LSU Tigers: Jazz Ferguson

Editor's note: We broke down LSU's need to improve at quarterback as part of our SEC blog's positional series two weeks ago. This week on the LSU blog, we continue our position-by-position look at the 2015 Tigers.

LSU's growing pains at quarterback made for the biggest storyline in the Tigers' 2014 season, causing similar issues at wide receiver to fly under the radar somewhat.

But if the Tigers are to improve upon their underwhelming passing numbers, it will take more than development from Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris under center. The young receiving corps will have to make big strides as well.

[+] EnlargeLSU's Travin Dural
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty ImagesTravin Dural delivered for LSU's passing game in 2014, but he'll need help from fellow receivers next season.
"I see a lot of guys who can help us produce next year," said Travin Dural, the Tigers' only consistent weapon in the passing game last fall. "We're going to be a little deep receiving corps next year and we're going to be more mature than we were this year. Everyone's going to have that game experience, so we can't really say no one knows what it feels like to play in this game or play in that game. That's going to be something we've done before and we're going to know how to handle these situations."

Perhaps that was the biggest issue for the Tigers from a receiving standpoint. Star freshman signees Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn were playing big roles in their first SEC season. Same for redshirt freshman John Diarse, who was in line to play in 2013 before a season-ending injury.

Even Dural was playing a much bigger role, taking over as the Tigers' go-to target once Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry jumped to the NFL after standout junior seasons in 2013. But Dural largely delivered, leading the team with 37 catches for 758 yards and seven touchdowns.

Considering that the Tigers passed for just 2,118 yards all season, Dural needs assistance from his fellow receivers -- and stronger play from his quarterback -- if the passing game is to improve in 2015.

The good news is that Jennings said he witnessed signs of growth throughout the season from some of the others.

"John Diarse is getting better, Trey Quinn is getting better," Jennings said. "All those guys that we're going to need in the offense are getting better each and every day. I think those guys are going to be a force to be reckoned with."

Same for Dupre, ESPN's No. 1 wideout prospect in 2014, who was second on the team with 318 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He will be a key figure if the Tigers' passing production increases, as his 6-foot-3 frame makes Dupre a potential target for downfield throws and jump balls at the goal line.

However, fans should also keep an eye on another 2014 freshman, Dural said. D.J. Chark did not record a reception in six games, but Dural said he was impressive in practice and could be next in line to claim a bigger role in the position rotation.

"He's a guy who can help us stretch the defense out because he's a guy who runs 4.4., 4.3. He runs real fast and is long and athletic and can really jump," Dural said. "So coming into spring, if he has a good spring, he can be a guy who can really help us out next year."

The Tigers could use the help. If Jennings or Harris don't get it together between now and September, the receivers' improvement might not matter much. But assuming the Tigers put the ball in the air more than they did last fall -- and they almost certainly will after only 11 FBS programs averaged fewer passing yards per game than LSU in 2014 -- those still-developing quarterbacks need a more consistent effort from their receivers this fall.

After learning on the job last season, the group could be in for a season of major growth.

BREAKDOWN

Returning players: Travin Dural (37 catches, 758 yards, 7 TDs), Trey Quinn (17-193), John Diarse (15-275, 3 TDs), Malachi Dupre (14-318, 5 TDs), D.J. Chark (no catches), Avery Peterson (no catches), Kevin Spears (no catches), Tony Upchurch (redshirted).

Departed players: Quantavius Leslie (no catches).

Committed prospects: Tyron Johnson (No. 3 WR, No. 30 overall on ESPN 300, four stars), Jazz Ferguson (No. 52 WR, four stars). ESPN lists verbal commit Lanard Fournette as a running back (No. 100 RB, three stars), but he could play receiver in college.

Outlook: The Tigers return every significant contributor from a year ago, plus they will add Johnson, who has the ability to play immediately. Dural is the veteran of the bunch after a breakthrough redshirt sophomore season, but Diarse, Dupre and Quinn all got valuable experience as freshmen in 2014. It will be interesting during spring practice to see whether any of the youngsters who didn't play much last fall will begin to make a move.
When he was first hired, Les Miles said one of the key ingredients for success at LSU was to win the local recruiting battles. Through the years, Miles has done a masterful job of doing just that. But in the past few classes, some LSU fans have complained after watching highly-ranked prospects such as Landon Collins, Tim Williams, Cameron Robinson, Laurence Jones and Speedy Noil end up at Alabama or Texas A&M.

Never mind that the Tigers landed Leonard Fournette, the nation’s No. 1 player in 2014, and five of the top 10 Louisiana players in both 2013 and 2014. All fans wanted to focus on were the setbacks. They shouldn’t.

