BATON ROUGE, La. — If the LSU football team’s new offense under Matt Canada is supposed to be difficult to learn, someone forgot to tell Drake Davis.
A Baton Rouge native and sophomore wide receiver out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Davis is one of LSU’s least experienced competitors. He only played two years of high school football and caught just one pass as a true freshman in 2016, in garbage time against Jacksonville State.
But during a training camp in which LSU upperclassmen such as fullback J.D. Moore have discussed the complexities and difficulties associated with picking up Canada’s offense, Davis surprisingly calls Canada’s scheme “the easiest offense in America.”
To be fair, though Davis has just one primary responsibility: Go out and catch passes.
Davis didn’t think of himself as a football player until relatively recently. He was always a fan, but soccer and track were his true loves. He also dabbled in basketball. But ultimately, he realized that his natural talent could pay for a college education if he committed to football. He transferred to a powerhouse program in IMG to play alongside national standouts such as Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson and Alabama’s Dylan Moses.
Davis’ skills are still raw. He admits as much. Although his soccer background provided him with enhanced stamina, superior balance and agility, his route running, catching and over-the-middle toughness have room for improvement.
Fortunately for Davis, he’s been able to focus on those skills instead of having to learn all the intricacies of Canada’s offense. Davis is asked to line up as the “X” receiver, which is LSU’s vertical threat. It’s also a position that doesn’t require many shifts or motions before the snap.
While the “Z” and “F” receivers are zipping, whirring and whizzing back and forth before the snap, the X keeps his foot firmly planted on the line of scrimmage. So Davis doesn’t have to do as much as players like D.J. Chark or Russell Gage.
“I’ve seen Russell stress over having to learn the motions and stuff like that,” Davis said. “It takes a lot of time. But I was really surprised how fast and how quickly those guys learned that stuff. Because it would take me a lot longer to learn that.”
Even with a lesser workload, Davis’ stock seems to have dropped a bit during training camp. In the spring, Davis was a consensus standout, and head coach Ed Orgeron said Davis looked like a future SEC star.
However, Davis has been plagued by inconsistency in recent weeks. Orgeron said he still sees the flashes. But Davis hasn’t regularly made the plays expected of him.
He thinks the inconsistency might be a product of his personality. The sophomore doesn’t describe himself as a “rah-rah guy.” He said he likes to keep it mellow, and maybe sometimes his low-key demeanor gets in the way.
Davis knows he needs to play a more physical style to succeed. He recently switched numbers from 25 to 14 to follow in the footsteps of former LSU standout and Miami current Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, a famously physical pass catcher.
Davis has shifted his mindset too. He’s not just a finesse guy anymore. It’s time to put that 6-foot-4, 218-pound frame to use.
“I had to get away from being a finesse guy,” Davis said. “Playing soccer, playing basketball, you have to have a lot of finesse. Now I’m using my body more and being an aggressive guy on the field.”