By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
D.J. Chark went down in Saturday’s scrimmage, leading everyone present, in all likelihood, to hold their collective breath.
Luckily, Chark had only briefly lost his, getting the wind knocked out of him.
Still, there was more reason for optimism for LSU’s emerging class of playmakers behind the likes of Chark and Derrius Guice, the team’s known quantities on offense. Should one of the proven duo go down with something more substantial than a shot to the solar plexus, there is a rising cadre of names Orgeron is comfortable calling on this fall.
Chief among them, of course, is No. 2 running back Darrel Williams, who rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries, with a pair of touchdowns. Pinch hitting for Guice, who took the scrimmage’s first handoff 60 yards for a score and finished with 102 yards on nine carries, Williams was “a dominant football player out there today,” in Orgeron’s words.
He wasn’t the only one to catch Coach O’s eye. Nick Brossette carried 13 times for 52 yards. The Baton Rouge native has battled injury issues through his first two seasons, and with Guice and Leonard Fournette handling the bulk of the work the last two years, there’s been little work for him in the backfield, rushing just 27 times for 210 yards since 2015. But Orgeron is confident he’ll deliver if called upon.
“There’s a loaded backfield back there, man,” said Orgeron. “Nick has shown us today he’s a running back that, if we called his name at LSU, I’ve got no problem putting him in the game. He’s going to do a great job for us.”
Others are setting themselves apart at wide receiver, including someone who won’t see the field for LSU in 2017 – or any time in the future. Newly-hired consultant Jerry Sullivan, a long-time NFL wideouts coach whose latest stops include the San Francisco 49ers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, has been working with wide receiver coach Mickey Joseph relentlessly, says Orgeron, and that work is paying off.
“I’ve seen a difference in our receivers,” Orgeron said. “Jerry is known as one of the best receiver coaches in the game. He has worked day and night with us, only with the coaches, and gotten our coaches better. Mickey is implementing some drills I’ve never seen as far as the wide receiver position, and I can tell our wide receivers are getting better.”
Orgeron said Chark, who finished with three catches for 52 yards, Russell Gage, and Derrick Dillon “have separated themselves, as far as consistency” at the position. Orgeron noted Dillon’s consistency throughout camp after the redshirt sophomore matched Chark with 52 receiving yards on two receptions Saturday.
Sophomore Stephen Sullivan is “coming on strong,” freshmen JaCoby Stevens and Mannie Netherly – who Orgeron said capped off his best week of practice with a 60 yard touchdown in Saturday’s scrimmage – are “coming along,” while Racey McMath and Dee Anderson have been sidelined with injuries, though McMath is expected back soon. The latest enrollee on the team, freshman Justin Jefferson, has a chance to make an impact this season, too, Orgeron said.
One player Orgeron singled out was Drake Davis, who entered camp with a chance to grab a starting spot but seems to be still working on the finer aspects of the game. Davis, who once quit football for a season to play soccer, has been working at both returner spots, but remains behind at least Gage, Dillon, and Chark on the wide receiver depth chart.
“Drake Davis is a premier athlete and is one day going to be a great player,” Orgeron said. “You know, he didn’t play football most of his life. He’s still learning the game. As soon as he learns it, he’s got the chance to be a very, very good player.”