Terrance Toliver will be the first to tell you that his sophomore campaign was a disappointment. Toliver worked behind Brandon LaFell and Demetrius Byrd, where he totaled just 22 catches for 257 yards and one touchdown.
No matter the struggles at quarterback, Toliver said that his emergence should have come sooner. A 2007 Freshman All-SEC selection, Toliver simply expected more.
Throughout the preseason, the Hempstead, Texas native made a point to reaffirm his commitment to becoming a bigger, better receiver. His body told the initial story. Over the summer, he moved up to 208 pounds – the heaviest weight of his career.
Toliver’s play on the field, judging by Saturday’s performance at Washington, has the junior looking like the total package. One game into the new season, he has already doubled his touchdown total from 2008.
“As a receiver, everyone wants to catch the ball,” Toliver said. “Whatever it takes to get us into the end zone. It was satisfying. I just hope I can keep it going the rest of the season. I still have work to do, because I messed up on a few plays too.”
Toliver’s first score came on a 45-yard strike with 1:15 to play in the first half. Jordan Jefferson found Toliver open across the middle on a busted defensive assignment. After he made the safety miss with a move, Toliver carried the ball across the goal line and handed the Tigers a 17-10 halftime lead.
With 5:50 to go in the third quarter, the tandem struck again. This time, Jefferson picked up on a cornerback blitz from Toliver’s side of the field. The safety played the coverage deep, and by the time the Husky defender made it over to the open Toliver, the LSU receiver made a quick sidestep and dashed to the corner of the end zone for the 39-yard score.
Toliver added another catch and run on the Tiger’s final drive of the evening, and the junior finished with four catches for 117 yards – a career best.
Truth be told, since Jefferson took the reigns Toliver’s production has gone through the roof. Over the final five games of last season, Toliver registered 16 of his 22 receptions and accounted for 156 of his 257 yards, with his lone touchdown of the year coming during that span. In Saturday’s opener, Jefferson shared the ball with Toliver as much as LaFell, the senior and number one wide out.
When Toliver addressed the media on Tuesday, a reporter began to recount the junior’s success since Jefferson took over. Toliver quickly cut in.
“I knew somebody was going to say that,” he laughed. “[Jefferson] throws to the open player. He does not want to force anything or get an interception. He learned sitting behind Jarrett [Lee] to not make those mistakes. He would rather just run the ball or throw it to the open guy than force it in there.”
Toliver went on to say that Jefferson, and the Tiger receivers, looked best when LSU ran their up-tempo, no huddle offense.
“In the more up-tempo [offense], we were always getting the ball down field,” Toliver said. “The defense was not lining up fast enough. [Jefferson] is a dual threat quarterback; I feel like why not have an up tempo offense. When we have it, the defense is not set. They start getting their plays off the sidelines. We have our hurry up stuff going and we can just get the play off.”
One change in Jefferson’s attack that Toliver, and the Tiger coaching staff, want to see is the sophomore quarterback taking fewer hits outside of the pocket. When Jefferson was hit on back-to-back plays at the end of the third quarter on Saturday, Toliver said that enough was enough.
“I was telling [Jefferson] that he can’t take shots like that,” he said. “He won’t last the whole season. I told him as your bro, you got to slide or something; do Peyton Manning or what they do. You can’t take hits like that.”
Jefferson’s reaction told the story.
“He was kind of dazed, so he really did not say anything,” Toliver laughed.
This weekend, Toliver will put the best game of his college career in the rearview. Waiting on the other side of the field is a 1-0 Vanderbilt squad, and the Commodore defense is already sharing their thoughts.
In the Sep. 8 edition of The Tennessean, Vanderbilt strong safety Sean Richardson dared the LSU offense to throw in the direction of he and cornerback Casey Hayward.
“If I was an opponent, I would try to," Richardson said. "They know we don't have too much experience, and you have [senior cornerback] Myron Lewis and [senior free safety] Ryan Hamilton on the other side with a lot of experience.
"It would be a smart thing to do, to try and pick on us. We're just going to play and see what happens."
If the Vanderbilt defense was trying to put out a feeler for the Tiger plan of attack or illicit words from the LSU offense, Toliver was not budging.
“We are going to throw it,” Toliver said. “I don’t get into all the talking. I just do what I do on the field. I am not T.O. [Terrell Owens]. I am quite. I kind of like when people talk. It makes me play better. Brandon LaFell says the same thing.”