BATON ROUGE, La. – With spring practice approaching in just over two weeks, we're looking this week at LSU players who could use a solid spring in order to garner playing time in the fall.
Yesterday's subject was safety freshman Edward Paris Jr., one of two early enrollees who arrived last month. Today we look at one of the few veterans in a rebuilding receiving corps.
Quantavius Leslie (Wide receiver, Sr.)
2013 review: The junior-college transfer -- the No. 29 overall prospect on the ESPN JC 100 and No. 9 wideout -- arrived last summer hoping to become the big (6-foot-4) deep threat who would open the middle of the field for established receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. Leslie failed to live up to that preseason hype, however, playing in just four games and catching one pass for 11 yards in the Tigers' blowout win against UAB. Landry and Beckham, meanwhile, combined for 2,345 receiving yards before entering the NFL draft after the season.
Why spring is important: Behind Landry and Beckham, the Tigers' leading wideout was Travin Dural, who recorded just seven catches for 145 yards. With four of LSU's top five receivers (in terms of receiving yardage) leaving the roster, this spring is an enormous opportunity for returning players such as Dural and Leslie. Dural made a couple of huge touchdown catches last season, so his role seems more secure. Leslie simply hasn't proven himself yet, and with perhaps the nation's top group of receiving signees -- led by ESPN's No. 1 and 3 wideout prospects in Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn -- set to arrive this summer, now is the time for Leslie to prove he can handle an expanded role.
Best case/worst case: It's not unusual for a junior-college transfer to struggle in his first season with a four-year program before blossoming in Year 2. Perhaps that is what will happen this season with Leslie, particularly now that the most established players at his position have left the roster. He possesses a combination of size and speed which could make him an enticing pass target for whoever wins the Tigers' quarterback job, so a consistent spring could be his springboard to a productive fall. Leslie is a major wild card, considering how he was largely a non-entity in the 2013 passing game after arriving on campus to generous hype. His worst-case scenario would essentially be a repeat of last season, struggling to crack the rotation and watching as other wideouts account for the bulk of the production. It was understandable last fall considering how dynamic the Landry-Beckham combination became, but Leslie failing to emerge this season would be disappointing.