Tight ends struggle to stay healthy

By Rachel Whittaker | LSU Reveille

Junior tight ends Deangelo Peterson and Mitch Joseph know what it's like to deal with injuries this season.

Peterson missed the first three games of LSU's season after he injured his foot, and Joseph was out against West Virginia and Tennessee with a knee injury and may return against Florida.

Peterson said his foot is now fully healed, and he and Joseph feed off each other in practice and games.

"I still have a lot of stuff to work on - route-running, blocking, just the basics to get back to doing what I've been doing before I hurt my foot," said Peterson, who describes himself as more of a pass-catching tight end.

While filling in for Peterson against North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, Joseph has hauled in five catches for 51 yards, including three for 41 yards in the season opener.

Peterson caught five passes for 45 yards Saturday, bringing his total to six receptions for 50 yards this season.

Peterson did lose a fumble against Tennessee, though - one of four LSU turnovers and a mistake he said he will correct.

"I've done pretty good for the most part, but some stuff I've messed up on," Peterson said. "I'm just getting used to playing again."

LSU coach Les Miles said the offense has made the most of interchanging tight ends because of injuries.

"Mitch Joseph ... came through and made a series of plays, both run and pass, that allowed us to move the football like we did," Miles said. "Now with Deangelo back, he's a little bit more in the mix with the throw, but we certainly miss Mitch. I don't know that we will not have him for the Florida game. I think that maybe we will."

A new member of the tight end corps who converted from defensive end in the spring is sophomore Chase Clement.

Clement has started against North Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee, and Peterson said he brings the same physicality he showed on defense to the offensive side this season.

"Chase is the kind of guy who never stops. He has a motor, and it keeps going," Peterson said. "He's not going to let anybody get in front of him and beat him. He's showing us his physicalness, and we're picking up where he left off."

Clement said his nerves have settled after three games in the starting lineup, and he is learning more and more from veterans Peterson and Joseph every day.

Clement said each player in the tight end group has his own specialties on the field.

"Mitch definitely brings experience in the blocking aspect and the little things," Clement said. "Deangelo obviously brings the wide receiver and the hands and the route-running. It's good when they all can be healthy and back in the rotation. You never know what you can expect from all of us."

Sophomore wide receiver Russell Shepard agreed with that notion, saying the tight ends are an underappreciated group of offensive players who have the challenging job of staying fresh in multiple roles.

"They're a tough group of guys. At some point they've all been hurt," Shepard said. "Not a lot of people realize they have to do everything. They're the only true hot bread position on the field. They're asked to block, and they're asked to catch balls."