Only a few players remained in the indoor practice facility the Tuesday before LSU’s season opener against Wisconsin.
Among them were sophomore tight end DeSean Smith and redshirt freshman wideout John Diarse, both who intend to be key receiving options in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s scheme this season.
Diarse ran 5 yards toward the end zone, stopped, then cut to the middle of the field. He was putting some finishing touches on his route-running long after most of his teammates had ended practice.
Only a year before, a former LSU receiver had the same post-practice mentality, making one-handed catches as footballs were fired in his direction off the JUGS machine. That former Tiger, Jarvis Landry, is now with the Dolphins.
Some say Diarse reminds them of their old teammate.
“He’s our Jarvis,” redshirt freshman receiver Avery Peterson said.
Replacing two 1,000-yard receivers was an obstacle coach Les Miles had to endure early: Odell Beckham Jr. and Landry combined to have the most prolific receiving season in LSU history in 2013 before being taken in the first and second rounds of the NFL draft.
That being said, Landry’s legacy didn’t end when he hung up his purple and gold No. 80 jersey for good.
Landry was Diarse’s main teacher last season, and Peterson said he sees Landry in his current teammate, noticing Diarse even runs routes just like his former teacher.
Diarse and Landry still text on occasion, even with Landry playing for Miami during the preseason.
Just being compared to his former teammate was an honor, Diarse said. He still carries several of the lessons Landry taught him.
“Just take in all information, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams,” Diarse said. “And just finish everything you do. Work toward being legendary, and that’s one of the things he was always focused on.”
With the current build of the Tigers receiving corps, Diarse could mold into the position Landry used to fill.
With sophomore Travin Dural and senior Quantavius Leslie expected to be two deep threats in Cameron’s offense, finding a reliable possession receiver like Landry became a top priority in fall camp.
Diarse emerged as an early favorite to work in the slot position, a spot that will be critical with two young quarterbacks at the helm to open the season.
Dural said Diarse turned heads over the summer with his improved hands and speed, and Diarse was often a primary target during third-down drills. Diarse said if he’s called upon to be a possession receiver to move the chains, he’d happily embrace it.
Besides his ball skills, though, one other factor has played into the Monroe native’s progression into a slot receiver.
“He’s a big body,” Dural said. “Besides Tony (Upchurch), he’s one of the biggest receivers we have. He can go across the middle and take those licks without a problem. It’s like having a tight end who can really run.”
Weighing in at 210 pounds, Diarse is the second-heaviest receiver on the corps.
With that, he’s also one of the oldest, even as a redshirt freshman.
Like Dural, Diarse has been thrown into a leadership role with 10 underclassman receivers on the roster. Diarse said being a mentor to the program’s rookies hasn’t added any pressure, though the newcomers haven’t been afraid to ask for his advice.
He did learn from Landry, after all.
“(John is) a great student of the game, and he knows every position,” Peterson said. “He knows it all. If we forget something or we don’t know something, we go get John. John knows everything.”
And just like Landry, Diarse said he’ll do whatever Miles asks of him when the Tigers battle the Badgers in Houston on Saturday. He said he’ll fill any role, whether that’s as an outside wideout, a slot receiver or a gunner on special teams.
“I just have to play to my strengths and just play ball,” Diarse said. “You have to just let your personality shine and do your thing.”