While the Bayou Bengals are on hiatus, TSD is running a story per weekday on breakout candidates for 2015.
These players may be new to the program, fresh off a redshirt or been around and just never had a chance to start. Whatever the case may be, if LSU is to author a successful 2015 campaign, they'll need these five players to break through.
CLICK HERE for Monday's piece on OLB Deion Jones.
CLICK HERE for Tuesday's piece on OL K.J. Malone.
NO. 3 - Desean Smith
Smith is a skilled pass-catching tight end, a plus for him at LSU and potentially even more so on the next level, given the Tigers’ growing reluctance to use the position in the passing game.
So here’s the not-so-hot news before getting to all of the attributes and factors that make Smith an enticing breakout candidate in 2015. Check out the receiving totals for the tight end position at LSU this decade.
2014: 12 receptions, 129 yards, 1 TD
2013: 12 receptions, 211 yards, 0 TD
2012: 16 receptions, 182 yards, 0 TD
2011: 28 receptions, 294 yards, 3 TD
2010: 34 receptions, 345 yards, 0 TD
In terms of catching passes, tight ends have all but vanished from the game plan the past three seasons. There are many reasons (and theories) on why that is, but the fact remains there hasn’t been an athlete at the position like Smith since 2011, DeAngelo Peterson’s final campaign.
In 2011 Peterson hauled in 18 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. The year prior Peterson had 16 catches for 198 yards. Those statistics aren’t about to vault LSU into Tight End-U distinction by any means, but they represent attainable goals for Smith this coming fall.
The 6-foot-5, 242-pound junior has played in all 26 games since arriving on campus, catching one pass for 14 yards as a freshman and four passes for 66 yards (long of 21 yards) last fall, with all of that damage coming into the bowl loss to Notre Dame.
Smith, a Barbe product, is clearly capable of doing more. LSU has Dillon Gordon back for his senior season and can also get run-blocking from a player like John David Moore. Should Cam Cameron & Co. decide to revert back to 2010/2011 form, and connect on two to three passes a game to tight ends (not a huge commitment), Smith would be the likely beneficiary.
Many have pointed to his drop in the TCU game to start the 2013 season as a reason the offense steered away from Smith and tight ends in general, but that’s more an anomaly to me. It was his first game. Smith has great hands and is a polished route runner.
If anything he’ll have to continue getting stronger and working on his blocking skills to become the versatile type of tight end Cameron and position coach Steve Ensminger can trust every down.
But Smith showed against the Irish what he can do. Now it’s just a matter of LSU committing itself to getting the ball to one of its most valuable weapons over the middle of the field. If that mindset can be achieved, and the recent trend reversed, Smith could be in for a (relative) breakout season.