ORLANDO, Fla. — LSU receiver Malachi Dupre showcased his talent Saturday in the Citrus Bowl. Whether he’ll take that ability to the professional level this year remains a mystery.
Dupre, a junior from New Orleans, rolled up a career-high 139 yards on seven catches in the No. 19 Tigers’ 29-9 win over No. 15 Louisville on Saturday in the Citrus Bowl.
Six of his seven grabs came in a scorching first half, and one of them — a wowing one-handed snag — sent LSU’s purple-and-gold clad section thundering to life at Camping World Stadium. He surpassed his previous career high (120 yards, as a freshman, in September 2014) by the second quarter. He had one previous 100-yard game this season (100 yards and two touchdowns on three catches against Southern Miss in mid-October).
Quarterback Danny Etling targeted him a team-high eight times in the rout over the Cardinals (9-4).
“It wasn’t nothing spectacular. Danny was just putting it where it needed to be,” said Dupre, who totaled 593 yards and three touchdowns on 41 catches through Saturday. “I was getting open. We’re putting together plays that were helping to keep drives alive. That’s all I was doing. I wasn’t out there trying to do anything special. Just out there trying to do my job, trying to help my team win.”
But will the former John Curtis return to this team next year?
Dupre hasn’t made that decision, and he isn’t “leaning” in any direction, he said. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 16.
“At the end of the day, I've still got some thinking to do,” Dupre said. “I’m proud to be a Tiger. I’m glad I wear purple and gold. Whatever I choose to do, at the end of the day, I’m a part of this program.”
His effort Saturday would serve as a stunning final hurrah for a guy ranked by ESPN.com as the top high school receiver in the nation in 2014.
His one-handed catch was the highlight, coming amid a five-play stretch in which he caught three passes. The 29-yard, one-handed reception came on third-and-11 from LSU’s 36-yard line and helped the 19th-ranked Tigers (8-4) extend an eventual touchdown drive.
“When I saw the replay,” running back Derrius Guice said, “I was like, that's the Malachi Dupre I know.”
Dupre was the third read on the play. Receiver D.J. Chark slipped down, and Etling then turned to Dupre, running an inside route down the middle of the field.
“I let it go a little early, just to give him time to run underneath it, and he made a great play,” said Etling, who finished with 217 yards on 16-of-29 passing.
“It’s a read route for me,” Dupre said. “I could take it high up the middle or I can break it off. As soon as I got my head around, the ball was in front of me. I didn’t have any time to get my second hand on it.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — Turns out, LSU didn't need Leonard Fournette.
One worked just fine.
Reports linked Dupre to the draft earlier this month, but he called them inaccurate during interviews a couple of weeks ago.
Dupre’s future is just as uncertain as several other draft-eligible juniors. Safety Jamal Adams, a projected top-15 draft pick who is expected to leave early, said Saturday he would hold a news conference with an announcement Friday. Defensive lineman Davon Godchaux did not make an announcement after the game, and receiver D.J. Chark did not speak to reporters.
Dupre and Chark met with newly hired offensive coordinator Matt Canada last week. Canada did not attend the Citrus Bowl; he will begin at LSU after the Tigers return to Baton Rouge.
“He’s a great good guy. First time I’ve gotten to meet him, first time I’ve got to hang out with him. He had a really good vibe. I enjoyed my time,” Dupre said. “I feel like he’s a great coach. I honestly don’t know much about him yet, but as a person, I loved him. He’s going to be a great coach here.
“He didn’t specifically tell me what I would do or how he would utilize me, but he was telling me that I’d have opportunities to make a lot of big plays.”
But, first, he must decide — go pro or remain in college.
“Got a big decision to make,” he said.