TSD returns with the fourth installment of our early position-by-position breakdown of the 2013 LSU football team. Today we're looking at the wide receivers, who were led in 2012 by first-year position coach Adam Henry.
At the bottom of this post are links to our three previous position previews.
Returning Players: James Wright (Sr.), Kadron Boone (Sr.), Odell Beckham (Jr.), Jarvis Landry (Jr.), Terrence Magee (Jr.), Armand Williams (R-Jr.), Jarrett Fobbs (R-Jr.), Paul Turner (R-So.), Travin Dural (R-Fr.)
Added Recruits: Avery Johnson (Fr.), Chuck Baker (Fr.), Quantavius Leslie (Jr.*), Courtney Gardner (Jr.**)
Starter at X: Quantavius Leslie
Starter at Z: Odell Beckham (incumbent)
Starter at 3-WR: Jarvis Landry (incumbent)
Darkhorses: Kadron Boone, Travin Dural
* = Player will enter from the junior college level as a junior in standing.
** = JuCo player is not yet a public commitment and will have to qualify in spring to be a take.
The first thing that absolutely slaps you in the face when looking at the names above is how many of them there are. Before counting a single added recruit, LSU could have as many as nine scholarship players back in the receiving corps. And, if Chuck Baker and Courtney Gardner tackle their respective academic chores, the Tigers could bring in four more wide-outs, bringing the total to an absurd 13.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out the fat will have to be trimmed somehow – most likely in the forms of attrition and non-qualifiers on the recruiting side.
My most educated guess as to how things shake out as we stand in late November: Attrition claims two of the three between Armand Williams, Jarrett Fobbs and Paul Turner. Turner has an additional year left than do the other two, so maybe that gives him a slight leg-up. He also could bring value in the return game, although the Tigers are long on players who have those types of talents and attributes. And at least one – if not two – of the 2013 prospects don't make the grade. Baker's name continues to pop up in the conversation of players struggling to qualify while Gardner has spent the past few years struggling to get into schools, most notably Oklahoma. If he qualifies late this spring, he's a take and the kid's a player, but I've gotten the sense the staff isn't relying on that to happen.
So, working within that framework, Adam Henry would have closer to nine or 10 receivers on the team come Fall Camp 2013. That number may still be a touch high, but it's actually a lot more reasonable when considering two players (James Wright and Kadron Boone) will be seniors and three more after that (Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and converted running back Terrence Magee) will be juniors.
Beckham and Landry will enter 2013 as the team's best proven products at receiver, but new kid on the block Quantavius Leslie has the opportunity to be the big-bodied prototype X-receiver LSU has been looking to plug into to its pro-style offense since Rueben Randle left following his junior season in 2011.
Leslie, a 6-4, 195-pound JuCo prospect, will immediately bolster the Tigers' vertical passing game, giving quarterback Zach Mettenberger a tall target on the outside. LSU had problems scaring teams out of the box in 2012. Leslie can be a big part of making that issue disappear. He's expected to be on campus this spring as an early enrollee, and I fully anticipate a healthy Leslie will start at the X position for LSU next season.
OBJ is the safe bet to start on the other side at the Z-receiver. It's crazy to think about since he's so young, but 2013 will mark Beckham's third year in LSU's starting lineup. In 2011, as a true freshman, the Newman product posted the following totals in 14 games: 41 catches (second on team), 475 yards (second on team), 2 TD (tied for third). This past season, as a sophomore, Beckham upped the ante a bit, going for 40 catches (second on team) for 673 yards (first on team) and 2 TDs (third on team) in 12 games so far.
Notice the jump in yards per catch – from 11.6 ypc to 16.8 ypc. That's no accident. The LSU staff had to depend on Beckham as the team's most reliable deep threat all season long in 2012, especially with Wright dealing with a shoulder injury and not having the season many expected. His presence down the field will never completely go away, but Beckham also won't have to do quite as much deep with Leslie in the fold beginning in 2013.
Then there's Landry, who everyone could see from a mile away would have a breakout year in 2012. The Lutcher native was primarily used on special teams during his true freshman campaign, but his skills – particularly in route running, toughness and, most obviously, hands – screamed he was capable of a lot more as he matured. Well, we're starting to see it. Through 12 games he leads LSU in catches (52) and is tied for first in touchdowns scored (4) while ranking second in yards gained through the air (536). He also continues to be the offense's preferred option on running plays from one-WR sets. Landry will be a major part of the offense again in 2013.
After that projected top three is Boone, who took a major step forward himself in 2012 as a junior. The Ocala, Fla., native was extremely efficient this fall, making the best of his chances when called upon as the team's fourth wide receiver. Boone hauled in 24 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. The only thing keeping Boone, a talented player, buried this far is that he's basically the same size and plays a similar position to Beckham and Landry.
The receiving big picture in 2013 starts to get a little murkier after those four. After all, outside of Beckham, Boone and Landry, no LSU receiver in 2012 caught a touchdown pass. In fact Wright was the only other wide-out to snare more than six passes (Wright caught 18). He'll have his final chance to step up on the big stage in 2013, but I'm worried with more talent coming in, namely in the form of Leslie, Wright's chances to shine are getting fewer and fewer.
Of the young guys in the corps, redshirt freshman Travin Dural might have the biggest upside. He was dangerously close to being one of the two deep guys to return kickoffs for this year's team in the fall until he suffered a knee injury. The player tweeted recently that he has been more mobile, and I've heard he's making great strides in recovery. With his speed, route running and natural ability, look for Dural to force his way onto the field in some capacity in 2013.
We'll finish up with two players making a transition – Magee and Johnson. Magee started making the transition in Fall Camp 2012 from running back to wide receiver. He was used most often in the South Carolina game this year as a bubble screen guy/decoy in four-WR sets. Other than that, we didn't see a lot from the Franklinton product. It will be interesting to see if he's brought back into the mix in the backfield more in 2013 given the high number of receivers on the roster. As for Johnson he is expected to be an early enrollee this spring, and he'll have his chance to show he belongs next to the Leslies, Wrights and Durals of the world. Those are the players who best fit the X-receiver mold, as does Johnson. It may take a year or two, but Patrick Peterson's little brother has the physical skills to make a name for himself at LSU.
Previous 2013 Position Outlooks
2013 Position Preview: Wide Receivers
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