Smith adds TE versatility to LSU attack

At Lake Charles, La.'s Barbe High School, playing tight end doesn't mean lining up next to a tackle and blocking all the time.

It means playing wide out on some plays, going deep for passes from quarterback Kennon Fontenot, and working in concert with Bucs 2014 receiving prospect Trey Quinn to wreak havoc on secondaries.

So it was much to the delight of DeSean Smith, Barbe's tight end ranked No. 143 in the ESPN 150, to see LSU air it out with quarterback Zach Mettenberger at the spring game March 31. It wasn't the grind-it-out Tigers of the 2011. It was an LSU offense he could see himself fitting into.

"It made me smile," said Smith, who caught 43 passes for 764 yards and and seven touchdowns last season for the Bucs.

On Monday, Smith made LSU coach Les Miles smile when he became the 18th player to commit to the Tigers for the Class of 2013.

His multi-talented skill set gives the Tigers the kind of tight end it might lack this season after the departure of DeAngelo Peterson from last year's team. He's one of two tight ends in the class along with junior college transfer Logan Stokes, allowing LSU to fill a need area with the impending departure of senior starter Chase Clement.

Peterson, now an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams, came to LSU as a big wide receiver who was moved to tight end, where he presented defenses with both a blocking and receiving threat. While one might say Smith is, unlike Peterson, a true tight end, that doesn't mean he doesn't bring Peterson-like versatility.

Big and with good speed and hands, Smith is physical enough to be a factor as a receiver in short yardage situations and fast enough to get up the seam against a safety. He's also no stranger to blocking, so he's no wide-receiver-in-tight-end's clothing.

That versatility made him a hot prospect. He had a long list of suitors with offers from eight of the SEC's 14 members, including powers Alabama, Auburn and Florida. As recently as Sunday he expressed interest in Florida, saying the Gators were "in it real big."

But the truth was, LSU felt like home to him. Many could see it in his face when he talked about who was recruiting him. And Smith saw it on March 31 when Mettenberger threw darts and bombs all over Tiger Stadium to the delight of the crowd in the stands and, most notably, a tall, slender prospect from Lake Charles who was watching on the sideline as an invited recruit.

"They showed me a lot that day," he said.

He originally was set to announce his choice in January at the U.S. Army All-American Game. But the more he thought about it, the more he knew he didn't need to wait that long. He knew what he wanted.

"I thought about it for over a month," he said. "I was ready to get it over with."