It’s team picture day at Tiger Stadium and David Ducre isn’t quite sure where he’s supposed to stand once players begin splintering off to pose as position groups.
The senior moved to running back this spring as LSU weighed all options for life after Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams. Before that he was an H-back in Matt Canada’s offense, a position that doesn’t really exist anymore at LSU.
He’d worked with the tight ends the few days prior, but fullback still felt like home. It’s the position that made him a star and a No. 1 recruit coming out of Lakeshore High in Slidell, even if he’d only see sporadic playing time there during his first three seasons at LSU.
So Ducre decides to stand with Tory Carter, Trey Gallman and Matt Brock, aptly nicknamed the fullback gang, per a tweet from Carter. This led to a bit of friendly controversy when Ducre returned to the tight ends room for their pre-practice meeting.
“I caught some grief from those guys,” Ducre says. “I guess I’m a tight end now.”
Ducre may always be a fullback at heart, but he recognizes the opportunity that comes with his recent shift to tight end and is doing everything he can to run with it.
His career at LSU has seen a little bit of everything, and the move to tight end could be his chance to grab a role all his own before moving on to whatever’s next. Ducre could’ve transferred anywhere upon graduating from LSU in May, but instead chose to stick around and pursue a master’s degree.
“I was excited to have an opportunity, so anything they wanted from me I was willing to do,” Ducre says. “So when they told me they had an opportunity to do something for me I was excited.”
It started, like so many fall camp experiments do, with injuries.
Tight end Jamal Pettigrew was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury during summer workouts. Thaddeus Moss and Jacory Washington have been in and out of practice with minor injuries, creating a need for more able-bodied athletes at the position.
LSU first tried 6-foot-7 receiver Stephen Sullivan as its fill-in tight end, but LSU coach Ed Orgeron said it was quite apparent that Sullivan wanted to go back to receiver. He had the ideal size for the position but was better suited to play out wide.
Ducre was the next man up. He arrived to the running backs meeting on the day before LSU’s first preseason game only to be told he didn’t belong there anymore. That’s when Steve Ensminger approached him about giving tight end a try.
“I’ve always been a smart kid. I’ve always known the whole offense,” Ducre says. “Even when I was younger, I always knew what everybody was doing. Even if I had to make a move, mentally it wouldn’t have been that different. I don’t mind moving. Now is my chance, so it is what it is.”
Given a day to prepare, Ducre feverishly scribbled down notes throughout the tight end meeting, practiced that afternoon and jumped into the live scrimmage.
At 6-feet tall and 230 pounds, Ducre isn’t exactly built like your prototypical tight end. At one point in the scrimmage he was asked to block 6-foot-8 defensive end Dare Rosenthal, who outweighs him by about 100 pounds, but teammates remark at the way Ducre uses his shorter stature to his advantage in the run game.
“He’s gritty. He’s scrappy,” Foster Moreau says. “Run blocking, he’s a smaller guy so he has really good pad level already coming off the blocks. He has really good footwork. Like you can tell he’s worked his footwork for years, so that kind of translates over nicely. And obviously he’s got wheels. The guy can run. He runs really good routes and can catch the ball.
“I feel like calling him versatile is disrespectful. Dude can really do anything.”
There’s aspects of playing tight end that Ducre is still adjusting too, obviously, but he’s apparently athletic, tough and smart enough to have a real shot at sticking at the position.
Ensminger said this summer that 12 personnel (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB) would be among his go-to packages and that he expected versatility from his old position group. Ducre has suddenly thrown himself into the mix to see time alongside Moreau when LSU deploys 12 or 21 (2 WR, 1 TE, 2 RB) personnel.
Run blocking is certainly the biggest learning curve. Tight ends line up across from who they’re going to block and have to win with leverage and hand placement, which is more like an offensive lineman than a fullback.
“You have to dig them out, pretty much,” Ducre says. “From fullback, most of the time you have a full head of steam, square people up and just run through them.”
The pass catching part of the game has come far more naturally to the converted fullback than one might expect.
Ducre mostly ran flat patterns to this point in his college career — he’s totaled two catches for two yards in three seasons — but he was a gifted receiver in high school. He played in the slot when Lakeshore spread the field, and that experience seems to be helping him now.
Those skills were apparently on display in LSU’s second scrimmage of the fall. Ducre caught two passes, according to Moreau, to convert a pair of first downs. One even came in the two-minute drill, a testament to how quickly Ducre has adjusted on the fly to his new position.
“I have great hands,” Ducre smiles. “I don’t want to boost, but I’d say I’m top five (on the team). I’m definitely top five. Among tight ends I’m No. 1. I lead the room in catches right now. I’ve only been here for a week and some change and I lead the room in catches. But don’t tell Foster that.”
Moreau called out to Ducre repeatedly while his fellow senior did the first media session of his LSU career. He chided Ducre to not be shy in telling reporters what a strong scrimmage he’d had two days before.
The two Louisiana natives arrived at LSU together as members of the 2015 signing class, and LSU’s honorary No. 18 is clearly in No. 41’s corner as the newly-minted tight end strives to make the most of his senior year.
“David is a good guy. He’s deserving,” Moreau says. “He’s been a running back here. He’s been a fullback here. He’s been a Matt Canada H-back here. He can line up outside and run the 9-route. Guy just does a really good job and he’s always accepted his role in the offense. When times have gotten tough, he’s never complained. He just keeps his head down and keeps working hard. I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and hopefully he finds a good place.”