We move on this week to the receivers. Now, when the Golden Century Team was first unveiled, the modern passing game was, frankly, still in its infancy or at least its adolescence. There were only two slots for wide receivers and none for tight ends. Which is contrary to how football is played today (insert Les Miles conservative offense joke HERE).
So we're adding two slots for the receivers: one more wide receiver and one tight end, which was bizarrely excluded on the original team. The old-timers have an uphill climb given the explosion in offensive numbers, but we'll see if the expanded roster gives them a chance.
THE GOLDEN CENTURY TEAM
WR Wendell Davis (1986 & 1987 All-American, most career receptions in LSU history, NCAA yardage leader in 1986, 1987 SEC Player of the Year). Wendell Davis was the no-brainer greatest wide receiver in LSU history before a certain Josh Reed showed up. And while Reed deserves every plaudit he gets, it's a shame that Davis is not held in that same regard, as he breathed the same rarified air. Davis led the NCAA in receiving yards in 1986, and he led the SEC in receptions for two consecutive seasons (he finished 2nd and 6th in the nation, respectively). He also was 2nd in the nation in receiving touchdowns in 1986. His 80-1244-11 and 72-993-7 lines have lost some luster due to the explosion of passing and schedule length, but those stat lines were the best in the nation when he put them up, and in just 11 games. He also suffered one of the most horrific turf-induced injuries in NFL history when he literally jumped out of his knees on the Vet Field turf. If you need another reason to hate the Eagles, there it is. They ruined the pro career of the best receiver LSU had ever had. His 2708 career receiving yards were an SEC record when he graduated, but he is still top 10 all-time in career receptions, single-season receptions, and single-season yards. All in the old 11-game schedule.
WR Eric Martin (1983 All-American, 1982 & 1983 All-SEC). Here's how much passing offenses have changed: when Martin left school, he had two of the top three highest single-season reception totals in LSU history: 52 and 45. Even in those old conditions, he still managed to catch 152 balls for 2625 yards in his career, ranking 3rd in LSU history in yards and 7th in receptions. Martin was also the most efficient receiver in LSU history, as he ranks 1st all-time in yards/catch among players with at least 50 receptions. Only seven players in LSU history have had a 1000-yard season, and he's one of them, but he's the one who did it on the fewest number of catches (52). His 35 consecutive games with a catch was a school record for 20 years, until finally falling to Michael Clayton. Martin was as good as your uncle told you.
WR Tony Moss (1988 & 1989 All-SEC). He ranks 8th all-time in receiving yards (2196) and 12th in receptions (132). He finished 2nd in the SEC in yards in 1988 and 1st in 1989. Moss' real skill was scoring touchdowns, as he finished first in the SEC in consecutive seasons in receiving TD's. He was real good for a real long time, but he really doesn't really have a shot to make the all-time team. I just wanted to give him the props he deserves as an LSU great.
WR Andy Hamilton (1st LSU receiver to 100 career receptions, 2000 career yards, and 1000 yards in a season). Hamilton used to own the LSU record book for receivers. From 1969-1971, he showed LSU fans that the forward pass was possible. His 1016 yards in 1970 was the 1st 1000-yard season in LSU history, not to be joined until 1983. His 19.6 yards/catch is the highest among LSU receivers in the top 20 in yards (Dural is 23rd and at 19.9). For a long while, he was the only great LSU wide receiver.
TE Doug Moreau (1965 All-American). That's right, our color guy was a pretty great tight end back in his day. He went 29-468-3 in his All-American season, ranking 3rd in the SEC in receiving yards. He's listed in the media guide as a tight end, but other sources have him as a wide receiver. I'm mentioning him as a tight end, but it won't matter because of...
TE Ken Kavanaugh (1939 All-American, NCAA leader in receiving, 1938 & 1939 All-SEC, SEC Player of the Year, 7th in the Heisman balloting in 1939). LSU's first great receiver, he led the NCAA in receiving in both major categories with 30 catches for 467 yards in 1939. He was a star player under Bernie Moore, replacing Gaynell Tinsley (previously discussed as a defensive end). He'd go on to a successful NFL career with the Giants, where he'd be named to the 1940's All-Decade Team. Yeah, he was awesome.
Look, this is likely going to tilt towards the modern guys, but the old-timers have some legit contenders for the final list. Davis should be a shoo-in behind Josh Reed and Kavanaugh has a real case for best tight end in school history. Martin's numbers stack up against the modern guys as well. OK, Hamilton is just happy to be on the list, but he was the trend-setter. Here's the old guy ballot:
WR Wendell Davis
WR Eric Martin
WR Andy Hamilton
TE Ken Kavanaugh
First, no love for Todd Kinchen?
Second, it's kind of amazing that as much as the game has progressed since the late 80s, LSU's style hasn't really evolved with it. We watch the advent of Leach's Air Raid, as well as the Oregon and Auburn spread option hurry up nightmare attacks, and all the various iterations we associate with modernity and yet, here's LSU, mostly lining up with a couple TEs, mostly running the ball north south, mostly just going about their business being vintage. I don't even mean this negatively. LSU is typically reliant on in-state talent and Louisiana pumps out stud running backs with as much regularity as they do corrupted politicians. This is the very logical explanation for why LSU has been such a run-dominant team throughout school history, "I hate our offense" memes be damned.
