Gone are the Tigers' top three pass-catchers, and four of the top five, from a season ago. Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jeremy Hill and Kadron Boone accounted for 2,655 yards in 2013, or, put another way, 81.4% of LSU's total receiving yardage.
In TSD's Q&A with Henry below, the former Oakland Raiders assistant opened up on the process of starting over in the corps, how he feels the receivers performed this spring and which player can provide leadership at the position. Henry also spoke to freshmen playing early, Malachi Dupre's skill set and where another versatile first-year player will line up for the Tigers.
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Ben Love: First off, your general impression of your guys this spring? How do you think that they developed, especially with a lot of young guys getting some more reps?
Adam Henry: It was a big learning experience for the guys. It was really good because they got so many reps. You could see the evolution and how they evolved technique-wise from the beginning to the end. There was growth and development, but we're still a work in progress and we've still got a ways to go. The more they continue to work, I feel good about them.
BL: Do you see Travin Dural, who's got the most experience, stepping up and taking a leadership role? Also can he replace the deep threat that Odell Beckham was last year?
AH: Most definitely. I believe he has a good role in this offense and he's doing what we want him to do. He's come a long way. He had a good spring. Like I've said about them all, he's still a work in progress, but I feel like maturity-wise he's come a long way.
BL: Did you feel like injuries made it difficult to figure out which of the younger receivers took a step forward this spring? Did that hamper some of your evaluation process?
AH: Yes, because certain guys got hurt. We had three guys who got injured and stunted their growth a little bit, but it happens. It's life. It's football. We've just got to move forward. That's why working on their own and doing individual stuff and plans in the summertime is going to be important for them.
BL: What are realistic expectations for the freshmen coming in and what they can do in year one?
AH: The expectation is to play well and to play at a high level, regardless of if you're a freshman of whatever classification you are. Once you get on that football field, the expectation is to play at a high level. So the guys we have coming in have a high football IQ, they've very smart and motivated and they work really hard. The expectation is to play and play at a high level.
AH: Yes, he can. Yes, he can. It's just the technique of it and pretty much learning things on the go and being able to read defenses and the terminology. We all learn languages. It's like learning a different language. As we get comfortable with that language, then we play faster and we play better. It's just terminology and things that we're doing and techniques that he's been taught, but he needs to convert it to a dialog that he can be comfortable with.
BL: I want to ask you about another freshman, Tony Upchurch. What are some of the skills he possesses and since he's a little bigger, is he someone who can play multiple positions in the offense?
AH: Yes, definitely. He's tricky because as you see in his highlights in high school, he moved around in so many spots. I'm just excited to see what he has to offer and put him on the field. I know he has a great football brain. We'll put him in different spots and see where he's at, but the upside is serious for him because he can do so many things. I'm looking forward to seeing what all he can do.
BL: Will he start off and get his first look at receiver?
AH: Oh yeah, most definitely.
BL: Aside from all the catches and production, what's going to be the most difficult part about replacing Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham?
AH: Those guys are tremendous. We're talking about first-round draft picks, guys that can play at the highest level. The maturation of those guys and the evolution from their sophomore year to their junior year was tremendous because those guys really listened and keyed in and honed in on the things that we were trying to get across.
It's going to be hard because they practiced so well and at such a high level that it really set the tone every day. Game day was really the fun part. They could just go out there and play fast. The things they did on the field on Saturday night, they did that every day in practice. So we'll miss them and the football IQ and being able to make adjustments on the sideline to execute this or that. That dialog and of course their catch radius, being able to throw the ball anywhere around them, and then their comfort level with the quarterback, that's hard to replace, but as we go on in life that's what happens. Coaches go on to the NFL. Guys come in and out, and it's the next man up. I look forward to that challenge and our receivers look forward to that challenge.