They are nameless.
You used to call them tight ends. You used to call them fullbacks.
Now, you don’t know what to call them. Don’t fret. They don’t know even what to call themselves.
Their LSU teammates are confused, too. Who are these guys? What are these guys?
When you put the tight ends and the fullbacks under one umbrella, how do you refer to them? When they play at such wide-ranging locations — attached to the line, split out wide, nestled in the backfield — what do you call them?
Don’t ask them.
“It’s a work in progress,” David Ducre said. “We’re still trying to figure out what to call ourselves.”
LSU’s tight ends and fullbacks were the ingredients that offensive coordinator Matt Canada threw into his pot of boiling water to form a brand new position. He refers to this new position by a single letter and, naturally, it just had to be that letter.
“The Fs,” said Steve Ensminger, LSU’s former tight ends coach who's now in charge of this new position.
The Fs? The Fs.
The F-backs is the longer version of the name, but you’ll hear them referred to in the LSU football facility as “Fs.” No wonder they’re in search of a new name.
“We’re still trying to sort through this identity crisis,” quipped a smiling J.D. Moore.
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Foster Moreau, formerly of the tight end position and now of the Fs, is blunt about it.
“You can just call us,” he said, “the bad asses.”
Dave Aranda introduced a new hybrid position — Buck, the edge-rushing position Arden Key plays — to Baton Rouge last year during installation of his 3-4 scheme. Canada has a hybrid position of his own as part of his misdirection, shift-heavy spread offense.
He calls it the F-back. Others might call it the H-back.
You’ll find an H-back — “H” as in hybrid — in spread offenses across college football. It was traditionally a position that blended the skills of a tight end and fullback, but coaches, like Canada, have expanded the role to include things you might see a running back or receiver do.
Versatility is the key.
“That guy is kind of the freak of the offense because he can do a lot of different things,” Canada said in an interview published on the school’s website last week.
In his offense, the H-back can catch passes, take handoffs and block. They line up at various positions on the field.
Canada’s F-backs can be attached to the line as a second tight end, their hands in the ground. They also stand up at the wing position, about 1 yard off the line of scrimmage just to the outside of the tight end.
They can align as a receiver, most often positioning themselves in what some would call the slot, the interior-most receiver spot off the line of scrimmage. They can also set up in the backfield in a two-back, shotgun formation and, ever-so-rarely, they'll line up in the traditional fullback position, without necessarily following the traditional fullback blocking scheme.
“In one way, we’re a Swiss Army knife,” said Ducre, a junior who ranked as the nation’s No. 1 fullback recruit out of Lakeshore High in 2015. “We could be down (with our) hand in the dirt blocking or in the wing position blocking. We can be in the slot catching passes or we could come from the wing or the hand-down on the line catching passes.”
Players and coach Ed Orgeron insist that there is no fullback in LSU’s new offense, but there is, very much, a tight end. In fact, a scan of Canada’s offenses at Pittsburgh last season reveals his frequent use of one tight end every play.
The traditional tight end — adjacent to the tackle with his hand in the dirt — is referred to in LSU’s offense as the “Y.” It’s been that way for years. All of the Ys, though, are now part of the Fs. Just one of Ensminger’s former Ys continues to only play the traditional tight end position. That’s sophomore Caleb Roddy, Ensminger said in May.
Jacory Washington, Jamal Pettigrew and Moreau can all play both roles — the traditional tight end and the new F position. Moreau and Moore are the leaders of this new-fangled position group. They can each play both roles, but they lean to one or the other — Moreau the tight ends and Moore the Fs.
Ducre is the most hybrid, it appears, of them all. He’s the only F-back on LSU’s roster whose position is listed as a hybrid: FB/TE.
Ducre, at 6-foot, 235 pounds, is made in the mold of Pittsburgh’s George Aston, listed at 6-foot, 240 pounds. Canada heavily used Aston last season in Pitt’s offense in the F-back role. Aston finished with 10 touchdowns, five rushing and five receiving.
He used Aston to exploit defenses, especially in the red zone.
“Gave him some touches, caught some passes, moved him around,” Canada said. “Football is about matchups. If that player can be a personnel issue for them and do multiple things, it helps.”
Aston was a vital part of Pitt’s attack last season, despite his low averages (22 carries for 75 yards and 22 catches for 169). Why? He was an efficient blocker, something obvious in a random selection of 30 plays from Pitt’s offense last season.
He blocked on 60 percent of those snaps, ran routes on seven of the 30 plays and took a handoff on three.
The point: blocking is essential.
The zone and gap blocking schemes that LSU’s used for years hasn’t changed, Ensminger said, but the great amount of pre-snap shifting and motioning is the hurdle for his room of F-backs.
“We move them around a lot more,” Ensminger said. “Our shifts and motions have a lot to do with the tight ends and the F position. There’s a lot more movement, a lot more learning, a lot more shifts and motions, a lot more studying.”
The F-backs and tight ends shift nearly as much as the receivers. Quarterback Danny Etling calls the F-backs the “adjusters” of an offense.
“When you call plays,” he said, “(the F-back) is going to adjust to any formation.”
Aston shifted before the snap on nearly half of those selected 30 plays, moving from the wing position to the slot, from the slot to the wing, from an attached tight end to a wide receiver.
Hence Ensminger’s description for the position of a "moving tight end."
The F position isn’t relegated only to those in Ensminger’s room, Canada said. Running backs, like Derrius Guice, can play the role, and so can receivers. Derrick Dillon, D.J. Chark and Russell Gage play the F position, Chark said.
Moreau recalls a spring practice in which the 178-pound Dillon played the F as a blocker.
“I’ve seen guys go backside (blocking) on zone and cut-off the backside D-end. Got little Derrick Dillon, who’s quick and agile, going up against Arden (Key) on the backside,” Moreau said. “It’s a funny system, but it works really well.”
The main problem with the position: no name.
That’s a real issue toward the end of practices when each position group is breaking its own huddle by shouting its position name. The F-backs tried to merge the two letters, Y and F.
“We don’t really have a break. Running backs slide out on ‘RBU!’ Then wide receivers say, ‘WRTS,’” Moreau said. “We’re kind of, like, (yelled) 'Yeefs!' You know, Y and Fs.”
“He can do better than Yeefs,” said Etling, Moreau’s roommate and a critic of the name.
The name is very much a work in progress.
“We’ll let you know,” Moore said, “when we finalize something.”
On and off the field, Frank Herron looks and feels like a new man.
The day after his 80th birthday, LSU football legend Billy Cannon found out Thursday that th…
- J.D. Moore, Sr.
- Foster Moreau, Jr.
- David Ducre, Jr.
- Caleb Roddy, So.
- Bry Kiethon Mouton, Jr.
- Jacory Washington, Jr.
- Jamal Pettigrew, RFr.
- Thaddeuus Moss, So.*