Even though neither figured to play much in their first season together on the LSU football team last year, Travin Dural wisely figured early on that it wouldn’t hurt to build some chemistry with Anthony Jennings.
After all, every successful quarterback has a go-to receiver he can look for in sticky situations.
Johnny Unitas had Raymond Berry. Joe Montana had Jerry Rice. Peyton Manning had Marvin Harrison.
Closer to home, Drew Brees has Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham.
While they obviously aren’t on that level, Jennings and Dural appear to have that kind of chemistry through the first game of their sophomore seasons with the 12th-ranked Tigers.
It was forged long before that duo hooked up for a game-winning 49-yard touchdown pass that defeated Arkansas on Nov. 29, a play that saved LSU’s bacon and sent the Tigers to the Outback Bowl.
They picked up where they left off in Saturday’s season-opening 28-24 win against Wisconsin, with Jennings and Dural teaming up for LSU’s first touchdown of the season on their third possession of the game.
Jennings had only nine completions in the game, but three of them went to Dural for 151 yards. All three of these — which covered 80, 44 and 27 yards — led to points in a close win.
The 80-yarder went for a touchdown after Jennings scrambled to his right and fired a strike to Dural, who caught the ball in stride after getting behind two Badgers and ran untouched to the end zone.
“All week, coach Cam (offensive coordinator Cam Cameron) had been preaching to us (about) scramble rules, scramble rules,” Dural said. “He said, ‘Remember your scramble rules because we have a mobile quarterback.’”
The point was Jennings, as well as freshman Brandon Harris, have the ability to extend plays, which means receivers have to stay alive long enough to have a chance at making a play.
The touchdown was another example of how Jennings and Dural have worked so well together since they became teammates early in 2013.
Dural redshirted as a true freshman in 2012, so he and Jennings became fast friends when Jennings enrolled in school early and went through spring drills while working with the second-team offense.
It was there that they started working on their chemistry, even though it didn’t show in a game until that regular-season finale with Arkansas.
“It was right when he got on campus, that spring when he first got here,” Dural said of when he and Jennings started hitting it off.
“We were working together with the twos and all summer, his first summer here, we worked together.”
Both had few chances to connect in games, however. Jennings was playing behind Zach Mettenberger until he suffered a knee injury in the Arkansas game.
And Dural was stuck behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, both of whom are now in the NFL.
Jennings completed 13 of 29 passes for 181 yards, with most of that coming in the Outback Bowl. Dural grabbed seven passes for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 12 games.
But they moved up and worked mostly with the first-team offense this spring and fall, giving them even more opportunities to develop as a solid tandem.
“We worked together all spring and summer and in fall camp to get a feel for each other,” Dural said. “All that hard work we put in is starting to show.”
Dural smiled when asked about the possibility of becoming Jennings’ favorite receiver along the way — if he isn’t there already.
“I just tried to make him confident in me to where he knows when he can throw it to me,” Dural said. “When there’s a pass called, I want him to feel like I’m going to be open. I want him to feel I’m going to make a play on the ball, and he knows that I’m going to catch it.”
It’s easy to see LSU coach Les Miles likes what he’s seen in one game.
“The wide receivers played well,” he said. “Travin Dural kind of went back to some of the things he did in the Arkansas game, and it’s become more expected in who he is. We’re excited at his growth. … He had a couple of huge catches.”
Dural is also gaining a reputation as a clutch receiver, with all 10 catches in his college career producing a first down or touchdown.
“That’s pretty good, but I’m just trying to grow on that,” a smiling Dural said. “I’m not trying to dwell on what I have so far. I’m just trying to get better every day.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.