Byrd was always the first guy to line up during receiver drills and when we spoke to him one day he commented on how he was ready to be the go-to guy but only if that was best for the team. He sounded very unselfish but at the same time he definitely seemed confident that he could handle that role.
The junior college transfer was a good deep threat in his first year with the Tigers and caught the ball well with the exception of a few drops. He did tend to let the ball get into his body a little but this spring there was an emphasis placed on him using his hands to catch everything and Byrd looked comfortable doing so.
Brandon LaFell had a severe case of the “drops” last year and if he has overcome those problems that plagued him in 2007 then the sky is the limit. He has great size, good speed, and may be the best blocking receiver on the team.
LaFell is the Tigers’ leading returning wide out after pulling in 50 passes for 656 yards and four touchdowns in ’07. Those numbers could have been much higher but you have to love the young man’s resiliency and the way he came up big in the SEC championship game with some key receptions.
Tiger fans waited and waited for Terrance Toliver to have that breakout game last year and it came against Louisiana Tech where he caught three passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. The only problem was that he never caught a pass after that game and was shutout for the final four games.
Toliver had some problems early on with getting off the line but he has added some muscle to his upper body which should help in 2008.
Four guys battled for the fourth and fifth spot when the Tigers went to those sets and although Jared Mitchell only took part in close to half of the spring practices he looked a little quicker than last season and made some nice catches.
Dixon still looks to be a step slow but he has that big body that could make things tough on smaller defensive backs and according to LSU’s headman he caught the ball well this spring.
Hopefully, this will be the year R.J. Jackson gets comfortable playing the position but he still looks a little unsettled with running his routes and catching the ball.
Richard Dickson has changed his jersey number to the No. 18 that Jacob Hester wore at LSU and look for him to also assume the leadership role that Hester played as well. He was consistent all season long and really came up big in the BCS championship game with a couple of touchdown receptions.
While Dickson will be the receiving threat, Mitch Joseph looks bigger than the 243 pounds he is listed at and will be the blocking tight end that Keith Zinger was.
Alex Russian still looks a little light in the pants to handle the blocking assignments but he runs well and has a frame that can carry a lot more weight.
Spring Game Performance
The coaches had to be happy with what they saw in Demetrius Byrd during the spring game as his four grabs for 132 yards and a touchdown led both squads.
Andrew Hatch hooked up with him for a 60-yard connection where Byrd did a great job of coming back to the ball and then he showed some nifty footwork to dance his way to another 20-plus yards after the catch.
Byrd later got into the end zone after connecting with Jarrett Lee for a 57-yard scoring strike and then capped off the evening with an 8-yard reception.
Brandon LaFell made a couple of receptions for 38 yards and hooked up with Hatch for a 12-yard score in the second quarter.
Getting into the end zone was good to see but not as good as the adjustment LaFell had to make on a 26-yard pass play on the right sideline with Ron Brooks defending. He had Brooks beat but had to come back to the ball when Hatch delivered it short and turned his body all the way around to make the grab.
Byrd and LaFell went with the No. 1 offense so that left Terrance Toliver going with the second unit and matching up against LSU’s first team corners for nearly the entire day.
Toliver had three grabs for 44 yards and he got behind the corners a couple of more times but the connection wasn’t made.
Most expected to see Toliver make the big plays for the second team offense but instead it was Chris Mitchell.
The junior from Marrero got behind Jai Eugene on a go route on the first drive. That play went for 40 yards and he added two more receptions for 16 yards to finish as his squad’s leading receiver.
Ricky Dixon and R.J. Jackson were both held out with minor injuries but both should be ready to go for fall camp.
The work for the receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks will now begin and then crank up a few notches this summer when they are on the practice field working in 7-on-7 and getting their timing down.
The summer is always a critical time for quarterbacks and receivers and there should be plenty of opportunities for Ryan Perrilloux, Jarrett Lee, and Andrew Hatch to throw a lot of passes with the plethora of receivers LSU will have.
The receiver corps will be deep when you take the returning guys (Byrd, LaFell, Toliver, Dixon, Jackson, J. Mitchell, C. Mitchell) and then you can factor in the 2008 signees like Chris Tolliver, DeAngelo Peterson, Timothy Molton, Jhyryn Taylor and DeAngelo Benton. When you look at the veterans and the young guys it makes you realize just how deep this position can be for 2008 if all of the signees are academically eligible.
Richard Dickson is the kind of guy every coach would love to have because he leaves everything between the lines and is a leader on and off the field.
The big question with Branch is will he move to offensive tackle immediately or start off at tight end?
There may be some question marks on the guys throwing the football but after looking at the guys they will have on the receiving end of their passes there is no question the Tigers are loaded with talent but a little short on experienced depth heading into 2008.
TSD.com Projected Depth Chart Heading Into Fall Camp