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Friday, March 22, 2013
LSU TEs excited by Cameron offense

By Gary Laney

DeSean Smith
2013 TE DeSean Smith is expected to perform well in LSU's new offense.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- When LSU hired Cam Cameron as its new offensive coordinator, tight end Travis Dickson had reason to be excited.

Cameron's reputation for using tight ends in the passing offense preceded him.

"I heard, then I looked into it myself," Dickson said. "And once I saw (the offense) my mind was blown. I couldn't wait to start spring (practice)."

Cameron's offense did, indeed, employ tight ends more in the passing game, not so much because Cameron has a particular infinity for the position where he has enjoyed coaching talent like Antonio Gates and Dennis Pitta, Dickson said. He said it's because Cameron is position agnostic and will cater the offense to its strengths.

"Doing drills, tight ends are equally involved in the receiving game as the receivers, running backs or anybody else," Dickson said. "The ball is going to be in the air a lot more."

More passes wouldn't be a shock in and of itself, but not many would see a dramatic increase in the use of tight ends coming.

LSU tight ends managed just 16 receptions a season ago. Dickson, who led the tight ends with six catches (five in one game), is the only returning tight end who has caught a pass. He hopes to be the next prolific receiving tight end in a program that has not had a 20-catch tight end since his brother, Richard, was LSU's star in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

He's joined in the tight end group by Dillon Gordon, a sophomore who was used mostly for blocking and on special teams a year ago. Junior college transfer Logan Stokes rounds out the trio.

"The few, the proud, the tight ends, that's what they call us," Dickson said.

"Dillon is going to be a great blocker," he said. "Not many people see it, but he's just as much a receiving threat as anybody else. Logan, he kind of looks young right now, even though he's out of juco. But once he gets the game speed up to pace, he'll be as good as anybody else."

Conventional wisdom says LSU won't have its next major receiving threat at tight end until 2013 recruit DeSean Smith arrives in the summer. An ESPN 150 prospect, Smith played in a prolific passing offense in high school. Another recruit, Class of 2014 commit Jacory Washington, is also considered a hybrid receiving threat.

Until they arrive, Dickson looks on paper like the best receiving threat, though he's working hard to avoid having that become what he's remembered for. While Gordon, who played in a veer offense in high school, and Stokes, who played in a run-oriented junior college offense, hope to prove their value in the passing game, Dickson is working to shed the one-dimensional "receiving" tight end label by adding about 10 pounds to his frame.

The extra weight might get him more snaps as a tight end, but even if he's LSU's best tight end option, it won't mean he'll be a primary pass-receiver.

The desire in Cameron's offense is to create a mismatch between receiver and defender. That could mean a wide receiver against a weak corner or, Dickson noted, it could mean a tight end's number gets called.

"Coach Cam is going to have his five best (skill) players on the field," he said. "Whether it's five receivers, five running backs or, in our case, three tight ends, right now."

And how the tight ends are lined up and utilized might vary as well. Dickson said his position is "on the same page" as fullbacks. He said either position can end up lined up in the backfield or possibly split out on the wing."

He said the offensive players are embracing the new offense.

"The receivers, the running backs, the tight ends, we're all just as involved," he said. "It's a fast-paced, fun, new offense. We all love it."

Nobody more than the tight ends.