At several points last season, Stephen Sullivan thought seriously about moving from receiver to defensive end.
Position moves in football are not rare.
Defensive linemen sometimes swap to the offensive line, and linebackers might transition into the offensive backfield. One of the most common position moves is receiver-to-defensive back or defensive back-to-receiver.
Wideout to pass-rushing D-end? That’s a new one.
“Last year, I was having real thoughts of going because I wasn’t getting no playing time,” Sullivan said in an interview last month. “I was really thinking about it, but I had to realize that I had some vets in front of me, some older guys. I just got to wait my time.”
Maybe, it’s here.
Sullivan caught his first-ever pass Saturday in LSU’s 45-10 win over Chattanooga, a 46-yard highlight reel catch from a guy with, arguably, a defensive end-type frame. He used that 6-foot-6, 235-pound body to muscle his way between a safety and cornerback, plucking the ball out of the air reminiscent of his days in high school.
Sullivan, a sophomore who played sparingly last season, developed into the state’s top-ranked receiver and seventh-ranked wideout nationally, according to Scout.com, at Donaldsonville High.
He was known most for consistently out-leaping his competition for jump balls.
“That’s all I was doing at Donaldsonville, jump balls,” said Sullivan, whose first name is pronounced STEF-ON. “Our strength coach (at LSU) improved me trying to use my body (this year).”
He did it Saturday, leaping up for a somewhat underthrown ball from Etling.
“I ran a post. I think DJ (Chark) came across in motion and ran an out,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t think (Etling) was going to hit me. The safety bailed and corner came to me. He came to me and I had to bail him out of the play. That’s what I did."
LSU’s wide receivers didn’t have much experience coming into this season.
His frame is something that caught the eye of now-head coach and then-defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. Last spring practice, Orgeron gestured to a reporter during one day of drills, pointing to Sullivan and suggesting that he’d make a strong defensive end.
It became somewhat of a running joke between Orgeron and Sullivan.
“Coach O always talks about me coming to D-end,” Sullivan said. “He used to scream across the field, ‘Look at that D-end right there!’”
He began giving it serious thought as he struggled to get into LSU’s receiver rotation, buried on the depth chart behind Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural, Chark, Jazz Ferguson, Russell Gage and Dee Anderson.
Dupre, Dural and Ferguson all left after last season, and Anderson has battled injuries this fall, Orgeron said. It’s left Sullivan there to serve as a third or fourth option at wideout.
Danny Etling’s first fake handoff was good.
There are growing pains. He still hasn't completely learned two of the three receiver positions (Z and F) in Matt Canada's offense, and he dropped a sure touchdown late Saturday on a slant pass from freshman quarterback Myles Brennan late in the game.
He caught the one he needed to jump for. That’s what he’s best at. Sullivan played basketball and participated in track as a high jumper.
Jumping, he says, “that’s all I really did in high school to be honest.”
Now he’s doing it in college.
“I just had to go get it, had to go high point,” Sullivan said of that 46-yarder. “Couldn’t wait for it to fall into my hands.”
On its first two drives of Saturday night’s game against LSU, Chattanooga managed to do what…