Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Logan Stokes won't drop ball on Tigers
By Gary Laney
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Logan Stokes wanted to clear up a misconception about him on the eve of his signing with LSU.
"In my first game in junior college, I made catches but I had to learn how to block," said the sophomore at Northeast Mississippi Community College, who will sign with the Tigers on Wednesday morning before having an informal evening ceremony with teammate Nick Thomason. Stokes said Thomason will sign with Louisiana Tech.
Stokes, a converted high school defensive end, is the only player expected to sign with LSU during the junior college signing period today. Quantavius Leslie, a wide receiver committed to LSU, did not graduate from Hinds Junior College and must return to junior college for the spring semester.
Stokes' comment about his natural receiving ability might come as a revelation to many who have looked at Stokes' modest statistics -- he had just 12 catches in his sophomore season -- and his large frame (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) and assume he's in the mold of current LSU starter Chase Clement, a devastating blocker who rarely gets involved in the passing game.
Stokes said there are other reasons for his lack of production as juco receiver.
"We just could not throw the ball," Stokes said. "We had a weak offensive line that couldn't pass-block very well and our quarterbacks struggled some, too."
As for Stokes, he said he caught it just fine.
"Didn't have one drop," he said.
Indeed, that seems to be the book on Stokes from those who actually covered him. Scouts, including ESPN's own scouting report, noted that he had soft hands and looked comfortable catching the ball. He said he is athletic enough to "flex" out to a wide receiver spot.
"I actually caught a lot of my passes this year doing flexed out," he said.
It comes naturally for a player who was tall, and quick for his size. Coming out of high school, he was a rangy and speedy defensive end at Muscle Shoals, Ala., who thought his physical gifts exceeded the offers he was getting from FCS programs.
So he followed Thomason, his best friend and high school teammate, to Northeast Mississppi, with hopes of landing somewhere bigger in two years. There, he found a glut of talented defensive linemen, who influenced his coaches' decision to try him on offense.
"It's worked out well," he said.
LSU could use him next year. He mentioned joining Travis Dickson and Dillon Gordon, two reserves who played minimal roles this year behind Clement, a senior. Also coming in is Desean Smith, a high school recruit who played in a wide-open passing offense that resulted in him being "more like a big receiver" to Stokes.
With Clement gone, there seems to be a chance for an experienced transfer like Stokes to make an immediate impact. With the availability of tight ends who are threats as receivers like Smith and, yes, Stokes, LSU could use tight ends more, perhaps giving defenses matchup problems as they struggle to figure out if they need to defend the tight ends as blockers or look at them as pass-catchers.
As his juco team's identity as a run-first team was established, Stokes said his blocking improved.
"We did a lot of the same stuff LSU does with the run game," he said.
That means, he said, he's now also ready to run-block in the SEC.
But you already knew that. He's here to tell you, as he prepares to sign with the Tigers, don't sleep on him as a pass receiving threat.