The LSU wide receiver corps could be forgiven for thinking they were the “forgotten men” on the Tigers roster after a season spent blocking on the edges for Leonard Fournette much more often than catching the long ball.
That suddenly changed this week when three LSU wide receivers announced they were leaving the program.
Trey Quinn has been a fan favorite since he was a record setting high school player for Barbe in St. Charles. Many hoped he would pair with Malachi Dupre to form a combo that produced the one like Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr..
After catching only five passes for 83 yards, he is leaving LSU with the intention of transferring to another FBS school.
John Diarse was a hot topic on recruiting message boards coming out of high school. His speed and open field running ability had Tiger fans fired up when he arrived on campus.
In spite of his athletic gifts, he sometimes struggled to track the ball in the air and saw his playing time limited after some big drops. Diarse is leaving LSU after graduating in three years and reportedly will enroll at TCU where he can play next fall.
Aug 30, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver John Diarse (9) makes a reception during the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Spears was less well known than Diarse, but he was a four star recruit with good physical tools coming out of high school. He is leaving LSU for an as yet unnamed FCS school looking for playing time.
With top receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre coming back and a group of new recruits that feature some big time talents at the position, depth isn’t an issue.
Recruits Stephen Sullivan and Dee Anderson are already on campus and Drake Davis will join them over the summer so the team has plenty of new blood at the position.
Development can be tricky for freshmen though and there are some reps up for grabs in the rotation spots behind the two starters. The four returning players who are fighting for playing time are Tyron Johnson, Jazz Ferguson, DJ Chark and Derrick Dillon.
Tyron Johnson is probably at the top of the pecking order of this group. He was a five star recruit coming out of high school and saw his first action as a true freshman in the Auburn game.
Johnson doesn’t have blazing speed but he is a first round talent and the coaching staff clearly wants to see a lot more of him next year. He is the #3 man on the depth chart going into spring ball.
Johnson has the flexibility to line up wide or in the slot and game breaking potential.
DJ Chark is one of the fastest players on the team, and has reportedly run a 4.3 second 40 yard dash. There was a tremendous buzz around him in the offseason last year, but like a lot of prospects, high hopes centered on the LSU passing game and nothing much came of it once the season started.
Ole Hotty Toddy
Chark is a physical specimen with a lot of time in the program though, and his time is now; particularly if Travin Dural’s injury lingers as hamstring injuries often do.
Chark is a pure outside speed receiver in the Devery Henderson mold. If coaches can work him into the game plan, he is a threat to grab the kind of deep passes that have been Travin Durals bread and butter play over the last two seasons.
Jazz Ferguson is a big target with a long stride. He was one of the true freshmen who saw the field in the rain shortened McNeese State opener, a sign coaches were looking at him as a possible contributor.
That didn’t pan out over the course of the season as Ferguson was buried on the depth chart. He is an intriguing prospect who brings great size and strength to the position. He is one of the players fans wil be watching closely in the spring game.
LSU had to fight Florida for Derrick Dillon coming out of high school. That is to be expected for a player who was one of the ten fastest at the prestigious Nike sponsored The Opening camp and starred alongside Derrius Guice at the Army All American game during his senior year in high school.
Jan 3, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; West wide receiver Derrick Dillon (84) runs against East defensive back Kareem Ali (17) during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome. West beat East 39-36. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Dillon’s size at 5’11” 178 pounds screams slot receiver. His raw athleticism screams future star.
He does not have the experience of some of the other returning receivers. Since Diarse and Quinn both got a lot of snaps in the slot Dillon will have an inside track over pure wideouts for playing time.
For Dillon and Jazz Ferguson, the Spring practices will be critical. They each have a chance to earn spots in the rotation after quiet freshman seasons, but they also have to look over their shoulder at the next batch of incoming recruits.
The biggest wild card here is Travin Dural’s injury.
A hamstring tear, depending on the severity could linger well into next season. DJ Chark is the closest to Dural in terms of skill set. Tyron Johnson is going to get a lot of looks, regardless of Dural and Chark’s status.
One thing is certain–even losing three receivers in a week to transfers, the WR position is still going to be very strong and very deep in 2016………