.

At the bottom of this post are links to the two previous previews.

Returning Players at TE: Travis Dickson (R-Jr.), Nic Jacobs (R-Jr.*), Dillon Gordon (So.)

Added Recruits at RB: Logan Stokes (JUCO), Desean Smith

Starter at TE: Logan Stokes

Darkhorse: Desean Smith

* = Player is currently suspended for "team violation."

LSU can expect a lot of turnover at the tight end position in 2013. Seniors Chase Clement and Tyler Edwards — who missed the entire 2012 season due to academic ineligibility — will graduate. Nic Jacobs, who served as the second TE for most of last season, was suspended toward the end of the year for an undisclosed team violation.

Speculation has run rampant about the status of Jacobs for 2013. Reports indicated that his suspension in 2012 was due to academic issues, but the vague and secretive nature in which Les Miles discussed Jacobs led many to wonder if there was something more. Some rumors have pointed that Jacobs could be looking for opportunities with other programs.

Should Jacobs not return to LSU in 2013, it won't necessarily be something that the offense misses. Through the nine games he played in 2012, Jacobs did lead the team with five receptions for 58 yards, but his production was quickly replaced after his suspension. Travis Dickson overtook Jacobs, recording all five of his receptions for 69 yards in one game against Ole Miss.

Those low totals proved what little role the tight ends as a group played in the passing game (Clement had four catches for 44 yards). Earlier in the season, the tight ends were mostly called upon to pass protect as the patchwork offensive line picked up its stride. As the line gained more consistency as the season wore on, the tight ends were able to break off blocks more often and get open downfield.

Still, LSU will always utilize its tight ends primarily in blocking, with receiving opportunities usually few and far between. That could change a bit though in 2013 as LSU stands to add at least a pair of tight ends in its recruiting class that have displayed above average ability in the receiving game.

Logan Stokes, who will have three years to play two when he arrives in January, is the balanced type of tight end LSU usually relies on. His offense struggled at Northeast Mississippi Community College as it worked with an inexperienced offensive line that kept the passing numbers down. That prevented Stokes from putting up gaudy stats, but he has displayed skills in breaking off the offensive line and getting open downfield.

LSU will bring in Stokes with the intention of him taking over the starting duty in 2013. His skill set is similar to Clement, who started all 12 games this past season for LSU, and he appears in prime position to take over that vacancy. The starting position won't be guaranteed though, and Stokes will likely have to compete with at least three others for that honor.

If Jacobs does return in 2013, he will likely be Stokes' stiffest competition for the starting spot, though if he doesn't, expect Dickson to be the guy battling to be the top TE on the depth chart. Dickson will have the most experience among the other TEs, but he has played sparingly throughout his two years of eligibility. He had just one reception in 2011, and all five of his 2012 receptions came in one game.

Dillon Gordon will be the other tight end likely returning from this season's team. Gordon saw action in all 12 games, but mostly on special teams and did not record any statistics. Gordon primarily served as a blocking tight end in John Curtis' offense, and at 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, he can likely continue that role at LSU. Expect him to be in the mix next season, but he still needs to work on his ability in the passing game before he can be considered for significant contributions next season.

I listed Desean Smith as the darkhorse because he has enough talent as a receiver to warrant playing time immediately. Though he has room to improve as a blocker, which will probably prevent him from becoming a starter in 2013, he does have the size and ability in the passing game that would warrant him receiving the opportunities.

While Stokes will only be around LSU for two years, the staff has shown intentions of continuing to build for the future at the position. Smith and Gordon already serve as a decent foundation, but the staff has shown added interest in another 2013 prospect that could figure into the mix as well.

Rummell standout Cethan Carter has been a hot topic of discussion in recruiting circles this week as he has reportedly received heavy attention from the LSU staff. All indications are that he will receive a scholarship offer in the near future and will be a take in LSU's 2013 class.

Carter mostly flew under the radar before the season, but standout play during Rummell's run as the No. 1 seed in the Class 5A playoffs have started to turn heads. It also helps that he's shot up three inches to 6-foot-4, physically making him a more attractive target for the LSU staff. If he does wind up in LSU's class, I wouldn't expect him to have much of an impact in 2013, as he will likely redshirt, continue to develop and capitalize on opportunities once Stokes likely leaves after the 2014 season.

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