Before the season began, hype surrounded LSU’s talented young group of receivers.
Now, that hype has been replaced with questions.
Sophomore receiver Travin Dural has cemented himself as LSU’s go-to receiver, and sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings targets him unevenly with the Tigers’ other marquee receivers.
With 37 receptions for 758 yards, Dural has more yards than the 710 yards that freshmen receivers Malachi Dupre, John Diarse and Trey Quinn have combined.
“Travin [Dural] is a big time receiver,” Jennings said. “He gets open a ton of the time, and obviously I’m looking for him.”
With the depth and talent in the receiving corps, many have began to wonder why the ball hasn’t been spread more evenly among LSU’s skilled receivers.
“A mix of things are hurting the passing game this year,” Jennings said. “I take it upon myself to get that fixed and make better decisions with the football and putting the ball where it needs to be. It’s more on me than anyone else.”
Dural has seven of the Tigers’ 14 touchdowns scored by receivers, while Dupre and Diarse combine for the other seven.
“I don’t think the other receivers are taking it the wrong way. I feel like those guys still come out and have great practices and work hard,” Dural said. “I don’t see anyone complaining or getting mad on the sideline. I’d say they’re handling it pretty well.”
Last season, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. combined for 2,345 yards on 136 receptions and 18 touchdowns. The other two main receivers, Dural and Kadron Boone, each had seven catches for 145 yards and 129 yards, respectively.
“You just have to understand your role on the team. When you’re hot, you’re hot and when you’re not, you’re not,” Diarse said. “Everybody does their part to get everybody else open. We just have to keep playing as a team.”
There not only has been a lack of production but also a lack of passes as a whole. With Zach Mettenberger at the helm in 2013, LSU completed 205 passes. Through 12 games this season, the Tigers have only completed 131.
Jennings said he thinks part of the lack of production is due to teams shutting down Dural progressively more as the season has gone on.
“Early in the season, teams didn’t know how big of a weapon Travin would be,” Jennings said. “And they’ve been double covering him and getting their best guys on him since. So we have to find ways to move the ball.”
Dural, however, said he believes it is just because the receivers have not lived up to their potential.
“The double teams aren’t affecting me,” Dural said. “I just haven’t been playing my best.”
The tight ends were also expected to be contributors to the offense this year but have combined for only 8 receptions and 63 yards as a unit. Only two tight ends, seniors Travis Dickson and Logan Stokes, have touched the ball this season.
The lack of the utilization of tight ends is a stark contrast from last season. Dickson, junior Dillon Gordon and sophomore DeSean Smith collectively caught 12 passes for 211 yards. From 2013 to 2014, production at the tight-end position dropped by more than 70 percent.
“It can be a little frustrating. Coming from all of the passes thrown to me in high school to now, it can be a bit tough,” Smith said. “We just have to stick together and play to get the win. I’m waiting on my opportunity, and if it gets thrown to me I’ll make the best of it.”
Michael Haarala can be reached on Twitter @haarala_TDR.