LSU football defining moment No. 5: The comeback _lowres

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU wide receiver John Diarse sidesteps Wisconsin cornerback Devin Gaulden (4) and Wisconsin outside linebacker Joe Schobert (58) to score during the second half of LSU's 28-24 win last season at NRG Stadium in Houston.

John Diarse would hear the knock on his bedroom door late on a Sunday evening or in the middle of the night.

He’d open it to always find the same person: Jarvis Landry, his roommate and fellow LSU receiver.

“Hey, let’s go catch,” Landry would say.

If it wasn’t a midnight trip to LSU’s indoor football facility, it was scanning through game film on team-issued iPads or watching NFL stars run perfect routes.

Landry tried to perfect his craft at any time and in any way, and he dragged Diarse along for the ride.

An early jumper to the NFL, Landry is now with the Miami Dolphins, and Diarse has slipped nicely into his role as No. 10 LSU (2-0) prepares to host Louisiana-Monroe (2-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

“Living with him, you could see the drive and the motivation and the mindset he had on trying to get to the next level. It definitely rubs off on me,” Diarse said. “You always hear that phrase, ‘You are your environment.’ ”

It’s early, sure, but Diarse has developed into the Tigers’ new Landry two games into the 2014 season. He’s making those heroic third-down grabs and gaining those game-changing yards after the catch — things Landry was known for.

Three of Diarse’s four catches this season have come on third down. On all of them, he ran short curl routes — where a receiver races downfield, stops and turns back toward the quarterback.

He fought for extra yards on each to gain the first down. That included a 36-yard touchdown against Wisconsin in which he broke three tackles and gained 25 yards after the catch. In all, Diarse had 33 yards after the catch on those three receptions.

There’s a new Mr. Third Down in Baton Rouge. There’s a new Mr. YAC.

“I think they’re similar,” said Mickey McCarty, Diarse’s high school coach at Neville who coached against a Landry-led Lutcher team. “Football IQ is very high. Lot to be said for a smart football player. Understands coverage and schemes. It helped them be a playmaker.”

The similarities go beyond their football brains, said cornerback Tre’Davious White, who has battled both Diarse and Landry in practice. They both have strong hands and upper bodies. That makes dropped passes rare and extra yards common. They don’t have all-world speed, and they’re not 6-foot-4 giants who have a 7-foot wingspan, either.

“He’s our Jarvis,” receiver Avery Peterson said in August.

They’re both football players, McCarty said — smart, reliable guys who don’t make mistakes and live for the game.

There’s something about them, too, that gives off veteran qualities. That’s being noticed, even, by national observers. On his first career reception, Diarse turned a 5-yard pass into a 12-yard gain by breaking a tackle on a third-and-7 during LSU’s second-half comeback over Wisconsin.

“This guy looks like a senior wide receiver,” said Chris Spielman, ESPN’s color analyst, during the broadcast.

For Diarse, this week is special.

Born and raised in Monroe, Diarse’s connection to the Louisiana-Monroe football program stretches back years. He lived so close to campus that he could walk to football games. And he did just that — so many times that estimating a number would be silly.

For so long, Diarse envisioned himself playing for the Warhawks.

“I want to play here, Dad,” he would tell John Sr.

During high school, Diarse played a yearly jamboree on ULM’s field and lingered around the facility to talk to coaches every weekend.

As his recruiting stock soared, though, he moved away from the program. As a four-star prospect, LSU and Alabama led his offers list.

Diarse chose LSU, in part, because of receivers coach Adam Henry and the opportunity to play receiver. Alabama pursued him to the end as a safety, McCarty said.

Neither is what he played his last three years of high school. That’d be quarterback.

“He could have played quarterback at several major schools,” McCarty said.

Was one Louisiana-Monroe? Maybe. But don’t expect any teary-eyed emotional outbursts from Diarse on Saturday.

What you might see: a drive-continuing third-down catch and a couple of broken tackles along the way.

After all, he’s the new Jarvis Landry.

“I can see it,” White said. “Last year, he was a guy always under Jarvis. Anything Jarvis would do, he would do.”

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