The routine was painfully repetitive.
A week of rest and rehab. A pregame walk in sweats. A game day spent near the LSU bench, watching Tigers offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger find creative ways to make up for his missing personnel.
"It was tough watching from the sideline knowing what he wanted to do with the offense and that I couldn't help at all," said tight end Thaddeus Moss, who spent his sophomore season nursing a season-long foot injury.
The whoops and hollers came clearly across the LSU outdoor practice facility.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Moss had just become eligible from his transfer from North Carolina State, and his lingering injury toyed with him throughout the 2018 season, when he practiced intermittently until shutting down into full recovery after the Week 7 victory over Georgia.
He joined fellow tight end Jamal Pettigrew, who had torn his ACL in the summer, on the sideline, while Foster Moreau led the position group as the only true active tight end on the field, with a few cameos from converted wide receiver Racey McMath.
Ensminger said during Fiesta Bowl media days that the offense "wasn't as versatile as I'd like it to have been," while the injuries "kind of dictated what we could do" — namely using one of Ensminger's favored offensive formations, a two-tight end set called "12."
The problem extended to the run game, where just one tight end wasn't enough to assemble a goal-line package. LSU only ran a true goal-line set twice last season, Ensminger said, instead opting to go up-tempo from standard offensive formations in those situations.
And all Moss and Pettigrew could do was watch.
A fourth LSU scholarship player has entered the NCAA transfer portal.
"Both of us were in the same boat," Moss said Tuesday. "Both of us worked really hard in that past offseason and were expecting good things for the season. I was in there almost every day with him in the training room, and we were always talking about what we were going to do this coming year. Always looking forward and trying to stay positive throughout the rehab process."
Now the injured tight ends are back, practicing with LSU during spring football, although Pettigrew has been wearing a gold noncontact jersey.
Pettigrew said his knee's "getting better" and that although he isn't 100 percent healthy, he's "close to it."
Moss said he's still "battling soreness" in his injured foot, but he's still "been able to do everything 100 percent" in practice.
"I've really been pushing it the last few weeks, seeing what I can fully do," said Moss, the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss. "Every day, the more I push it the more it gets worked out. So, I'm feeling great about that."
Now that LSU football is back — with its first few spring practices come and gone, Ed Orgeron's introductory news conference said and done — i…
With the return of Moss and Pettigrew, plus the addition of junior college early enrollee T.K. McClendon, Ensminger now has three times as many tight ends to use than he did last season.
"I think that Steve's going to have fun with that," said Pettigrew, a 6-foot-7, 241-pound Saint Augustine grad who recorded one catch for 18 yards in 2017.
So how will the tight ends be used next season?
Well, for now, the offense is undergoing its own transformation under the aid of new passing game coordinator Joe Brady, a former Saints offensive assistant who has helped LSU implement the run-pass-option scheme.
Moss said the tight end is "being flexed out more" from its traditional spot on the line of scrimmage, splitting out with wide receivers to run routes.
"There's more plays for us," said Moss, who caught six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown for North Carolina State in 2016. "We’re more in the progression in the reads, getting more opportunities to get the ball in our hands."
Moreau caught 22 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns in 2018 — the majority of which he recorded in the final three games of the season, when he caught 11 passes for 146 yards and both touchdowns.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said McClendon has made "some good catches" so far this spring, and the newcomer's ability has been lauded by both Moss and Pettigrew.
LSU has added a lead analyst to its defensive staff with plenty of NFL experience.
"He's going to be really good," Moss said of McClendon, who caught five passes for 43 yards and a touchdown in 2018 for Copiah-Lincoln (Mississippi) Community College. "He's a playmaker. He's a really good route runner. It's real natural for him. Very athletic naturally. Can move very good. Really soft hands. Has good ball skills and stuff like that."
And now that there's a surplus of tight ends, the LSU coaching staff will now have a problem they'll accept willingly: figuring out just how they'll use them.
"It's going to be an interesting thing because we have so many tight ends that can make plays," Pettigrew said. "And I know Joe Brady, he's a very smart guy. He's going to know how to put us in a position to make plays, whether it's two tight end sets, three tight end sets or one tight end sets. ... (Just) give us the opportunities to make plays, and we'll see what happen."