Over the next week and a half leading up to that date, TSD is ranking the 10 best players currently on LSU’s roster. We’ll take a close look at each Tiger, breaking down his career to this point and projecting impact for the 2015 season.
Yesterday Hunter Paniagua profiled our vote for No. 10 – versatile offensive lineman Ethan Pocic.
Today, at No. 9, we move on to LSU’s most veteran option at wide receiver: redshirt junior target Travin Dural.
WHAT HE’S DONE SO FAR
Dural arrived at LSU with some fanfare, but nothing like that of Malachi Dupre, the youngster who currently lines up opposite Dural in the starting lineup. The Breaux Bridge standout was a three-star prospect, rated the top receiver in the state but only 99th at his position nationwide. Dural was on track to make a name for himself in season one, primarily as a return man as Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry were still in the fold, but his knee buckled during a Fall Camp practice in August 2012.
He got back on the field for 2013 when, as a redshirt freshman, Dural totaled seven receptions for 145 yards (20.7 ypr) and two touchdowns, one at Alabama. This past season, with Beckham and Landry in the NFL, Dural shined despite consistently poor quarterback play. A deep-threat extraordinaire and great leaper, No. 83 finished with 37 catches for 758 yards (20.5 ypr) and seven touchdowns, including a huge score late at Florida. The next highest receiving totals on the team, from Dupre: 318 yards and five touchdowns. For the most part it was Dural or bust at the receiver position in 2014.
Toward the end of the season coordinator Cam Cameron added a wrinkle for Dural, showing another side of his game. He began carrying semi-regular jet-sweeps, coming across the formation in motion. Dural ended up with 10 rushes for 111 yards and a long carry of 24 yards. His rushing average was the highest on the team last season (minimum 10 attempts).
PROJECTING HIS IMPACT IN 2015
The beauty of Dural is that he’s equally effective playing in the slot, where he can come in motion and take handoffs like a shorter/smaller player normally would (Dural is 6-foot-2, 192 pounds), and on the perimeter, where he still holds the title of best deep threat and red-zone target. Allowing for the fact that Dupre will continue to grow in his game, it’s probably most reasonable to expect Dupre to start at the X-position while Dural lines up at the Z-position – which in LSU’s offense typically isn’t in the slot, it’s just the wide-out on the other side of the field.
If the mess at quarterback is straightened out, there’s no doubt Dural, who was one of the underclassmen that opted to return, can reach double-digit touchdowns. His yards-per-reception totals in each of the last two years have exceeded 20.0, which is remarkable. Dural may not hit that mark again, with defenses focusing more on him, but he’ll do a lot more than move the chains this season. That’s for the other receivers. This is the guy LSU goes to when it needs points and big chunks of yardage.