LSU returners have carved a niche and perennially delivered a major impact – The Times-Picayune

Football clichés come at fans full speed and uncontrolled at times, some making sense, others getting lost in the lights. That one about special teams and hidden yards, well, it makes a lot of awfully easy-to-decipher sense.

Tre’Davious White 

Except that at LSU, the notion of hiding much of anything in the return games is a little far-fetched.

Over the last 14 seasons, spanning Nick Saban’s five-year tenure and especially since Les Miles took control in 2004, the Tigers have been among the best and most dangerous teams in the country on punt and kickoff returns, with a who’s-who of big-name players stepping in as leading men.

The last few years have been no different, with All-American and first-round NFL Draft pick receiver Odell Beckham supplying the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle presence that LSU has possessed so often.

Paced by Beckham, the Tigers led the SEC in kickoff returns in 2013 with 25.5 yards per attempt and ranked fifth in the league in punt returns.

Strangely enough, the Tigers did not have a return for a touchdown in 2013 – the first time that’s happened since 2000. But Beckham’s value in the return game was measurable not only in yards gained, but in yards saved when he field punts in traffic and didn’t allow for fortuitous bounces.

Likewise, the sheer threat of a jolt on special teams often steered opposing teams to kick away from Beckham and out of bounds, saving the Tigers’ field position that way.

Hidden yards? Nope.

LSU senior Terrence Magee is in line to be the lead kickoff return man this season.

Instead, the impact that return men can have on games for LSU is out there in the open for all to see. Beckham was the eighth consecutive primary punt returner who produced at least touchdowns in his career.

“Basically you’re able to change the game with one play,” said sophomore Travin Dural, who is battling with Tre’Davious White for the punt-return job. Senior Terrence Magee is the leading candidate to return kickoffs, with freshmen Leonard Fournette and Trey Quinn also in the mix.

“You can help your team get good field position every time you touch the ball on special teams.”

Those words sound like they might come straight from the mouth of Miles or any of his special teams coordinators, including Bradley Dale Peveto – back this season after he left as the defensive co-coordinator after the 2008 season.

Peveto has long been recognized as one of the top special teams minds in the college game. Together, he and Miles concocted ‘Red Alert: Roxie,’ the over-the-shoulder-flip fake field goal that has contributed to a pair of memorable Tigers’ victories.

But more than just trick plays and trinkets, Miles and Peveto value the way their special teams can affect a game by either shortening or lengthening the field.

“We take special teams so seriously here,” White said. “We take a lot of time with it every practice and try to be very technically sound. With Coach Pev, if we aren’t doing something right, he’s going to stop us and make sure we do it again until we do get it right.”

And to be clear, while the returners garner the glory, they get plenty of help. And that’s a big reason why LSU has been so effective on special teams.

There might be some programs where the kicking-game units are built around younger players who aren’t likely to step on the field on offense or defense.

That’s not the case for the Tigers.

Not only do veterans make up the bulk of the special-teams units, there is strong competition for those jobs and players who are being counted on as starters or immediate backups lead the charge.

“It’s kind of cool that guys like Deion Jones and Duke (Riley) and Kwon Alexander want to be out there and are willing to block for you,” White said. “Whoever does step in as the return guy will have a lot of opportunities to get the job done because of those guys.”

Which may actually add a little pressure to the returners.

After all, if starters from both sides of the ball have the desire to throw their bodies in front of opposing players who have a little special-teams wild-man DNA in their blood streams, then whoever has the ball in his hands ought to be able to do something with it, right?

Travin Dural

“The first thing we have to focus on is catching the ball and not trying to see the defense,” Dural said. “If we do that part of the job and secure the ball, then there’s a chance to make a move and once you beat the first guy, all your blockers are around you.”

Added White, “With great blocks and the vision I have, I feel like I can make a lot of noise.”

And once that happens, there’s no reason to hide anything.

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SPECIAL TEAMS | DEPTH CHART

Name | HT | WT | CLASS | HOMETOWN

Punt returner

Starter

83 Travin Dural | 6-2 | 192 | So. | Breaux Bridge

— OR —

16 Tre’Davious White | 5-11 | 191 | So. | Shreveport (Green Oaks)

Reserves

29 Rickey Jefferson | 6-0 | 204 | So. | St. Rose (Destrehan)

8 Trey Quinn | 6-0 | 194 | Fr. | Lake Charles (Barbe)

Kickoff returner

Starter

18 Terrence Magee | 5-9 | 217 | Sr. | Franklinton

Reserves

7 Leonard Fournette | 6-1 | 230 | Fr. | New Orleans (St. Augustine)

8 Trey Quinn | 6-0 | 194 | Fr. | Lake Charles (Barbe)

83 Travin Dural | 6-2 | 192 | So. | Breaux Bridge

82 D.J. Chark | 6-2 | 184 | Fr. | Alexandria

Kicker

Starter

43 Colby Delahoussaye | 5-10 | 176 | So. | New Iberia

Reserves

14 Trent Domingue | 6-1 | 170 | So. | Mandeville (St. Paul’s)

36 Cameron Gamble | 5-11 | 190 | Fr. | Flower Mound, Texas

30 Kyle Pfau | 5-10 | 191 | Fr. | Spring, Texas (Klein)

Punter

Starter

38 Jamie Keehn | 6-4 | 220 | Jr. | Miners Rest, Australia

Reserves

14 Trent Domingue | 6-1 | 170 | So. | Mandeville (St. Paul’s)

43 Colby Delahoussaye | 5-10 | 176 | So. | New Iberia

Holder

Starter

16 Brad Kragthorpe | 5-11 | 200 | Jr. | Tulsa, Oklahoma/Idaho State

Reserves

38 Jamie Keehn | 6-4 | 220 | Jr. | Miners Rest, Australia

Deep snapper

Starter

50 Reid Ferguson | 6-2 | 236 | Jr. | Buford, Georgia

Reserves

53 Logan Boudreaux | 5-11 | 218 | Jr. | St. Amant

51 John Ballis | 6-1 | 215 | Jr. | Houston, Texas (Episcopal)/Kentucky

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Randy Rosetta can be reached at [email protected] or 225.610.5507.