Fall Camp Position Preview: What's the Deal with LSU's Wide Receivers & Tight Ends?

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 01: Odell Beckham Jr. #33 of the Louisiana State University Tigers catches a pass over Anthony Mosley #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats during a game being held at Tiger Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)


Rising water level lifts all ships, and by the same token, improved quarterback play will bring the receivers and tight ends with them. And just as I am quietly, cautiously, very confident in the improvement of LSU's passing game in 2012, so am I sure that the wide receivers are ready to be very productive in this coming season.

Truthfully, the unit did a solid job in 2011, given the limitations they were working with. Rueben Randle had an All-SEC season, and Odell Beckham Jr. quietly was very very good as the No. 2 target on a team that, frankly, just didn't throw the ball that much. See the following from the spring, when we discuss what ODB might have done last year with a better QB:

He managed to crack the starting lineup in week one, overcame a couple of drops early on and went on to have the SEC's third-best catch rate among receivers with more than 50 targets -- a better percentage than Randle finished with, actually. Factor that number and Beckham's 11.5 yards per catch in with Randle's target rate (he had 87 passes thrown his way) and ODB projects to catch 63 passes for 724 yards. Those aren't exactly great numbers but adjust the yards per catch figure in the equation slightly and the results go up quickly.

Wide Receivers:

Roster Information

Height/Weight

2011 Target Data*

2011 Catch Data

3 Sophomore Odell Beckham, Jr.

6'0, 187

Targeted 61 times, 8.3 yards per target, 21.9% of LSU's total passing targets

44 catches (72.1% catch rate) for 504 yards (11.5 yards per reception) and 2 touchdowns. 2011 SEC All-Freshman

10 Senior Russell Shepard

6'1, 195

Targeted 25 times, 7 ypt, 9% of LSU total

14 catches (56%) for 176 yards (13.5) and 4 touchdowns

86 Junior Kadron Boone

6'0, 207

Targeted 12 times, 8 ypt, 4.3% of LSU total

7 catches (58.3%) for 82 yards (11.7) and 2 touchdowns

80 Sophomore Jarvis Landry

6'1, 195

N/A

4 catches for 43 yards (10.7)

82 Junior James Wright

6'2, 203

N/A

5 catches for 41 yards (8.2)

5 Sophomore Jarrett Fobbs

5'11, 195

No targets

No appearances

81 Sophomore Armand Williams

6'3, 200

N/A

2 appearances, no catches

21 Freshman Paul Turner

5'11, 192

No targets

Redshirted

83 Freshman Travin Dural

6'2, 180

Four-star recruit

85 Freshman Kavahra Holmes

6'2, 180

Three-star recruit

ODB appears to be the leader of this group as of now, and that's no surprise after last season. He's looked silky smooth in workouts so far, and with his speed, quickness and leaping ability, he should have no problem stepping in for Randle as the top target. But I'm not so sure he's going to be asked to.

I have a feeling that this year's receiving corps is going to be a fairly balanced group, with a somewhat even distribution of passes, almost similar to last year's running back corps. This group of receivers is fairly diverse, to the point that I'm not so sure one guy is going to command most of the targets. ODB gives you speed for the vertical game and quickness for the underneath routes. Classmate Jarvis Landry gives you a little bit more of an all-around game, plus an extremely physical attitude. From his limited play last year to the way he attacks DBs in the Big Cat drill, you can see that Landry is a guy that just likes hitting people. He reminds me a lot of Early Doucet -- athletic, physical, not while necessarily a blazer off the line, you won't see Landry run down from behind very often. Plus, Landry and ODB can line up in any WR position: split end, flanker or slot. There are a lot of ways to get them involved.

James Wright gives you a bigger, possession type. Though he may not have the ideal height LSU fans have gotten used to from players like Brandon LaFell or Terrance Toliver, he's a little more put-together, and pretty polished for a guy that hasn't caught a lot of thus far in his career.

And of course, there is the enigmatic senior Russell Shepard. There isn't much more to say about the guy at this point. With the exception of a few twitter brain farts and last year's three-game NCAA suspension, he's been a fine representative of the LSU program off the field and a leader in the locker room. On the field, he's been a disappointment, but there are still 14 games for him to change that. The explosive speed is there, and he may be the best blocking receiver on the team. Whether the hands, concentration and fluidity come in, is another question.

These four should be the principle group of wideouts, and with the different styles each of them have I expect each to have a turn in having a big game. The four of them are just different enough that I could see each one having his share of yardage, just like Ware, Blue, Ford and Hilliard in the backfield. ODB and Landry project as the top targets, but it wouldn't shock me at all if three or four players top the 35-catch, 400-yard mark.

Kadron Boone and Paul Turner appear to be the leaders of the next wave, and freshmen Kavahra Holmes and Travin Dural have even earned some accolades this August. If those two jump Armand Williams and Jarrett Fobbs, then the latter two's time in the program could be short.

Tight Ends:

88 Senior Chase Clement

6'5, 265

Targeted 12 times, 8 ypt, 4.3% of LSU total

7 catches (58%) for 96 yards (13.7) and 1 touchdown

47 Senior Tyler Edwards

6'4, 245

N/A

No catches in 13 games

84 Sophomore Nic Jacobs

6'5, 265

N/A

No catches in 10 games

41 Sophomore Travis Dickson

6'3, 230

N/A

1 catch for 10 yards

48 Freshman Dillon Gordon

6'5, 280

Three-star recruit

*Target Data not available for all WRs/TEs. HT: kleph/TSK

The outlook isn't quite so rosy for the tight ends. There are some solid blockers here, and Clement is athletic enough to serve as a security blanket/red zone target, but I don't think you'll see him go over the 20-catch mark. After him, you have some big bodies like Nic Jacobs and Tyler Edwards that can get push in the running game, but might not have a lot of value beyond that (helloooo DeSean Smith). Plus, with the prospect of the running backs having more involvement in the passing game, another player like a tight end will be asked to stay in and block more often anyway.

What could be interesting is the idea of one of the backs, possibly Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue or Terrance Magee, serving in something of a slot/H-back role. While those particular backs might not offer the same down-field speed, getting them in space on corners and safeties remain a positive matchup. We discussed this in the running backs preview, but with the promise of truer two-back sets (with two running backs as opposed to a halfback and a fullback), LSU could have some very interesting chess pieces to move around versus a defense to manipulate adjustments and create mismatches.

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