Travin Dural, John Diarse lead LSU’s ‘old’ guard at receiver

Even if he never catches another touchdown pass for LSU, Travin Dural will forever be remembered by Tigers fans for one of the two he grabbed during his redshirt freshman season of 2013.

That was the 49-yarder he caught in full stride from freshman Anthony Jennings on Nov. 29 in Tiger Stadium that provided the decisive points with 1:15 remaining in a 31-27 win against Arkansas, a 25-point underdog.

LSU fans may never forget the catch, but Dural has in just 31/2 months virtually cleared it from his memory bank.

For now, there’s too much to do as a member of a crop of receivers trying to fill the void left by the departures of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. for the NFL.

Dural, a sophomore-to-be who has worked with the first-team offense along with redshirt freshman John Diarse during the first week of spring practice, knows careers aren’t made on one play.

“That’s been in the past,” a smiling Dural said this week.

He noted that he was recognized for the play he and Jennings combined on for a couple of days before he became just another “guy on campus” again.

But that’s just fine with the quiet former Breaux Bridge High star.

When Landry and Beckham declared for the draft in early January, Dural and Diarse, who redshirted after suffering an ankle injury in August, were front and center.

They’ll have a chance to get lots of reps in spring practice before the competition heats up with the arrival in the fall of prized recruits Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn.

After the first spring practice a week ago, Dural, LSU’s top returnee in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (145), spent the weekend looking not at the touchdown from the Arkansas game but at his practice tape.

“That’s all I’ve been looking at, just trying to develop my game,” he said. “I try to see what I was doing wrong and get better at the little things — catching every ball, coming out of the routes right, learning the defenses better, recognizing coverages. That play, it’s out of my mind. I don’t think about it any more.”

For good measure, Dural has continued to lean on Beckham, a projected first-round draft pick, and Landry for advice on how to become a better receiver.

“I learned that hard work pays off. ... I watched them for two years, and they were hard workers,” Dural said. “They would be out there catching balls every day. I learned that what you put in is what you’re going to get out. Those guys deserve everything they get.”

While it would be natural to see a dropoff in the receiving totals after Landry and Beckham combined for 66.3 percent of LSU’s completions and 71.9 percent of its receiving yards last season with 136 catches for 2,345 yards and 18 touchdowns, Dural and Diarse know they have to do what they can do as they become go-to guys.

“Travin and me were talking about that last season,” Diarse said. “It’s funny how fast (Landry and Beckham leaving) happened. Now that it’s here, we definitely have to take advantage of our opportunity.”

Diarse, a star quarterback and safety at Neville High, also has made strides by talking to Landry and Beckham and studying the little things they did to develop into dependable receivers.

It has certainly helped, he said, in making a position change even though he benefited from having spring practice a year ago as an early enrollee.

“I picked up on any little tidbit that I could, and I still do it to this day,” Diarse said. “Even though they’re moving on, I still call them and ask questions and get tips from them. I just pick up anything I can.”

While there’s a long way to go before the Aug. 30 season opener with Wisconsin in Houston, Diarse is excited about the opportunity he’s getting.

“I’m off to a good start,” he said. “I’m moving around on offense. I’m in different places and learning different things and running different routes. I’m glad I came in last spring because I kind of got a feel for it, and now I can let my athleticism take over.”

In addition to the competition coming from Dupre and Quinn, Dural and Diarse will have to hold off Quantavius Leslie and Kevin Spears this spring. Diarse said they welcome it.

“It’s something you have to take as motivation,” he said. “You have to stay in your starting spot and don’t let anybody take it from you. Somebody’s always going to be there to try and take your job, so you just do your best every day to keep it.”