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Wednesday, January 30, 2013
LSU passing game buoyed with 2013 class

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The last time LSU had anything close to a high-powered passing offense was back in its last national championship season, 2007, with Matt Flynn at quarterback.

Since then, the Tigers have consistently had, at best, mediocre passing numbers, a trend they hope to snap next season in Zach Mettenberger's senior year at quarterback. Whether that happens remains to be seen. One thing that's clear, however, is that the Tigers have invested heavily to try to improve the passing game in the future.

The 2013 class will finish with four receivers, two tight ends and two quarterbacks, nearly a third of the class devoted to an improved ability to pitch and catch.

"It's exciting," said tight end DeSean Smith (Lake Charles, La./Barbe)," the highest-rated of the eight players by ESPN. "When we look at our class, we think we can do a lot with three wide receiver sets and maybe four and we can even get one or two tight ends in as part of that."

Hayden Rettig
Hayden Rettig will compete with Anthony Jennings and Stephen Rivers to replace Zach Mettenberger.
Quarterbacks Hayden Rettig and Anthony Jennings are already on campus as are wide receivers John Diarse and Avery Johnson and junior college transfer tight end Logan Stokes. Also in the class are receivers Quantavius Leslie (another junior college transfer) and Kevin Spears.

Leslie and Stokes are being brought in to meet immediate needs (if Leslie, who has struggled academically, remains eligible). They will try to help Mettenberger get over the hump to be a top-tier SEC quarterback in his final season.

What's intriguing is what this class means for LSU's future. At quarterback LSU has already broken a bit of jinx in the passing game, just with the arrival of Rettig and Jennings, both ESPN 300 prospects. The Tigers have had three quarterback commits in the last three classes not make it to campus. Gunner Kiel's infamous late flip to Notre Dame last year led to LSU taking another 4-star prospect in Jeremy Liggins, who never qualified academically.

In 2010, LSU took Zach Lee, a highly touted prospect who instead chose first-round draft money from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

By breaking the trend and bringing elite quarterbacks to campus to compete with each other -- and sophomore Stephen Rivers -- will mean big things for the future.

By the time one of those players matures into the role, he’ll have a lot to work with.

Start with Smith, the versatile tight end who will give the Tigers their most viable pass-catching threat at the position since Richard Dickson. Spears is the tall receiver the current LSU team lacks, and while Diarse isn't as tall, at 6-foot and just over 200 pounds that recalls a slightly taller Josh Reed.

Johnson is athletic and has a pedigree as the younger brother of Patrick Peterson.

In one class, LSU picked up a combination of pieces it has been lacking for several seasons.

And that doesn't even figure in the bumper class of receivers coming out of Louisiana in 2014. Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Karr), Trey Quinn (a teammate of Smith at Lake Charles/Barbe), Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis) and Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita) will all be highly-regarded prospects next season at receiver. Tight end Jacory Washington (Westlake, La./Westlake) already an LSU commit, compares favorably to Smith.

All five are on the ESPN Watch List.

"We're going to be able to throw the ball," Smith said.

It would certainly appear so.