So, my job is then to push the message that the present and recent past is of course better than the mesozoic offenses of that pre-date the Golden Era. Yet, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but explosive offense isn't really our thing. So I'll offer a list of nominees, but only one is a clear shoo-in.
Josh Reed - 2001 Biletnikoff Award Winner, 1st Team All-American, 2x 1st Team All-SEC
I don't even need to stump for Reed. He's so special it's silly. His raw numbers speak for themselves, but there's all these random nuanced stats that further speak to his greatness. Only one player has ever recorded more than 3 consecutive 100-yard receiving games in LSU history: Josh Reed. And he did it twice. Not to mention he also hit 3 games once. He topped 200 receiving yards in a game. Twice. He recored 18 100+ yard receiving games. That's double-digit games more than any other wide receiver in the Golden Era. Here's a game: Look up a receiving stat in LSU history and try and find Reed not right near or at the top. You will always lose.
Michael Clayton - 1st Team All SEC, 2nd Team All SEC
Next to Reed, who he teamed with, Clayton's numbers seem paltry. He ranks 4th in receiving yards and 2nd in receptions in LSU history. But even more than his raw statistics, I think most of us remember Clayton as being our single best offensive player on the national title team. Sure, Justin Vincent had a nice run and Matt Mauck was a good leader, but we all knew Clayton was the stud. Clayton wasn't just a great WR but the consummate team player, stepping in at Safety when needed in the 2002 Cotton Bowl.
Dwayne Bowe - 1st Team All SEC, 2nd Team All SEC
The career leader in TD receptions, Bowe is also 6th in yardage, despite never registering a 1,000 yard season, and 6th in receptions. Look, Bowe's a really nice player, but am I going to sit here and stump for him as one of the best 3 in LSU history? I don't think so.
Brandon LaFell - 1st Team All SEC, 2nd Team All SEC
You might laugh at first glance, but LaFell put up some seriously great numbers in his career. He caught a pass in 41 consecutive games. He's 2nd all-time in TD receptions. He's 5th in receiving yards and 3rd in receptions. LaFell was inconsistent and frustrating, but he's stubbornly consistent. This a guy we never thought was the guy though he spent his entire career pretty much being the guy.
I'll throw out a mention for Landry, the beloved fan favorite. Look, the further we get away from Landry, the easier we are able to separate our emotions and acknowledge that he was a fine player, but perhaps not the all-timer we imagined. Jarvis had a nice LSU career, but it was mostly built on a single season. People will cite how consistently he caught the ball as his true skill and it's a nice story, but Jarvis doesn't even rank top 10 in receptions or receiving yards in LSU history. In fact, Beckham easily ranks ahead of him in both. So do people like Craig Davis and Early Doucet and Jerel Myers. So really, I'm mentioning him here because most of you skim these articles and if you didn't see his name you'd have some stupid comment, "No love for Landry, WTF?" and this is here to show you how stupid you are. #OBJ4Ever
David LaFleur - 1st Team All-American
LaFleur's numbers, by comparison aren't all that sensational. He did lead the team in receptions in 1996. His 439 yards are still the single season TE receiving record, remarkably. LaFleur was a good two way player, but time hasn't been his friend.
Richard Dickson - 2nd Team All-SEC
Dickson is LSU's TE receptions, yardage and TD leader. That gives him a pretty strong case for best TE in school history. Except, he wasn't thought to be remarkable by anyone outside of Baton Rouge. He only made 2nd team All-SEC, and never All-American. The Crowton effect.
So, as noted, modernity hasn't exactly ushered LSU to new heights. Reed is so obvious as if to not even deserve a debate. I'd say ditto for Wendell Davis. The 3rd spot is a toss up between Eric Martin and Michael Clayton. Martin was better regarded nationally, but Clayton toppled most all of his numbers. What about the career achievement of Brandon LaFell? Okay, I can't make room for that.
At TE, I like the idea of Kavanaugh. Dickson was fine, but nothing special and his numbers best Moreau, the only other guy with national plaudits to compete with Kavanaugh. Let's keep the old timer.
So, for me:
WR - Josh Reed
WR - Wendell Davis
WR - Michael Clayton
TE - Ken Kavanaugh
There are two absolute no-brainers, Reed and Davis. There is no reason to even debate those two guys. Given that you're already conceding Kavanaugh, that leaves us with just one battelfield, the final wide receiver slot. And I think you nailed the modern day candidate, Michael Clayton who also gets bonus point for being the last 60-minute man in LSU history. OK, it was just one game, but it's still cool. Still, Eric Martin had a long period of productivity that stands up even without an era adjustment.
So I think we you should open this one up to the floor. Who do you have on the All-Time team, Eric Martin or Michael Clayton?
No love for Todd Kinchen????
Todd Kinchen was briefly the best player on the LSU football team. I can think of no greater condemnation of Curley Hallman than that. In fact, he had problems replacing Kinchen after he graduated, as the team plummeted to 2-9. He could return the hell out of a punt, though.