In a little more than a year at LSU, wide receiver D.J. Chark has learned a lot.
Outside of his studies, most of it is about football, naturally. But an invaluable lesson in patience also has come in handy for the speedy sophomore from Alexandria.
Because he played in just six games as a freshman and saw limited action, primarily in the nonconference part of LSU’s schedule, Chark’s next catch will be the first of his college career.
But thanks to some guidance from some of his teammates, particularly redshirt junior Travin Dural, last season wasn’t all that bad in Chark’s eyes.
Actually, it wasn’t a huge surprise, considering he was competing for playing time with Dural, redshirt freshman John Diarse and two highly rated freshmen in Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn.
“I felt like it was a learning experience, so it wasn’t all bad,” the soft-spoken Chark said last week. “Coming here, I was eager to play. But after sitting on the sideline, I learned there’s more to the game than just jumping in and playing.”
Now competing to be the second or third receiver behind Dural when LSU opens the season Saturday night against McNeese State, Chark followed a path similar to the one Dural went down as a true freshman in 2012.
That year, and the next, Dural found himself competing with future NFL draft picks Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry — Zach Mettenberger’s go-to guys in the Tigers’ passing game.
“I felt his pain (last season) because I was in that same role,” Dural said. “It’s kind of tough, but you just have to stick it out. One day, you might be that No. 1 guy and it’ll all pay off for you.”
Dural became that guy after Beckham and Landry moved on to the NFL. Dural went on to lead LSU in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season.
As the leader of the receiver corps, Dural took Chark under his wing and extolled the virtues of being patient even when Chark couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
“I kind of tried to shake him up a little bit, you know, keep him focused,” Dural recalled. “He was very young (Chark didn’t turn 18 until after the fourth game of last season) and was kind of doing his own thing.
“He wasn’t putting his all into football, but he kind of grew up and had a great spring.”
So rapid was his ascent that he arguably was the most productive receiver in LSU’s 15 spring practices.
Chark said most of his improvement came from what he learned last fall.
“Watching those guys that came in a little more advanced, they really added to my game than just watching film and practicing,” he said. “I feel that made me better as a player.”
Yet Chark, who’s regarded as one of the fastest players on the team after starring as a sprinter at Alexandria Senior High, couldn’t help but admit he was disappointed when he didn’t see the field often enough as the fifth wideout.
“I’m a competitor, and I wanted to compete against some of the best programs in the nation,” he said. “But seeing now that I became a better play for it, I’m actually grateful. I don’t feel like it was a wasted year.”
Coming off a good spring, Chark, who said he was clocked between 4.38 and 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash a year ago, is eager to see his work pay off.
“I felt like I was able to put myself up in the coaches’ eyes in the spring,” he said. “In fall practice, everyone is building on that, and I feel I give the coaches another option. If (an injury) happens, they can look to other guys.”
McNeese State at LSU
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tiger Stadium
TV: SECN Alternate
Radio: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 870; KLWB-FM, 103.7
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.