LSU signed Arik Gilbert, the class of 2020’s top tight end and the highest ranked prospect at that position ever by 247Sports. The class of 2021 provides the opportunity to build on the tight end talent, as well as help diversify LSU’s offense.
With LSU’s passing attack being prolific, there’s ample opportunity for wide receivers and tight ends to be featured. Just this past season, talented tight end Thaddeus Moss accrued 47 receptions and 570 receiving yards, both program records and four receiving touchdowns. Keep in mind that LSU’s wide receiver core proved to be a juggernaut, and Moss still provided a big season.
Last season, LSU wide receivers displayed the Biletnikoff Award winner and rising junior Ja’Marr Chase (84 receptions, 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns), as well as the NFL Draft’s No. 22 overall selection in Justin Jefferson (111 receptions, 1,540 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns), and rising junior Terrace Marshall (46 receptions, 671 yards and 13 touchdowns).
Imagine what a talent like Gilbert can do playing alongside this type of talent. Further, imagine what Gilbert and another talented tight end can do while playing at the same time. Here’s the dilemma for opposing defenses.
LSU’s running back depth chart is absolutely loaded. If the Tigers bring in two tight ends, defenses will need to decide whether or not to go with bigger players at linebacker and/or safety.
Stay with a nickel or dime defense, which will be what many teams employ versus LSU to help defend the pass, and it’s probable that LSU hammers the defense with the rushing attack. If the defense lines up in a traditional 4-3 or 3-4 defense, just the opposite will happen.
LSU could line up in a two-tight end set or in a spread formation. Therefore, adding Gilbert should be considered just the beginning of what the Tigers could achieve at the tight end position.
During passing plays, few linebackers will be capable of handling any of LSU’s skill position talent. Adding Gilbert and possibly another tight end come 2021, it’s a buffet of options for the LSU quarterbacks. With that in mind, here are two tight ends the Tigers are in the running to sign.
Thomas Fidone, TE, 6-4, 220, Council Bluffs (Iowa) Lewis Central
247 Ranking: No. 39, 4-Star, No. 1 Tight End
Rivals Ranking: No. 62, 4-Star, No. 3 Tight End
Composite Ranking: 91, No. 2 Tight End
This player happens to be one of the most versatile prospects in the country. He’s athletic enough to be a linebacker, defensive end, or tight end. Fidone catches the football well away from his body, makes really good cuts during routes, already understands body positioning during jump balls, and simply makes the big catch. Finally, Fidone provides an explosiveness rarely seen from tight ends. This first video clip displayed just how athletically gifted Fidone can be.
This second clip displayed Fidone’s quickness and hands. Very few tight ends move like Fidone, but when you see how well he catches this sideline pass, it just adds to his big-play ability. Watch how quickly Fidone cuts towards the sideline, and then makes the sliding grab.
Finally, Fidone went up against a zone defense. He found a hole in the defense, but continued to move into an area that presented the least amount of difficulty to gain a catch. He’s smart, well coached, and this knowledge will translate to any level of football.
Here’s a full look at Fidone’s junior highlights.
Gunnar Helm, TE, 6-5, 225, Greenwood Village (Colo.) Cherry Creek
247 Ranking: Unranked, 3-Star, No. 64 Tight end
Rivals Ranking: Unranked, 4-Star, No. 11 Tight end
Composite Ranking: No. 547 Overall, 3-Star, No. 24 Tight End
Another talented tight end would be Helm, and he’s adept at playing on the line of scrimmage or being split out wide. He’s a very physical player, and that will help Helm transition to the SEC if he decides to join the Tigers.
During this initial clip, Helm is split to the top left of the screen. He catches a back-shoulder pass that’s generally drawn up for a talented wide receiver. Like Gilbert and Fidone, bringing in this type of pass catcher at the tight end position will create mismatches. It will be really hard for defenses to decipher whether to bring in smaller or bigger players to defend him and/or Gilbert. It's a nightmare for defensive coordinators.
Adding to Helm’s versatility, he’s a good drive blocker. More specifically, he’s the type of player that can be an in-line blocker at the goal line or be the lead blocker while out in space, during a screen pass. This area likely helped him gain the attention of LSU coaches because the Tigers do focus on downfield blocking.
The final clip combined Helm’s toughness and athleticism. A throwback tight end reception, but Helm took a big shot as soon as he caught the ball. He held onto the football, and then gained extra yards.
Here’s a look at Helm’s full junior video.
To finalize how important it will be to land a tight end that will complement Gilbert, just imagine two talented big-bodied players mixed in with LSU’s assortment of receivers and running backs. It’s almost unfair to think about it.
It’s already very difficult to manage placing specific personnel packages in the game against LSU, let alone adding the opportunity for coach Ed Orgeron and his offensive staff to place two tight ends in the game at the same time.
LSU could play smashmouth football or go with a no-back look, while utilizing two tight ends. That’s why a player like Fidone or Helm is needed for LSU’s class of 2021.