Catch up on the other editions of "Positions of Need" at the links below:
Part 1: Wide Receivers
Part 2: Defensive Ends
Today's edition will focus on pass-catching tight ends, a position LSU has recruited more aggressively during the last two cycles.
Returning in 2015: Dillon Gordon (Sr./Draft-Eligible), Desean Smith (Jr.), Colin Jeter (R-So./Jr.), Jacory Washington (R-Fr./So.)
Committed: Hanner Shipley
Top Remaining Targets: Bry'Keithon Mouton, Will Gragg, Devonaire Clarington
A pass-catching tight end isn't necessarily the Tigers' top priority in the Class of 2015. The success of this cycle won't depend on whether LSU picks one up. It is a position though LSU has recruited heavily, and to this point, the Tigers haven't addressed it.
Looking at the roster, tight end will still be deep by the time the 2015 season rolls around. The Tigers will likely still have blocker Dillon Gordon for his final season of eligibility. New JUCO pickup Colin Jeter has also primarily been a blocker through his football career, though both Gordon and Jeter can factor somewhat into the passing game.
But by 2015 the focus will primarily be on DeSean Smith. He had a few opportunities as a freshman but needed to show a bit more crispness in his route running to see the field more regularly. LSU expects a big jump out of him this coming season, and by 2015, he could very well be a major threat in the passing game. We'll also get to see how Jacory Washington lives up to his potential, and LSU could have quite the combo there.
The tight end LSU finds in 2015 will be the next in line behind these two, and the Tigers have reached out to several recruits to fill that need. LSU does already have a commitment from Hanner Shipley, though he's strictly a blocker and could even grow into an offensive lineman by the time he arrives in Baton Rouge.
So who else is on the radar?
LSU's efforts took a bit of a hit Tuesday when promising three-star Jalen Harris committed to Auburn. He would've been the ideal fit for LSU based on his performance at camp earlier this month. The Tigers were one of his five finalists, but LSU ultimately lost out to their SEC West rival.
LSU still has at least a trio of tight ends worth keeping a close eye on.
Acadiana's Bry'Keithon Mouton headlines that list. One of the more recent in-state offers, Mouton's probably one of the more well-rounded TEs on the Tigers' board. Mouton can be effective in the blocking game, but he also brings that aspect to the passing attack that makes him an attractive option for a number of schools. LSU's also recruiting him as a potential H-Back, but he'd likely have an impact as a tight end as well in LSU's system.
He's most recently mentioned LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss and Miami as the schools standing out to him most. He camped in Tuscaloosa earlier this month, so it could very well come down to these bitter rivals in his recruitment.
LSU's two other top targets come from out-of-state.
Will Gragg (Pine Bluff, Ark.) visited Baton Rouge for the first time last month during the Tigers' Bayou Picnic. Gragg gave that visit rave reviews, saying the trip exceeded expectations. He had the opportunity to spend time with his lead recruiter Steve Ensminger and Cam Cameron, who explained how he'd fit in the offense not only as a tight end, but also flexed out wide, in the slot and as an H-Back.
Gragg (pictured above) plans to return to Baton Rouge for an official visit when LSU plays Alabama on Nov. 7. His other tentative official visits are to Texas, Florida State, Ole Miss and Alabama. He plans to announce his commitment in November once he completes his five officials.
Most feel that Arkansas will be the team to beat for him considering how many times he's visited the nearby campus. But LSU hopes they can lure Gragg out-of-state.
The other highly rated TE to keep an eye on is Devonaire Clarington, who comes from the same high school as 2014 signee Travonte Valentine. Ranked as the nation's No. 9 TE, Clarington has an offer list that includes almost 40 offers, including LSU.
Clarington's expected to visit Baton Rouge in July with the rest of the crew from Champagnat Catholic, a program that's also produced LSU targets Darnell Salomon and Chidi Okeke-Valentine. Clarington hasn't publicly narrowed down his list yet, and LSU hopes they soar up his list after that visit next month.
Clarington plans to announce his commitment at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January, so there's a long way to go in his recruitment. He's mentioned that Miami has recruited him the hardest to this point, and he's also lined up an official visit to Tennessee in the fall. But there are a lot of connections working in LSU's favor when it comes to Clarington, and they'll hope to capitalize on those starting this summer.