Where They Stand: Tight Ends

The tight end position at LSU hasn't necessarily been the biggest producer, but that hasn't stopped the Tigers from making it a big recruiting focus in the Class of 2015. LSU already has one committed and are still actively seeking another to factor into the passing game.

The tight end position at LSU has rarely been one to fill up a stat sheet. But despite the lack of production that comes from the TE spot, it's still a heavy emphasis on the recruiting trail.

The Tigers have made it clear in their last two classes they want to start implementing a more athletic tight end that can be a factor in the passing game. Cam Cameron's promised that will be a part of his offense moving forward, and LSU does seem to be adding the necessary pieces to do so.

Desean Smith in 2013 and Jacory Washington in 2014 certainly fit that mold, and LSU seems to be following that trend in 2015 as well.

The Tigers already have one tight end committed, but the staff does seem to want one more if it fits that pass-catcher mold. Today, TSD's Hunter Paniagua will take a look at some of those TE targets with that position occupying a significant space in the news recently.

We'll start our discussion though with Hanner Shipley, the three-star TE that committed to LSU on Jan. 8. Shipley is more what LSU fans are used to when it comes to a tight end. As a junior, Shipley already measures 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, and is an absolute force in the blocking game.

Shipley will make a trip to Baton Rouge this weekend for LSU's national junior day. It will mark his first visit to campus since committing and his first since the fall, when he came for the Tigers' game against Florida on Oct. 12.

If he wanted to devote himself solely to being an offensive tackle, he'd probably be a four-star prospect. But LSU sees more in him than just a blocker. While that will be his primary duty, Shipley can get upfield and make some plays with the ball in his hands.

After all, he is a cousin of former Texas WRs Jordan and Jaxon Shipley, so pass-catching is in his blood. With his size though, Shipley will be a blocker first, much like Dillon Gordon, who will be entering his senior season when Shipley arrives in 2015. At this point, LSU seems to consider him the heir-apparent to that role, and will continue to monitor how big he ultimately gets.

With Shipley securely on board, LSU is still targeting another tight end that can be more of a factor in the passing game. The Tigers have a few targets on their board, and seem to be an early contender for each one.

Four-star TE Hale Hentges is the most recent addition to the list, as he received an offer from the Tigers on Thursday. LSU was one of three major programs to hand out an offer to Hentges on Thursday, with Alabama and Texas also joining the mix.

"I've been talking to Coach Ensminger, their tight end coach," Hentges said in an interview with Scout's Derek Young. "It was great to hear from him and find out all the stuff they do with their tight ends. They are a powerhouse. I'm going to try to make it down there for a visit. I call Coach Ensminger every now and then. We have a real good relationship. They watched my tape and really enjoyed it so they wanted to offer me."

The Jefferson City, Mo., standout appears wide open in the recruiting process at this point. He's a two-way standout for his high school, and many experts feel he could also compete as a defensive end on the next level. LSU likes him as a TE though, and he seems to have the ideal skill set to fit the Tigers' system.

Hentges, who ranks as the nation's No. 6 TE, will take his time with a decision and plans to make a sweep through the Midwest in March to check out Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. He also wants to make a trip through the Southeast to visit LSU, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida State.

Pine Bluff, Ark., TE Will Gragg is another prospect who has the Tigers in his lead group. The four-star prospect ranks as the nation's No. 5 TE and is the second-best recruit in the state of Arkansas.

Gragg intends to announce his commitment on Nov. 18 after completing all of his official visits. LSU appears poised to receive one of those trips, with him planning to visit Baton Rouge on Nov. 8 for the Tigers' game against Alabama.

He also plans to visit Florida State (Sept. 20), Ole Miss (Oct. 4) and Alabama (Oct. 18). He's also considering Texas for his final official visit, and Arkansas remains in the mix, though he's said he won't take an official there because he's been there so many times.

The Razorbacks likely have an advantage at this point over the out-of-state schools, but LSU has to feel like it has as good a chance as anybody, and will make a big push for Gragg in the next couple months.

Another out-of-state TE to keep an eye on is Devonaire Clarington from the Miami-area. Cam Cameron extended him an offer in-person back in December, and the Tigers will try to stay in the mix with him moving forward.

Clarington has transferred to Champagnat Catholic for his senior season, and that is certainly a school that LSU is comfortable with. That school produced 2014 signee Travonte Valentine, and that's where Rashard Robinson spent the summer of 2013 in order to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse. The Tigers are also heavily recruiting 2016 Champagnat WR Darnell Saloman, and Clarington could be another from that school that winds up in Baton Rouge.

Clarington, who ranks as the nation's No. 3 TE, has said he wants to announce his commitment at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, so his recruitment should be an interesting one to follow late into the cycle.

Tight end may not be the sexiest position on the field, but the Tigers certainly are making it a big priority in the Class of 2015. LSU's off to a fast start with each of its top targets, so that should definitely be an exciting position to keep an eye on as the cycle progresses.


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