SPRING PRACTICE PREVIEW: WRs
LSU lost three senior receivers from 2009, one of which was one of the best in school history. But LSU is has some serious talent for 2010, and I expect the receiving corps to be one of the strengths of LSU’s team. New receivers coach Billy Gonzales should be an upgrade, and his presence could really make a difference in the performance of the entire group.
Senior Terrance Toliver is back after a breakout campaign in 2009 where he caught 53 balls for 735 yards and three touchdowns. While the SEC returns a number of big-time receivers in 2010, Toliver is in that group and should be on several pre-season All-SEC teams. Toliver has always had a good on-field relationship with Jordan Jefferson, and that should flourish now that Jefferson is more experienced. He is now the primary receiver, and the biggest thing he can do this spring is to set a good example for the other receivers and to develop as a team leader.
Starting on the other side from Toliver should be sophomore Reuben Randle. Randle came to LSU as one of the top recruits in the entire nation last year. By the middle of his freshman season, Randle earned his position of being LSU’s #3 receiver. He had some big catches late in the games against Georgia and Ole Miss, giving us all a glimpse of what is to come. He finished the season with only 11 receptions, but that is mostly due to playing behind outstanding veterans such as Toliver and Brandon Lafell. Randle has great size and hands and does everything well as a receiver. He’s poised to break out in 2010.
Competition will be heated for LSU’s #3 receiver position, but Russell Shepard seems the most likely to win the spot. The simple way to view this is that Shepard is too talented to keep on the sideline. He has to be on the field, and the slot receiver is the most likely spot for him. With Shepard working primarily at receiver this spring, I expect him to make great strides. Other than Shepard’s obvious physical skills, there’s a lot to be excited about for him in 2010. New receivers coach Billy Gonzales has successfully coached someone with Shepard’s skill set when he coached Percy Harvin at Florida. The hope is that Shepard can duplicate some of Harvin’s success while working in the slot and motioning into the backfield. Shepard’s progress is one of the biggest things to watch this spring.
Sophomore Chris Tolliver has yet to make a mark in his LSU career, despite being the state of Louisiana’s top recruit in 2008. Tolliver has a ton of speed and ability with the ball in his hands, but he has reportedly struggled with consistency catching the football. As a result, he hasn’t been able to earn his way onto the field. He did have a very nice spring game last year. He’ll be battling to be LSU’s #3 receiver, but he’ll have a lot of competition. I still have a lot of hope for Tolliver, and I think he can impact this team in a big way. He needs to focus on being more consistent in practice to earn himself an opportunity in the games. With his speed, he has to be a candidate to return kicks as well.
Sophomore Jhyrn Taylor is similar to Tolliver in that he has yet to make a significant impact in his career. Taylor is reportedly a very solid player but just hasn’t been able to crack the playing rotation thus far. Taylor is small in size at just over 170 pounds, but he runs good routes and has good speed. He’ll continue to compete and try to earn playing time.
Junior John Williams continues to progress. Williams is small in size and doesn’t have blazing speed but he’s a solid guy who does a good job in practice. He actually had a very good spring practice last year, but it didn’t translate into playing time on the field.
In the fall, freshmen Kadron Boone, James Wright, Armand Williams, and Jarrett Fobbs all join the mix. I expect at least one of these guys to play next year. Wright and Boone are the most likely candidates.