As a wide receiver, Travin Dural has never been told how to think.
Now, with first-year wide receivers coach and former Auburn quarterback (1997) Dameyune Craig at the helm, Dural and his fellow wideouts have been taught a tip that they believe may transcend LSU's offense in 2016: “Think like a quarterback.”
Returners: Travin Dural (Sr.), Malachi Dupre (Jr.), Derrick Dillion (redshirt freshman), Russell Gage (Jr.), D.J. Chark (Jr.), Jazz Ferguson (So.)
Stephen Sullivan, 6-6, 235, Fr. - Donaldsonville, Louisiana (Donaldsonville High School)
Dee Anderson, 6-5, 202, Fr. - Desoto, Texas (DeSoto High School)
Drake Davis, 6-3, 217, Fr. - Baton Rouge, Louisiana (IMG Academy)
Jalen Williams, 6-3, 221 Fr. - Opelousas, Louisiana (Westminster High School)
LSU used five receivers in 2015-16 to reel in 1,601 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Three of those receivers — John Diarse, Trey Quinn and Tyron Johnson — have since transferred from the university, leaving Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural as the only pass catchers from last season.
Brandon Harris and the receiving unit were found off-kilter many times, mainly struggling with chemistry issues, the quarterback and wideouts have since revealed to the media prior to the 2016-17 season.
This fall camp has been “a lot different” for LSU’s talented, and tall, group of wideouts.
“Think like a quarterback,” Craig tells his receivers.
“It’s a lot different,” Dural said. “He wants us to think like quarterbacks. He wants us to know when everything is going on the field. We have a very different outlook this season than last season. That way, we aren’t confused. We know when to expect the ball and when to not expect the ball. We have a very different outlook this season, as opposed to last season. Coach (Tony) Ball was a very great coach, but he wasn’t a quarterback, so he didn’t look at things like coach Craig looks at things. It’s very different, but it helps us a lot.”
Dural said fall camp this year is the “easiest” camp throughout his four years at LSU.
He pointed toward communication between quarterback Brandon Harris and the receivers being much better, or easier, and the simple back-and-forth, passing and catching is far more advanced at this stage in fall camp than it was last year, Dural said.
“Being in the right spot, making things easier for Brandon,” he said. “Knowing the offense, playing fast. Thinking how he’s thinking … We’re a lot more comfortable.”
Here’s what LSU coach Les Miles said on Thursday of the receivers:
“I like what we have going. First of all, Dameyune Craig has done a really nice job there and I think there’s competition for everybody, so you just recognize that if you made that play, there’s other guys that can make that play. It’s your responsibility to make that play, I think we had a nice scrimmage that reflected that.”
Through a week and one day of camp, Dural said this year’s depth and height at receiver is as big as he’s ever seen at LSU. With freshmen Stephen Sullivan (6-6), Drake Davis (6-3), Dee Anderson (6-5) and returning sophomore Jazz Ferguson (6-5), Harris has a fail-safe is the passing game begins to struggle.
“Yeah, that helps a lot. When in doubt, throw the jump ball to one of those 6-5 guys … I haven’t been a part of a receiving group this big, where I’m one of the smaller guys. Those big guys can go up and use their body to make plays for Brandon.”
Davis, a Baton Rouge native and IMG Academy alumnus, has slipped into a reserve spot on the Tigers’ WR depth chart during fall camp, Dural said. Here’s how Dural said the Tigers have been practicing, thus far, at the position:
- Z receiver - Travin Dural, D.J. Chark
- X receiver - Malachi Dupre, Drake Davis
- Y receiver - Jazz Ferguson
- F receiver - Jazz Ferguson
Do guys like Stephen Sullivan, Dee Anderson contribute early on?
With Leonard Fournette in the backfield, bigger, better run-blocking players may be found on the outside at wideout early on. If the offense begins to develop and stretch the field more often, look for the speedsters to be on the field.
You can reach Christian Boutwell on Twitter, @CBoutwell_TDR