When watching the freshmen group of receivers work alongside Chris Garrett and Russell Shepard, two jersey numbers immediately stand out: 2 and 17.
The first number belongs to Rueben Randle, a five-star and the nation’s No. 1 receiver prospect for 2009. At 6-foot-3, 201-pounds, the Bastrop standout has the size and athleticism to move into a starting SEC role tomorrow.
While that type of impact was expected from Randle, the same can’t be said for No. 17 – Morris Claiborne.
If the name does not pop out at you, there is good reason. The Shreveport-native experienced a recruitment that picked up steam down the home stretch, where he eventually moved up to a three-star and the nation’s No. 89 receiver prospect.
When LSU wide receivers coach DJ McCarthy extended an offer last November, the biggest names on Claiborne’s board were Texas A&M and Nebraska. It did not take the Fair Park standout long to make the call. After discussing things over with his mom, Claiborne called the LSU staff and ended his recruitment - all in day’s work.
Fast-forward nine months; the 6-foot, 171-pound Claiborne is in Baton Rouge and already turning heads – most notably head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.
“We took [Claiborne] the first two days and put him on offense, and he did very well,” Miles said. “He’s been on the defensive side one time, and the next practice we have will be his second day on defense. We’re not really certain where he will end up, but in my opinion, he is a very talented guy.”
Crowton, who got a first hand look at Claiborne alongside Randle and Co. last week, echoed the headman’s sentiments.
“[Claiborne’s] doing a very good job with this camp,” Crowton said. “He’s everything we thought he would be and maybe even a little bit more. He can play on both sides of the ball. Where we feel like we can use him, we will. At the same time, he will make some older players better or push them out of their spot.”
For Claiborne, getting onto the field is the driving force. What position it comes at matters little.
“My goal coming down here was just to get on the field,” Claiborne said. “I came here to work hard and get a position, bottom line. No matter where it is, I want to get out there and play.”
With two days on offense and one on defense behind him, where does Claiborne feel more comfortable?
“I can’t say at this point,” he said. “Give it a little more time and then see what everyone is thinking. I just know I felt like I did well at receiver, so I hope to match that on defense.”
With his performance on the offensive side thus far, Claiborne might be able to work himself up the depth chart sooner than expected. The reward, however, does not come without a price.
“I am trying to catch everything, but that has left my hands taped up every day,” Claiborne laughed. “Jordan [Jefferson] threw me a ball so hard one time while I was on dig that it completely busted my glove. Then Russell threw me an out route and it dislocated a finger.”
When asked how Shepard - whose throwing power sees a significant drop off from Jefferson, Lee and Garrett – got the best of him, Claiborne could only smile.
“Russell throws hard, I am telling you,” he laughed. “They all get after it.”