LSU and Miles continue to be the kings of The Pelican State and continued to prove it Wednesday with the additions of two local ESPN Junior 300 prospects. The Tigers added pledges from St. Francisville (La.) West Feliciana four-star receiver Jazz Ferguson and Mandeville (La.) Lakeshore four-star running back David Ducre.

2015 ESPN 300 targets: LSU 

July, 16, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- With the release of the the ESPN 300 for 2015, it's easy to see that while LSU won't have quite as much access to local, high-end prospects as it does in the 2014 cycle. However, the Tigers can still put together an elite recruiting class with the bulk of its players coming from Louisiana. Here's an early look at who might be LSU's top targets.

Kevin Toliver
Derek Tyson/ESPNKevin Toliver, the brother of former LSU receiver Terrence Toliver, has the look of a prototype cornerback.
1. CB Kevin Toliver II (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian)
6-foot-1, 183 pounds
ESPN 300 rank: 2

A cousin of former LSU wide receiversChris Toliver and LSU's first commitment in the 2015 class, Kevin is ideal for just the opposite role his cousin played. At 6-1, with long arms, fluid hips and exceptional speed, Toliver has the skill set to possibly be the most talented LSU cornerback prospect since Patrick Peterson, which is saying something considering the enormous talents the Tigers annually attract to the position.


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Tales From the Road: LSU 

June, 5, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Home-field advantage is supposed to go to the local team.

But at the Columbus, Ohio Elite 11 on Saturday, it was advantage LSU.

LSU head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had sons participating at the Elite 11, which gave them a loophole and allowed them to attend the event. The Elite 11 normally allows parents but prohibits college coaches from attending.


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BATON ROUGE, La. -- One thing you can say about the track performances of Louisiana's top prospects in football this season is: Well, they had good football seasons.

The Louisiana state high school track and field meet at LSU's Bernie Moore Stadium wasn't kind to many of the state's top football players, who struggled with either injuries or "off" weekends.

The big exception was Malachi Dupre, who swept the Class 2A jump events -- the long jump, triple jump and high jump -- and was named outstanding field performer. He was joined by several players off the Patriots football team who dominated the 2A meet.

For others, it was a painful weekend. The nation's top Class of 2014 football prospect, Leonard Fournette, had to withdraw from several events after pulling up injured in the Class 4A 4x200 relay. Jeryl Brazil won the 3A 100, but pulled up injured in the 200.

Here are the Louisiana football prospects who placed in the Louisiana state meet:

Long jump: Donald Gage (Houston signee), Zachary, 24-1 3/4 (5A champion); Speedy Noil, Karr, 23-6 (third in 4A); Malachi Dupre, River Ridge John Curtis, 23-5 3/4 (2A champion); D'Vante Dotson, Baton Rouge University, 22-6 1/4 (Second in 2A); Jazz Ferguson, Bains West Feliciana, 21-81/2 (fifth in 3A)

Triple jump: Dupre, 44-2 1/4 (2A champion)

High jump: Dupre, 6-6 (2A champion)

Shot put: Anthony Taylor (Tulane signee), River Ridge John Curtis, 60-4 (2A champion); David Elias (UL-Monroe signee), Geismar Dutchtown, 56-10 1/4 (5A champion); Eric Thomas (Tulane signee), River Ridge John Curtis, 56-0 (third in 2A); Hakim Gray, 54-6 (Louisiana Tech signee), North DeSoto, 54-6 (3A champion); Darian Claiborne (Texas A&M signee), Port Allen, 52-11 1/4 (third in 3A); RaeJuan Marbley, Destrehan, 50-8 1/4 (fifth in 5A)

Discus: Anthony Taylor (Tulane signee), River Ridge John Curtis, 16-1 (2A champion); Duke Riley (LSU signee), River Ridge John Curtis, 150-8 (Second in 2A)

Javelin: Darian Claiborne (Texas A&M signee), Port Allen, 180-0 (second in 3A)

100: Sherman Badie (Tulane signee), River Ridge John Curtis, 10.59 (second in 2A); Richard Allen (Tulane signee), River Ridge John Curtis, 10.63 (third in 2A); Jeryl Brazil (LSU signee), Loranger, 10.64 (3A champion); Rashid Bonnette, Loreauville, 10.92 (fourth in 2A)

200: Richard Allen (Tulane signee), River Ridge John Curtis, 21.76 (second in 2A); Terrence Alexander, River Ridge John Curtis, 21.92 (third in 2A); D'Vante Dotson, Baton Rouge University, 22.56 (fifth in 2A); Eugene Brazley (Ole Miss signee), New Orleans Carver, 22.64 (sixth in 2A)

110 high hurdles: Duke Riley (LSU signee), River Ridge John Curtis, 14.70 (second in 2A)

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