BATON ROUGE, La. — For the last several years, LSU’s tight ends only could wonder what it would be like to live the life of Mississippi’s Evan Engram.
The Rebels tight end is leading the SEC in receiving yards with 590 on 37 receptions and is tied for second in the conference with 5 touchdown receptions. To put that in better perspective, coming into this year, LSU’s tight ends caught 41 passes for 562 yards in the last three seasons combined.
But now the Tigers tight ends can stop wondering. Like toys in the attic, they’ve been rediscovered by new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, who is more than willing to get them involved.
“We really like the way we’re using our tight ends,” interim coach Ed Orgeron said. “We want to use our tight ends more in the passing game and Steve has done a good job of that.”
At the midway point of the season, LSU tight ends DeSean Smith, Foster Moreau and Colin Jeter have grabbed a combined 10 catches for 210 yards. It does not seem like anything spectacular until you consider how advanced it is compared to the years preceding it.
- 2015: 17 receptions, 222 yards (Jeter 12-132, Smith 4-82, Dillon Gordon 1-8)
- 2014: 12 receptions, 129 yards (Travis Dickson 7-60, Smith 4-66, Logan Stokes 1-3)
- 2013: 12 receptions, 211 yards (Gordon 6-88, Dickson 5-109, Smith 1-14)
- 2012: 16 receptions, 182 yards (Dickson 6-73, Nic Jacobs 5-58,Chase Clement 5-51)
With that kind of production, LSU was extremely fortunate to land Smith, who was ranked the No. 5 tight end in his class by 247Sports and used almost exclusively as a pass-catching target for his high-powered offense at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La. The in-state kid never even made an official visit elsewhere before signing, and as a senior, his talents are finally being put to their most effective use.
Thing is, Smith has long been aware the Tigers were capable of doing what they are right now.
“We’ve just opened up our playbook. We had so many of these plays before,” Smith said. “We used them in the spring games and practice all the time. Coach Ensminger has done a good job opening it up. There’s been a few (new) plays but nothing where the team’s been like, ‘Oh we’ve got to learn a whole new system.’”
As LSU’s tight ends coach under Les Miles, Ensminger likely had a keener sense of his players’ frustration level than anyone else in the football complex. Whether that frustration was verbalized or not, he’s now making sure his guys are getting some love in the form of footballs.
“To be honest I’ve always wondered why we didn’t use (these plays),” Smith said. “But now they’re coming out and we’re doing great things with them. We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing.”
Of course, if LSU’s offense racks up the stats like it has in its past two games against Missouri and Southern Miss, it’s not too tough to keep people happy.
“It’s certainly nice to be able to open it up a little bit and spread the ball a little bit,” Jeter said. “Any time you’re scoring 42-something points a game, I think everyone’s happy. It doesn’t matter what play you call when all 11 guys are doing their job and eliminating penalties and missed assignments.”