Summer Top 50 - No. 20 DeSean Smith

In recent years LSU hasn't leaned heavily on its tight ends in the passing game, but the Tigers have a bona fide pass-catching option in 2015 in junior DeSean Smith. How often will they use him in 2015?

Because everyone loves to rank things, and because summer is the best time to argue and debate, TSD is spending the coming weeks through the end of July rolling out its top 50 LSU football players for the coming season.

Many are seasoned veterans and a select few are new to the roster, but all 50 Tigers figure to make an impact on the gridiron in 2015.

So we hope you enjoy this list, updated once each weekday and compiled by the TSD staff of Ben Love and Hunter Paniagua (who, naturally, had disagreements of their own along the way).

Today the countdown kicks off its seventh week with a veteran tight end at No. 20, junior Desean Smith.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM


Did you see the bowl game? That's about all that's needed to understand the Barbe product's potential ... and, ironically, to see all of Smith's receiving work from last fall. In the bowl-game loss to Notre Dame, Smith hauled in four passes for 66 yards, twice making receptions of 21 yards. Those were his only grabs in 2014 and four of his five career catches at LSU (he had one for 14 yards against UAB as a freshman).

He followed it up with another stellar performance in the spring game, something Smith has made a habit of since hitting campus. The highlight from LSU's glorified scrimmage was a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown for Smith, who not only possesses great hands but has the agility and wheels to knife past members of the secondary after the catch.

At 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds, Smith gives offensive coordinator Cam Cameron a versatile weapon. Already in his two years at LSU, Smith has lined up in games as a slot receiver. He's also developing as a run-blocker, able to play as an in-line tight end and not completely tip the defense away to a run or pass via formation. Coming into his junior season, Smith has a lot of promise and is becoming more multi-dimensional than the out-and-out receiving tight end he was on the prep level.

STILL LEFT TO PROVE


Sometimes it's not about the player proving anything; it's about the offense proving it knows how to effectively use all the tools in its bag. This is more of that type of case, as LSU has been allergic to throwing to the tight ends in the last few years. Each of the last two seasons the tight end corps as a whole has totaled just 12 receptions. That's less than one a game! (CLICK HERE for more on LSU and its TEs.)

So Smith will have to combat this alarming trend and deal with competition at his position. It's true he's far and away the best TE target, but LSU has a number of experienced run-blockers that for whatever reason seem to better fit what Les Miles and position coach Steve Ensminger want. Senior Dillon Gordon is the projected starter at tight end while Colin Jeter is next in line after Gordon when it comes to serving as a sixth offensive lineman.

For his part Smith must keep coming along as a blocker. He's already better than when he first got to Baton Rouge two years ago, but his development here will inform how many formations he can viably be a part of for Ensminger. It stands to reason that LSU, big on its heavy, two-tight sets, would throw to Smith more if he can give a dual-threat look in these formations. Otherwise it'll be clear to defenses that when No. 89 comes in, LSU is looking to chunk it.





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