What began as an unusually intense father-son game of pitch-and-catch has landed DeSean Smith into a good chance for playing time at tight end for LSU. Those long-ago lessons, however, won’t be the deciding factor in how much action Smith sees in the offense as a true freshman out of Barbe High School. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 9:50 PM
What began as an unusually intense father-son game of pitch-and-catch has landed DeSean Smith into a good chance for playing time at tight end for LSU.
Those long-ago lessons, however, won’t be the deciding factor in how much action Smith sees in the offense as a true freshman out of Barbe High School.
“Oh, I know what I’ve got to do,” Smith said after his first week of formal college workouts. “Here, it’s going to be my blocking.”
Smith, one of the nation’s top recruits at his position, was listed as a tight end in the pass-happy Barbe offense, which reached the Class 5A state finals last December. LSU recognizes tight end as a bona fide position. And that’s about the only thing the two offenses have in common.
The tight end hasn’t been an integral part of the Tigers’ passing game, really, since the 2007 national championship season with Richard Dickson.
Smith may force them to rethink that position under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. It probably wasn’t by choice anyway that Tiger tight ends have been lonely ends in the pass attack of late.
Cameron brings more of a pro-style mentality, which sees the position as a vital weapon.
Smith could be that guy, even as a freshman, even starting behind three veterans on the depth chart — junior Travis Dickson, sophomore Dillon Gordon and junior college transfer Logan Stokes. Head coach Les Miles has never been hesitant about putting a true freshman on the field if the player has something to add.
But, bottom line, LSU tight ends are going to have to block.
Asked if he did much of that grunt work in high school, Smith was matter of fact and honest.
“I did not,” he said. “I was mostly flexed out a lot, sort of like the Clemson offense. Here, it’s definitely more blocking, but now that Coach Cam is here, we’re split out some more also.”
Smith should flourish in that formation. Although he obviously has never played a college game, he almost surely has the best hands among the LSU tight ends. He might well have the best pure pass-catching hands on the entire team.
“My blocking is so much better just in the last week, just with working with these guys,” he said. “The veterans have helped me so much.
“I see myself as already a great receiving-type tight end. My goal is getting better at my hand placement, my pad level, my drive steps … the blocking.”
The hands, last seen snagging two touchdown passes Barbe’s state championship appearance, are college-ready.
It began when he was little more than a toddler, playing catch in the front yard with his dad, Gary.
Even when it was just a small sponge ball, Smith said, there were strict rules. If he caught the ball with his chest, instead of his hands, dad would walk inside, game over.
“He said he’d be back when I was ready to catch the ball with my hands,” Smith laughed. “He’d come back out and I’d stick my hands up and say ‘Yeah, throw it. I’ll drop it but you want me to keep doing it and doing it.’ ”
By the time they worked up to a regulation football, he’d quit dropping them.
“It got to the point where it was natural,” Smith said. “That helped me so much. Just from those days I just started catching everything with my hands — everything, unless I have to drop down to my knees and make a certain catch.”
Smith has gained 14 pounds since his final year at Barbe and is battling for a spot now at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds.
“It’s going great so far,” he said. “It can get overwhelming at times, but as of now, its so much better than those first two or three days.
“Coming from high school to college, it’s a big difference.”