Last season, LSU found itself in a bind trying to find able bodies to fill the WR depth chart. De-commitments from Justin Hunter and Mike Davis left LSU digging deep into the WR pool looking for players who could contribute immediately in 2010. Those spots were filled with Kadron Boone, James Wright, Jarrett Fobbs and Armand Williams. Boone and Wright each made contributions this season, while Fobbs and Williams took redshirts. Fobbs is a versatile threat that could wind up at corner in the future. Williams is more of a project WR with great physical tools.
The TE situation was less uncertain. Nick Jacobs and Travis Dickson fill the two roles Miles seems to love in TEs: one blocking, one receiving. Jacobs took a redshirt in 2010 while Dickson played sparingly (perhaps he redshirted as well, but I vaguely remember him being on the field a few times). These additions leave the TE depth chart pretty full with no additions in 2011.
However, LSU is still looking to re-stock the WR depth chart and has found multiple outstanding candidates in 2011. The 2011 WR haul leaves LSU stocked full at the position and sets up the TIger's offense for a bright future to come.
On the roster:
Rueben Randle, Jr.
Randle takes the reigns of the number one spot next season. We've seen his outstanding playmaking ability. Randle is a rare athlete who possesses both long speed and unusual quickness in the open field to make people miss. He possesses all the qualities you look for in a number one WR. Unfortunately, Randle's career has been hamstrung by poor QB play. Could this be Randle's last year in a Tiger uniform? It all depends on whether or not the QB play improves enough to allow him to shine.
Russell Shepard, Jr.
Shepard finished his first full season as a WR with mixed results. Early in the season, he appeared to have made a smooth transition and would be a dominant player. As the season wore on, his role seemed to fizzle and he battled learning the intricacies of the position. Shepard still struggles with catching the ball consistently and doesn't run the most polished routes. However, from all accounts he is a tireless worker, and I suspect knowing he'll be heading into 2011 as the number two receiver he will raise his game.
Chris Tolliver, RS. Jr.
Tolliver has yet to live up to his top 100 recruit billing, but late in the season he began to emerge as a deep threat in the Tiger offense. Tolliver is arguably the fastest WR on the team, but he will need to elevate his game before being passed by younger players. Could he be an attrition candidate? Potentially, but it doesn't seem likely after his late season emergence.
Kadron Boone, So.
Boone stepped onto the field some when LSU would line up in 4 and 5 WR sets. He showed some playmaking ability, but with struggling QBs, it's hard to get a 5th WR any sort of appreciable catches. He has the physical ability to be an outstanding WR in the future and I look for him to figure more into the game plan in 2011.
James Wright, So.
Wright worked his way into the lineup through his excellent blocking. He was even featured as the sole WR when LSU would move into "big" sets down near the goal line. Wright, like Boone, finished with modest stats, but should continue to see his role expand as a sophomore.
Jarrett Fobbs, RS. Fr.
Fobbs is a versatile WR that did a little bit of everything in HS. He looks like a slot receiver that will follow in the "Russell Shepard role" whatever that is... but time will tell.
Armand Williams, RS. Fr.
Williams is probably the most intriguing youngster of any of the bunch. He's big (6'3", 195) and a tremendous athlete (state high jump champion). He fits the mold of the big-bodied WRs LSU has had success with in the past. However, he is raw as a player and will take some time to develop.
Jarvis Landry, Fr.
Landry finally got his due in the most recent, and final, release of Rivals rankings. He isn't the biggest or fastest WR in the nation, but he's certainly the most skilled. He runs superb routes, catches everything in sight and blocks like a demon penetrating the gates of heaven. He's tough, tenacious and reliable. Simply, the best ball skills of any WR recruit in recent history. He's not an athlete playing WR... he's a wide receiver. Landry should have an opportunity to compete for playing time immediately, due to his advanced skills. He's a humble, hard working kid that should excel in Baton Rouge.
Strengths: Ball skills, Hands, Route Running, Blocking, Toughness
Weaknesses: Size, Speed
Odell Beckham Jr., Fr.
Beckham flashed his ability all week at the Army All-American game, illustrating serious speed, but also tremendous refinement to his game. He runs good routes and catches the ball with his hands. There is still some speculation as to which side of the ball he will play on. Early in the recruiting process it was rumored that the coaching staff liked him as a defensive back. But he's recently told reporters he's coming in to play WR, though also saying he'll do whatever to help the team.
Strengths: Speed, Ball Skills, Athleticism
Paul Turner, Fr.
Turner is another of the small/explosive WR talents in this class. Turner's athleticism was on display as QB for West Monroe the past two seasons, but his future will either be at WR or DB. He's exciting to watch with the ball in his hands, but I expect him to take a redshirt to develop and bulk up.
Strengths: Explosiveness, Athleticism, Creativity
Weaknesses: Raw, Size
Alonzo Lewis, Fr.
There's a lot of speculation about Lewis' future at LSU. He's a big (6'3, 192), rangy kid who lacks superb speed (though his listed 4.92 is not accurate). His frame seems suited to WR, but he could also bulk up and become a safety or even outside linebacker. Lewis is a great athlete who will likely be moved all over the field early on in his career trying to find him a permanent home.
Strengths: Size, Athleticism
Weaknesses: Raw, Long Speed
Overall, this is a stellar haul at WR for LSU. I don't expect all four of these players to remain at WR, however. I could even see as many as three of them winding up at different positions based on need. Landry is a WR 100% of the way, and each of Beckham and Turner will have a chance to prove their worth their as well. As for Lewis, only time will tell. Could Landry, Beckham and Turner break the "curse" of small WRs at LSU? I will say the Landry and Turner are more talented than any of the recent smallish WR recruits we've recruited, and I expect both of them to become impact players in short order.