Senior Bowl: Foster Moreau

Former LSU tight end Foster Moreau runs through blocking drills during Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

MOBILE, Ala. — When Foster Moreau gets a free moment between NFL interviews at the lavish Renaissance Riverview Plaza, and between Senior Bowl practices in front hundreds of pro scouts at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, he'll crack open the South team's thick playbook and dive in.

Within its pages is the offensive playbook of the San Francisco 49ers, whose coaching staff is running the South team. The former LSU tight end said he was "excited for it."

And why wouldn't he be?

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan's offense heavily features his position, and George Kittle led all NFL tight ends this season with 1,377 yards receiving.

In the practices leading up to the Saturday's game, Moreau has been trying to boost his NFL draft stock by showcasing his pass-catching abilities — something that was scarce during his four seasons in Baton Rouge.

Moreau recorded 52 catches, 629 yards and six touchdowns in his career — a total that falls short of the single-season numbers by the tight ends atop multiple media draft boards, such as Iowa's T.J. Hockenson (49 catches, 766 yards, six touchdowns) and Alabama's Irv Smith (44 catches, 710 yards, seven touchdowns).

Part of that was schematic.

LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger said at the Fiesta Bowl that his offense "wasn't as versatile as I'd like it to have been."

Protection issues prevented Ensminger from spreading his receivers more — the Tigers allowed 35 sacks in 2018 (tied for 106th in the NCAA) — and season-ending injuries to tight ends Jamal Pettigrew (ACL) and Thaddeus Moss (foot) nixed a two-tight-end set called "12" from the LSU playbook.

But Moreau's 6-foot-6¼, 250-pound measurements at Tuesday morning's weigh-in helped show NFL scouts how he was one of the better blocking tight ends in the NCAA.

That reputation hasn't hurt Moreau. He ranks No. 9 among tight ends on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper's "Big Board."

Moreau could even fit into the NFL's non-traditional tight end role, said Ric Serritella, an analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.

Some teams have abandoned fullbacks and replaced them with big tight ends who can block and catch out of the backfield, such as the New York Giants' Rhett Ellison, who caught 25 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown.

Ellison's numbers are nearly identical to Moreau's statistics in this season at LSU (22 catches, 272 yards and two touchdowns).

"I think at the end of the day in the NFL, there's not enough guys who can block anymore," said Serritella, who projects Moreau will be selected in the fourth or fifth round of the NFL draft April 25-27. "So, if you can be a capable pass catcher and not be a liability, I think it bodes well for him."

Moreau showed he was more than capable at Tuesday afternoon's practice.

In one-on-one drills, Moreau made a leaping catch behind Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine on a flag route to the left pylon; he fought out of a physical press from Kentucky safety Darius West to catch a 5-yard hitch on the left hash mark; and he raced past Virginia safety Juan Thornhill on a post.

Defenders like Redwine hadn't seen that from Moreau, who didn't record a catch in LSU's 33-17 win over Miami in the season opener on Sept. 2. Nor had Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, whose Tigers lost 22-21 to LSU on Sept. 15, when Moreau also didn't record a catch.

Half of Moreau's catches this year came in the final three games of the season, as did his two touchdown receptions.

After LSU's Fiesta Bowl victory over Central Florida, Moreau prepared for the Senior Bowl at TEST Football Academy, a training facility in Martinsville, New Jersey.

Serritella is a consultant for the academy, and he said they'll still be working with Moreau on techniques heading into the NFL Combine in Indianapolis from Feb. 26-March 4.

"The one thing that stood out, he was using his chest to bring the ball in," Serritella said. "You've got to go out and bring the ball in (with your hands), because that can be the difference between a pick-six and a completion. I don't think it's going to make or break his draft stock, because I think they know what kind of player they're getting."

NFL personnel have been conducting in-person evaluations since players arrived Sunday, and Moreau said he'd met with 18-20 teams as of Tuesday morning.

Some interviews last 15-20 minutes. Some last as long as 35 minutes.

He's asked about his background, how he lived in Baton Rouge for five years before he returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; his family, like his mother, Tricia, who played volleyball at Tulane; and how he arrived at LSU, waking up to a phone call and scholarship offer on national signing day, on a morning he was sick and sleeping in.

And then Moreau and the NFL coaches start talking football. They've asked him to scribble out his best play on third-and-7, when he's the first read in a quarterback's progression; or a run play; or a play when he's in pass protection.

What's the quarterback's progression?

What formation is the defense in?

What are their secondary's coverage responsibilities?

"That's the fun part of football," Moreau said. "It's kind of a universal language that's spoken by guys who are really intricate with it, and it's really nice to get their perspective on it."

Advocate sportswriter Rod Walker contributed to this story

Louisiana players in the Senior Bowl:

TE Foster Moreau, LSU, No. 18 – South team

K Cole Tracy, LSU, No. 36 – South team

DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech, No. 45 – South team

DL Isaiah Buggs, Alabama (Ruston), No. 49 – South team