IN SPOTLIGHT: Who Will Fill Bowe's Shoes?

It seems as if the day would never come when LSU would take the field without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis lined up at receiver but all good things must come to an end at some point.

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

It seems as if the day would never come when LSU would take the field without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis lined up at receiver but all good things must come to an end at some point.

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.

Davis was not far behind Bowe in receptions and yards as he left in seventh place in school history in both catches and yards with 141 and 2,107, respectively.

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'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 Houston, Texas native caught only five balls for 140 yards but two of those grabs went for six and both scores were from 58 yards out.

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.

Jared Mitchell and Chris Mitchell both played as true freshmen but the two combined for only three catches for 28 yards.

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.

Former East St. John product Ricky Dixon will have his say in the matter and after redshirting in 2006 he is ready to get back into the mix. The coaches were very excited about Dixon's practice habits and the improvement he made last fall.

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 Dixon was that he was not fast enough but he spent a lot of time working on his speed and word is he looks better than ever.

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. 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 Pearl River Community College he should be better equipped than his two true freshman counterparts to play right off the bat. If he does have a shortcoming then it would be experience since he played only one year in high school before heading to Pearl River.

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. Benton can make a highlight-reel play anytime the ball is thrown his way and he may be a little better equipped than Toliver to handle the press coverage.



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