The reason DJ Chark was back deep on punts last weekend was his ball security.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he felt Chark did a better job of protecting the football than Donte Jackson or Derrick Dillon, who were announced to be the No. 1 and 2 return men before the season opener.
Orgeron did not rule out Jackson retaking the role — in fact, he expressed a preference for the dynamic playmaker — but Chark said Tuesday, as far as he’s aware, he’ll be the return man Saturday night against Chattanooga.
“We felt that ball security for our first game, ball security was of utmost importance, and we thought that (Chark) had the best ball security out there,” Orgeron said. “It's his first time doing it in the game, but we knew he was going to catch the football. We knew he had better ball security skills, and that's why we did it.”
Chark wasn’t told of his new duties until after Thursday’s practice, to which he responded with doubt that he was the right man for the job after not practicing returns nearly as much as the others.
But coaches convinced him he could do it, and Chark stayed late after practice to receive extra work.
In his first game in the new role, Chark returned three of BYU’s seven punts for 26 yards. That included a long of 32 yards and a loss of seven.
“Donte is a great punt returner, exciting,” Chark said. “I was surprised when they told me I was the punt returner. I just have to go out there and do as I’m told. If they tell me to fair-catch it, fair-catch it. If they tell me I can return it, return it and get away from (the defender).”
Orgeron announced Jackson as the starting return man earlier last week and was listed as the starting return man on the depth chart given to reporters on game day.
As a member of the LSU track team, Jackson is considered one of the fastest men in football. He returned four punts for 6 yards as a freshman but did not return any punts last season.
“We always want Donte,” Orgeron said. “Donte is a game-breaker, you know what I'm saying? We just have to get him comfortable catching the ball the way we want him to, and once he does that, we’re going to be in good shape.”
Chark also led the Tigers with 77 yards on four catches against BYU, while Jackson recorded a pair of tackles. Dillon had two catches for 21 yards.