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Derrick Dillon gives LSU a different style of wide receiver

LSU receiver Derrick Dillon (84), shown celebrating a touchdown in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 3, 2015, is trying to establish a role as an inside receiver in the Tigers' offense. AP Photo/Eric Gay

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Line LSU's scholarship receivers up by height and Derrick Dillon will not stand out. In fact, he would be at the end of the line.

The 5-foot-11 redshirt freshman is the shortest member of the group, so he looks like a shrub among the trees -- particularly if he’s standing near 6-6 Stephen Sullivan or 6-5 Jazz Ferguson and Dee Anderson.

But Dillon’s role is different than that of the rangy wideouts who dot the LSU roster and generally line up at the outside receiver positions. Dillon probably will not be the target of a jump ball in the back of the end zone. He’s trying to earn playing time as a slot receiver, catching quick passes and then making defenders miss with his speed and quick feet.

"I’m just basically just a short-game kind of guy," Dillon admitted. "Get me in space and let me do what I do."

There aren’t many receivers on LSU’s roster with that skill set, particularly after slot receiver Trey Quinn opted to transfer following the 2015 season. Starters Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural can play the inside receiver positions, and other wideouts have worked there this spring -- Ferguson frequently lined up inside during spring practice periods that were open to the media -- but those are all prototypical outside receivers.

A dual-threat quarterback (among other positions) in high school, Dillon practiced with the scout team last season while learning the slot receiver position. He believes that redshirt season was necessary for him to pick up the technical aspects of playing receiver, like crisp route running and techniques for beating press coverage.

"It was a big transition coming from quarterback to receiver, especially at the college level, so I needed that," Dillon said.

With that experience behind him, Dillon hopes to prove to new position coach Dameyune Craig that he deserves playing time this fall. If he is successful in that endeavor, his shiftiness could provide LSU’s passing game with a different type of pass-catching weapon to utilize.

That’s what happened in LSU’s first spring scrimmage, when Dillon caught a bubble screen and went 50 yards for a touchdown.

"Derrick’s no slouch at all," quarterback Brandon Harris said. "He took a quick pass and took it to the end zone. Derrick Dillon is probably one of our fastest guys on our team. You get the ball in his hands, I don’t care if it’s a checkdown or whatever, he’s going to take it and do something with it. I think he’s had a great spring."

The same could be said for the position group in general. LSU’s receivers big and small have reportedly enjoyed a strong series of spring practices.

Chatting with reporters after the first scrimmage, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron credited the wideouts for his quarterbacks’ high completion percentage. And Harris believes the group’s height and catch radius -- the average LSU scholarship wideouts is 6-2 1/2 -- has made his job easier.

"When I first got here, everybody was relatively around my height," said the 6-3 Harris. "Now those guys are real long, rangy guys and you have a big margin for error when you throw the ball. They can make some freakish catches."

Making the spectacular catch probably won’t be Dillon’s role, but he could still have a role in the offense once the season arrives. As LSU coach Les Miles would put it, Dillon has some "make you miss" to his running style after the catch, and that’s something that separates him from many of the gazelles in his position group.

Being different might strengthen his case for playing time this fall, as it seems to have helped him make an impact on the LSU passing game this spring.

"Basically my goal was to try to get on the field and play my role, do what I can for the team," Dillon said. "It’s going good so far."