The spree of bad news continued for LSU on Thursday when sophomore wide receiver Tyron Johnson was granted his release from the university and announced he planned to pursue a transfer.
Johnson, a former 5-star wide receiver from New Orleans’ Warren Easton Charter School, was Louisiana’s top-rated prospect in the Class of 2015 and landed with the Tigers after a late push by the in-state power. In fact, LSU was third in the pecking order behind Oklahoma State and Texas Tech before Johnson decided that he could follow the path to the NFL in nearby Baton Rouge, La., while playing in front of his friends and family on Saturdays.
Johnson will have to follow that path elsewhere now.
The sophomore wide receiver opted to transfer out of LSU because he recognized that the amount of playing time he desired in 2016 was not there, according to his father. Johnson understood he was behind Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural as a freshman last fall, but Dural returned for his senior season and Johnson continued to look up at the depth chart.
“He just thought it was going to be different,” said Johnson’s father, Tyrone Johnson. “He wanted to play in a spread offense and get more opportunities than he’s getting right now. Nothing happened, he just wanted to get in a more wide-open system.”
“Everything was fine,” he added. “We had a nice conversation. There were no hard feelings toward the coaches. They wished him the best and everything. Tt went pretty smooth. We’re just doing best thing for Tyron and the best thing for him to get more opportunities.”
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) August 11, 2016
This season, junior D.J. Chark appears to have the inside track for the No. 3 wide receiver job behind Dupre and Dural. Johnson was taking reps behind Dupre for most of spring practices and would have likely stepped into that role in another few months, but that may have been too lengthy a timeframe for the former blue-chip prospect.
Another factor is the emergence of LSU’s freshmen receivers. Stephen Sullivan and Dee Anderson both enrolled early and began practicing with the team in the spring, and both could be in line to compete with Johnson for playing time. Then factor in that Drake Davis earned reps with veterans early on in fall camp practices and may also wind up garnering a role in the offense this season.
Next up for Johnson?
Johnson named Texas Tech and Oklahoma State as his leading schools as a senior at Easton, two programs known for their high-octane spread offenses. Because neither school is in the SEC, both have a high chance of landing the former LSU wide receiver.
The Johnson Family plans to sit down and examine the receiver’s options beginning tonight. Johnson’s father indicated that there is a strong possibility he could take a look at the schools that recruited him heavily out of high school.
Texas Tech offensive coordinator Eric Morris was one of Johnson’s primary recruiters back in 2014-15 and could plug Johnson into the spread offense in Lubbock, Texas. Former Red Raiders defensive backs coach Kevin Curtis also played a hand in Johnson’s recruitment, and Curtis has since accepted the same position for Louisiana Tech, which could also be a viable destination.
Oklahoma State wide receivers coach Kasey Dunn led Johnson’s recruitment for the Cowboys. Dunn has been at Oklahoma State since 2011 and has continually produced elite scoring offenses. Johnson could reunite with Dunn in Stillwater, Okla., which has become home to several standout Louisiana recruits in recent years.
Clemson was a leader for Johnson for a lengthy part of Johnson’s recruitment. Chad Morris led the charge for the Tigers and is now the head football coach of SMU. Another former LSU wide receiver, Trey Quinn, transferred to SMU earlier this offseason to put himself in a spread offense. Johnson is certainly a candidate to follow suit.
Lastly, three alternative options that make a lot of sense include Texas-San Antonio, Kansas and Tulane. Former LSU recruiting coordinator and New Orleans area recruiter Frank Wilson is now the head man at UTSA and could plug Johnson right into the offense. Former Easton head coach Tony Hull is the running backs coach for Kansas and has made a concerted effort to bring notable Louisiana talent with him to Lawrence, Kan. Tulane is another local option for Johnson if the talented wide receiver aims to remain in New Orleans and stay close to his family.
What’s on deck for LSU?
The top of LSU’s wide receiver depth chart is all but set. Dupre, Dural and Chark are the top three wide receivers, with Davis knocking on the door for playing time as a true freshman.
Johnson was also in contention for a fourth or fifth receiver role, but that could be up for grabs.
Consider Davis one of the more probable contenders to sneak in as LSU’s fourth wide receiver. The same goes for sophomore Jazz Ferguson, who at 6-foot-5 and 223 pounds has the frame and hands to be a red-zone weapon.
Anderson flashed signs of being a true vertical threat in the offense during LSU’s spring game in April. Johnson boasted that same skill-set, so perhaps the true freshman could carve out a similar role. Like Ferguson, Sullivan has a 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame that gives him an edge over a majority of SEC defensive backs in jump-ball situations.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.