Note: This is the third installment of a 10-day series where we take a look at each position as the LSU Tigers prepare for spring practice which kicks off on Feb. 23.
A Look Back
In what may go down as the best wide receiver duo in LSU history, Bowe and Davis have moved on and will embark on a career in the NFL. The task at hand for offensive coordinator Gary Crowton is to fill the void left by the dynamic duo but that will not be an easy task.
Bowe finished his career at LSU as the all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 26 which also put him eighth on the all-time list in the SEC. He also left LSU fourth in school history in receptions with 154 and fifth in yards with 2,403.
With the numbers Bowe and Davis posted at LSU you may ask who does the staff turn to?
Early Doucet proved last year that he was worthy of being Scout.com's No. 1 rated wide out in the country when he came out of St. Martinville. Everyone was waiting for him to put everything together and he did last season by grabbing 59 passes for 772 yards and eight touchdowns. He showed some of the skills that made him such a dynamic playmaker at St. Martinville where he ended his career with 7,104 all-purpose yards and 79 total scores.
The trio of Bowe, Davis and Doucet formed one of the most prolific trios in all of college football last season as they combined for 180 receptions for 2,598 yards and 24 touchdowns. With the ball being spread around so evenly one would think that there was not much action that went the fourth wide receiver's way and that was exactly the case.
Redshirt freshman Brandon LaFell
did not get many passes thrown his way but when he did get an opportunity he
capitalized on it. The
A Look Ahead
The Tigers are going to be young in the receiving corps this spring and there will not be a lot of depth in the spring but they will not be short on talent.
Heading into his final season with the Tigers, Doucet has 103 career receptions for 1,418 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is capable of filling Bowe's shoes as the big-play man in the passing game and if he puts up the kind of numbers Bowe did during his senior campaign then he will break all of his records.
For Doucet to do that, though, LaFell must step up and become more consistent with catching the ball and with running his routes.
That was Jared's first year playing wide receiver after spending his prep career at quarterback so this spring would normally be the time where the light really begins to come on. I say normally because he will be splitting time between baseball and football so it will be tough for him to get as many reps as he needs.
The other Mitchell, Chris, should really benefit in Jared's absence and the extra reps could allow him to make a move into the lineup when the Tigers go to a three-wide set.
There will be a learning curve for all of the young receivers and having to learn a new offense will only add to it. However, the talent is definitely there.
What to Look for This Spring
The two most glaring questions heading into camp are how will the young receivers respond now that Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis have departed, and how wide open is the offense going to be?
Before Gary Crowton can turn his undivided attention to the receiving corps he must find a replacement for Todd Monken, who accepted a position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Once that position is filled the focus will shift to personnel and bringing the young pups along in the new offense.
Early Doucet was pretty steady all of last season and this spring he must step up and be a leader and mentor for the younger guys. He had a good showing in the Sugar Bowl where he had eight receptions for 115 yards but now the focus of every secondary the Tigers are going to face will be squarely on him.
Throughout his career, Doucet has always had the luxury of having Bowe and Davis attract all of the attention but now he will have a bulls eye on his chest. There is no question of whether or not he is capable of being the go-to guy because he has all of the tools but someone must step up to keep defenses from doubling him on every play and to shoulder some of the load.
Brandon LaFell has the most experience and will get first crack at starting opposite of Doucet. He showed flashes last year but lacked consistency. LaFell is not a burner but he has the speed to get past defenders and to keep them honest. He has the size to be that physical receiver that Bowe was but needs to continue to develop more upper body strength.
I look for LaFell to make some strides this spring but this summer in 7-on-7 drills is when he will develop that consistency with catching the ball and sharpening up his routes.
Jared Mitchell, Chris Mitchell and Ricky Dixon will all get plenty of reps in camp and Chris Mitchell is the one to keep an eye on. He has the physical skills to be a real good receiver but he must overcome the mental mistakes that plagued him on the practice field during the fall. Learning a new offense could create some difficult moment for Mitchell but he must stay positive and listen to the coaches.
The key with Jared Mitchell will be how he handles the juggling act of not only baseball and football but also mastering the new playbook. One of his strongest attributes that his high school coach Craig Brodie commented on during the recruiting process was that he was a quick learner and that will be put to the test. No word has come out yet on how much he will participate in spring practice but I look for his participation in football to be limited.
That could open up some more time
and reps for Ricky Dixon, who has been forgotten about somewhat in the minds of
fans because he redshirted. Coming out of East St. John the knock on
Trindon Holiday lined up at receiver some in 2006 but he was either given the ball on an end around or used as a decoy. His speed is too valuable to have sitting on the sidelines and the staff has to fid a way to get him the ball in some open space.
There may be a few names to surface this spring due to the lack of depth or position changes and the one that comes to mind is R.J. Jackson. He spent a week or so at wide out during the fall before moving back to running back and another one that comes to mind as a possible candidate could be Richard Murphy.
The staff is real high on Murphy as a running back but I would not be surprised to see him do some cross-training this spring to try and get him on the field. He could be a taller version of Josh Reed with his ability to cut on a dime but much will depend on where the staff feels he can contribute the most and the quickest.
Help Is On the Way
LSU signed one of if not the top overall groups of wide receivers in the country with the 2007 class.
Scout.com 5-star wide out Demetrius Byrd (6-2, 205, 4.4) will be on campus in the beginning of June and he will be
counted on to contribute from day one. He has size and speed but the biggest
thing he brings to the equation is his maturity. After spending two years in
junior college at
Anytime you land the No. 1 ranked wide receiver in the country you expect him to see the field as a true freshman and that is what will be expected of Terrance Toliver. He is tall and rangy but needs to bulk up considerably before he maximizes his potential. If Toliver can get his academics in order then it will be hard to keep him off the field because even though he is not as physical as he can be he still has enough in his arsenal to contribute.
DeAngelo Benton falls into the same
category as Toliver in many ways. If he can qualify academically then he could
earn some playing time in 2007 because he is that good.