Devonta Lee leaped for a 35-yard touchdown reception Friday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Several members of the LSU coaching staff were watching.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Amite High receiver, who is considered one of the nation’s top-ranked recruits, also recorded a 17-yard rushing touchdown in the Warriors’ 47-20 dismantling of Welsh High in the Class 2A LHSAA state championship in New Orleans.
Two nights earlier and two states over, four-star quarterback prospect Peter Parrish scored two touchdowns and neared 200 yards of offense as he led Central-Phenix City High to a 52-7 win over Thompson High in the Alabama Class 7A state title game.
The two players embody the fundamental qualities the LSU coaching staff has spent the past week pursuing: players who can help the Tigers score points.
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Parrish, the nation’s No. 13 dual-threat quarterback according to 247Sports, is committed to LSU.
Lee, the No. 6 athlete prospect, remains uncommitted, caught in between several offers that include LSU and Alabama.
The recruiting battles between the Tigers and Tide are well-known.
Four Alabama players who started in the Southeastern Conference championship game are from Louisiana, and tight end Irv Smith, a New Orleans native, had four catches, 64 yards and a touchdown when the No. 1 Crimson Tide beat LSU 29-0 on Nov. 3 at Tiger Stadium.
When asked Wednesday night at the College Football Hall of Fame what separated LSU and Alabama, starting Tigers cornerback Greedy Williams said: “Just being real — they can score the ball and we can’t.
“It’s up to the team to put the most numbers on the board,” Williams said in an interview with WCNN-AM 680 in Atlanta. “Obviously, we fell short with zero points to 29. I feel like defense, we played dominant. Just being real — our offense can’t get it going. That’s big in college football.”
Of course, scoring isn’t a new issue at LSU.
LSU hasn’t been among the nation’s top 25 scoring offenses since 2013, when a 10-3 team under Les Miles averaged 35.8 points per game, ranking 24th nationally.
This season, the LSU offense ranks 46th nationally at 31.8 ppg — an average that rose three points after the Tigers’ 74-72 loss in the regular-season finale at Texas A&M, which lasted seven overtimes.
In some ways, the LSU offense was handcuffed by suspensions and injuries.
The offensive line had a different starting rotation in each of the first eight games — a depth issue created by the preseason arrest and suspension of starting guard Ed Ingram, plus the injuries to guard Garrett Brumfield (knee) and right tackle Austin Deculus (leg), who both returned later in the season.
Then, once the team started having pass-protection issues — LSU ranks 104th nationally with 33 sacks allowed this season — offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger was limited in how he could scheme. His multiple-tight-end packages were compromised because Jamal Pettigrew had suffered a torn ACL during the summer and Thaddeus Moss spent the season recovering from a lingering foot injury.
Orgeron said the offense somehow “lost its identity” after LSU’s 24-17 win Nov. 17 at Arkansas. The coaching staff helped gain back some of that identity by freeing quarterback Joe Burrow to run against Texas A&M.
Burrow rushed for 100 yards on 29 carries against an Aggies rush defense that had ranked second nationally (80.8 yards allowed per game) going into the game.
Even now, the LSU offensive staff is looking inward to solve its issues.
“We want to tweak our offense a little bit, do some different things,” Orgeron said during the Fiesta Bowl’s introductory conference call last week.
Some solutions could come from the current roster. LSU signed several highly rated skill players in the class of 2018, including five-star receiver Terrace Marshall and four-star receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
Although both players contributed this season — Chase has 220 yards receiving, Marshall 192 — older players like Justin Jefferson, Stephen Sullivan, Dee Anderson and Derrick Dillon got more playing time.
Nick Brossette, a senior, leads the Tigers in yards rushing with 922. Clyde Edwards-Helaire played a significant role as the No. 2 back, and two true freshmen, Tae Provens and Chris Curry, are still eligible to redshirt — but it's clear LSU needs to replenish and upgrade talent at the running back position.
Southern Lab's Tyrion Davis, a four-star running back, has been committed to LSU since June. And last month, the Tigers got a major boost when Destrehan superstar John Emery, a five-star prospect who had decommitted from Georgia, made a pledge to sign with Orgeron.
As for the uncommitted recruits who are still out there — potential playmakers such as Lee at Amite — how was the LSU offense viewed through their eyes?
When weighing options between LSU and Alabama, is he dazzled by the Crimson Tide’s 29 points? Or does he see himself as the difference-maker on LSU’s end?
“I could make plays. I’m not going to say I can be the difference,” Amite’s Lee told The Advocate on Friday, shortly after he also recorded an interception against Welsh as a defensive back. “I can be a playmaker out there and play some wideout even, some defense, both sides. It would be nice for me just to go over and make plays over there. But right now, I’m still undecided where I’m going to go.”