John David Moore is into building things.
It’s why he’s an architecture major at LSU. It’s why he chose to play football for the Tigers despite the lack of a scholarship offer extended to him by other in-state schools like McNeese State and Northwestern State.
The former Ruston tight end started on the ground floor two years ago, as a walk-on playing with the scout squad. He started adding a piece of playing time here, logged a game there, and now is topping out the depth chart at one of the Tigers’ most understated yet important positions: fullback.
A run-oriented offense like LSU needs fullbacks to clear the path; to be, as Moore described it, “the flashlight for the tailback.” The Tigers’ prime trailblazer the past couple of years, Connor Neighbors, exhausted his eligibility last season. His expected replacement, Melvin Jones, left the program for unspecified reasons after last season.
It was a void the sophomore couldn’t have envisioned himself filling when he first arrived at LSU. Yet there he was again at practice Friday morning, lining up in an “I” formation as part of the first-string backfield behind quarterback Brandon Harris and ahead of tailback Leonard Fournette.
“I was willing to be useful wherever I could,” said Moore, tall for a fullback at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. “I thought it might be temporary, but it turned out to be permanent. I’ve grown to enjoy the position.”
It’s been a similar ride for redshirt freshman Tony Upchurch, currently Moore’s prime backup.
Upchurch (6-1, 241) came to LSU from Pearland, Texas, as a four-star wide receiver prospect but redshirted in 2014. Coaches wanted him to slim down to play a wideout spot, but he only added more weight. Converting to fullback in spring practice seemed a natural option.
“Being honest, no,” said Upchurch when asked if he ever thought the fullback position was in his future. “But anything can happen. I told them whatever they need me to do, I’ll do.
“I knew it would be a challenge because it’s something I’ve never done, but I’m always up for a challenge. It’s been a great experience. Coming in as a wide receiver, I didn’t know the plays much, but I’m learning every day.”
Upchurch was working with the second-string offense Friday, blocking ahead of sophomore Darrel Williams. There has been speculation that Williams could play some fullback this year as well, but Upchurch said he hasn’t been working with the fullback group.
There is serious competition for Moore and Upchurch right behind them on the depth chart should either of them falter.
Freshman David Ducre (6-0, 238) of Slidell Lakeshore was the nation’s No. 1-rated fullback for 2015.
Another true freshman is Acadiana High’s Bry’Kiethon Mouton (6-1, 255), an ESPN four-star prospect and a member of The Advocate’s 2015 Second Dozen.
“We’ve got a great group,” Moore said. “They’re all physically very capable. I have a lot of respect for those guys.”
Perhaps the rebuild of LSU’s fullback position will be smoother than expected.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.