A year ago this time, LSU's future at the tight end position couldn't have looked better. The Tigers had just secured the signing of Arik Gilbert and coach Ed Orgeron couldn't stop gushing over the talented weapon LSU couldn't wait to use as a top tier weapon.
Now, after opting out of the season seven games into the 2020 season, Gilbert is off to Florida and the Tigers depth at tight end is a lot murkier heading into this 2021 offseason. Here's who you can expect to receive snaps and what kind of impact the position group can have in Jake Peetz and DJ Mangas' new offense.
Projected Starter: Kole Taylor (sophomore)
Because Gilbert dominated so many of the snaps at the tight end spot during the 2020 season, we only have really a two game sample size on the 6-foot-7 Taylor out of Colorado. In those two games as the primary starter, Taylor caught five passes for 33 yards in wins over Florida and Ole Miss.
At this point in his career, Taylor is more known for the shoe toss that helped LSU win in Gainesville. But in the same breath he's a player who the coaching staff is very excited about his potential.
"I don't think I've ever been in a game when someone threw a shoe," Orgeron said after the win over the Gators. "This can be the building block for turning this team around."
Taylor's height and physical tools alone should help him become the favorite to start and he'll likely begin the spring on the first team. But there is so much unknown about the position and its future that it wouldn't be a bit surprising if LSU chooses to try a bunch of different players at the position.
Depth Chart: Jalen Shead (freshman), Nick Storz (junior), Aaron Moffitt (senior)
There just isn't much known about the depth of the tight end position, including Taylor, which makes getting a good grasp on the room a little more difficult. LSU really only has two scholarship options next to Taylor, freshman Jalen Shead and rising senior Nick Storz.
Storz is an interesting case as he just recently announced he'd be giving up baseball to focus solely on football. He obviously sees an opportunity to grab that starting role and will need a full offseason of development to really secure a spot in the rotation.
An injury riddled career with the baseball team ultimately drove him to giving football another shot and at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, he has the physique to be a great blocker and affect the passing game as well. Orgeron has spoken in the past about Storz and how he could help the team with a little coaching.
"Coach [Paul] Mainieri was gracious enough to allow him to come on over and he's working out with our football team, he's a big guy," Orgeron said. "He's a phenomenal football player, a phenomenal tight end and I think he's going to help us."
The freshman Shead is not yet on campus but will be solid blocker for the program while still needing to develop as a reliable pass catcher. Shead told LSUCountry last August that he was the top target at tight end for the program
"I wouldn't label myself as a blocking tight end but that's all teams have seen because that's what I primarily do," Shead said. "Last year we had two 1,000-yard running backs so I blocked a lot. I'll flex out to receiver this year. Nobody's seen my full potential yet."
Aaron Moffitt is a veteran but has never really been given an opportunity in the offense to this point. Another option the team could elect to do is try out one of the five incoming freshmen receivers at tight end this offseason.
The most logical players to do this would be Brian Thomas or Jack Bech but Thomas definitely feels like a future outside receiver for the Tigers. Bech is a strong 6-foot-2 receiver and could be a valuable piece in the middle of the field, though he'd likely need to add weight if the team transitioned him to tight end.
As spring ball approaches, this is without a doubt one of the weaker positions in terms of depth. There are only three real options but all will be in open competition this offseason.