He may not turn heads walking through campus or inspire Mettenberger-like autograph lines, but LSU freshman Reid Ferguson could have a big say in how far the Tigers go this season.
It just so happens, he plays a position that mostly goes unnoticed.
Ferguson specializes in long snapping, a duty performed only when LSU sends out Drew Alleman for field goals and extra points or Brad Wing to punt. But he’s good enough at his trade to have practically been promised a starting job at LSU before he even enrolled.
“Some people look at it like, ‘He’s just the long snapper. He’s nothing special,’” Ferguson said. “You don’t really know unless you play the position. Like I tell people, it’s an art. It takes a lot of practice.”
In anticipation of Joey Crappell’s graduation after three years as the LSU long snapper, coach Les Miles, in the spring of 2011, offered a scholarship to Ferguson, who was considered, along with Illinois prospect Scott Daly, as the nation’s top recruits at long snapper.
Words like “recruit” and “prospect” rarely were associated with players at Ferguson’s position, but coaches have seemingly become more aggressive about offering scholarships to young men who specialize in long snapping.
According to Rivals.com, at least 25 schools in the FBS ranks have long snappers who were awarded scholarships directly out of high school or college.
“The snapper’s the quarterback of your special teams,” said Thomas McGaughey, the LSU special teams coach. “You want to see it go bad in a hurry? Don’t have a (quality) snapper. It all starts with the snapper. I don’t care how great your punter is or how great your field goal kicker is, if you don’t have a good snapper, you can forget it.”
The addition of Ferguson puts LSU in position to again have some of the nation’s best special teams — a hallmark of the Tigers under Miles.
Even though he won’t make many headlines or highlights, Ferguson said he knows his value isn’t overlooked by the coaches and players in his own locker room. The emphasis Miles puts on special teams is evident every day.
“Special teams is always the first thing we go through in team meetings,” Ferguson said. “It’s always the first thing we watch film on. It’s always the first couple periods of practice.”
Ferguson started three years on the offensive line at Buford High in Georgia. But even as he grew to 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, he knew he wasn’t going to get where he wanted to go by blocking defensive linemen.
He honed his skills attending a number of Chris Rubio long snapping camps, including one at LSU before each of his final three high-school seasons.
When he committed to the Tigers as a Buford junior, he put himself in line to become the first deep snapper signed by the Tigers in eight years.
He wasn’t being brought in to be groomed.
“At that position, when you offer a scholarship to a guy like that, obviously he’s going to come in and be a starter for you,” McGaughey said.
McGaughey said Ferguson, who enrolled at LSU in January and went through spring practice with the Tigers, won’t have any issues stepping right into the starting role.
“He’s ready-made,” McGaughey said. “Add water and stir.”
Ferguson credited Rubio, a nationally renowned long snapping guru, for helping develop him into a scholarship-worthy recruit.
“All throughout high school, I played on the offensive line as well as long snapper, but I knew that long snapper was really something that could get me into college,” Ferguson said. “I just kept working on it, and it landed me here.”