Spring Football Preview: WR/TE

With one senior leader and a slew of young talent, the LSU receiving corps could be one of the most effective in the Southeastern Conference. Here is part four in a series on each position battle.

Spring Preview: QB

Spring Preview: RB

Spring Preview: FB

Brandon LaFell might not be around anymore, but don’t count on any drop-off in performance when it comes to senior Terrance Toliver.

Rueben Randle is a year older, Russell Shepard is officially into the fold, there is a slew of young talent looking for their first chance and – perhaps the final piece needed – first year wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Billy Gonzales is there to make it all flow.

This is a group that will be watched closely by head coach Les Miles this spring. With freshmen such as Kadron Boone coming in this summer and threatening for playing time outside of the top-three receivers, the remaining crop of wideouts will need to secure their role over the coming months.

Here is TigerSportsDigest.com’s look at each player in the race:

Terrance Toliver

6’5”, 206, Senior

Hempstead, Texas

Last Season: 47 catches for 654 yards and three touchdowns

Outlook: By now Tiger fans know what Terrance Toliver is all about. While he played second fiddle in the touchdown category to LaFell last fall, the junior receiver never shied away from big game opportunities.

Toliver's main focus this spring will be on his hands

Perhaps his glaring weakness was the inability to be consistent with his hands. According to Toliver after the Penn State game, that would be priority number one in terms of focus this spring.

If Toliver can fine-tune his skills over the coming months, expect LSU to sport one of the top senior wide receivers in the entire country. As the lead-man in the group, the sky is the limit during his 2010 campaign.

Rueben Randle

6’3”, 201, Sophomore

Bastrop, La.

Last Season: 10 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns

Outlook: Most expected Randle to blow onto the scene during his freshman season, but playing behind older talent and in one of the NCAA’s worst offenses halted the freshman’s maturation process.

With LaFell gone, Randle will start opposite of Toliver. At 6’3” and adding weight to his 200-pound frame, Randle’s size is certainly one of the first things you notice.

Yet, now that you will be able to get an eye on his complete game, watch the sophomore’s ability to get separation – which his teammates hype as Randle’s best attribute. A smooth glider who has soft hands, Randle simply has a leg up on the rest of the Tigers when it comes to using his body to get free and catch the ball. While NFL eyes will be on Toliver’s performance, Randle’s sophomore season will most certainly serve as his coming out party – and a heads up to pro scouts who are looking at future LSU talent.

Russell Shepard

6’1”, 188, Sophomore

Houston, Texas

Last Season: 277 yards rushing and two touchdowns

Shepard worked at QB last spring, but will be at WR this year

Outlook: LSU fans waited all spring and summer to see Russell Shepard, but the beginning of the season saw the Houston native stick to the sidelines. As it became increasingly evident that the coaching staff had no intentions of using Shepard on any regular basis, the idea that the freshman could one day throw passes as LSU’s quarterback seemed to fade with the passing weeks.

With Billy Gonzales – most recently a member of Florida’s staff - now on board as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, Shepard has moved to wide receiver and begun his growth under the same coach that put Percy Harvin into the NFL.

Replacing LaFell at the Z would seem a tall task for a guy who only caught one pass in high school, but Shepard isn’t your ordinary collegiate athlete. One of the most explosive young playmakers in all of college football, catching balls in the slot should be right up Shepard’s alley. Outside of the screen passes, look for Shepard to also move into the backfield during two-back sets out of the shotgun, a formation that the staff expressed interest in during bowl preparations. With a three-wide set of Toliver, Randle and Shepard, the Tigers’ corps will certainly be as dangerous as anyone’s in the conference.

Chris Tolliver

6’1”, 178, Sophomore

Rayville, La.

Tolliver should be in the slot behind Shepard

Last Season: Appeared in three games, but recorded no stats.

Outlook: While Tiger fans haven’t gotten to see any of what Tolliver can do on Saturdays, his 43 yard, six-catch performance in last season’s spring game certainly left a good first impression.

If you ask his fellow receivers, Tolliver’s biggest area of improvement needs to come with his hands – becoming consistent catching the football. Once he gets the ball, however, Tolliver can make things happen. One of the more explosive players on the offensive side, the 6-foot-1, 178-pound receiver can also break tackles and keep plays alive.

Look for Tolliver to back up Shepard in the slot.

Jhyryn Taylor

6’0”, 175, Sophomore

Taylor's ceiling is considered to be among the highest in the lineup

Franklinton, La.

Last Season: Appeared in nine games, but recorded no stats.

Outlook: If you want to talk potential, look no further than Taylor. From all accounts, the former Franklinton High standout is battling purely with the mental game.

During last year’s camps, Taylor showed good hands, one of the more consistent receivers that would catch the ball each time it came his way. Perhaps the best part of his game, Taylor can take a slant, make a move and get to the house as effectively as anyone on the team. Yards after the catch thanks to explosiveness is what fans can get used to when Taylor enters the game.

This spring, we expect Taylor to back up Randle.

John Williams

5’11”, 185, Junior

Williams will have to battle past Tolliver and Taylor for playing time

Breaux Bridge, La.

Last Season: Appeared in six games and recorded one catch for 17 yards.

Outlook: Williams made the switch from defense to offense after his redshirt freshman season in 2008, where he hoped to be in the mix for playing time at receiver after a relatively productive spring.

While playing time came sparingly, Williams gets another crack at breaking out this spring. When Kadron Boone shows up to campus in the summer and competes in preseason workouts, the freshman could immediately back Toliver up as the fourth receiver. Battling Tolliver and Taylor for time outside the top three, Williams’ spring will need to be a great one to warrant breaking into the lead group. Right now, he appears to be sitting behind Shepard and Taylor for time in the slot.

Tight End Position:

Deangelo Peterson

6’4”, 240, Junior

New Orleans, La.

Last Season: five catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns

Outlook: Peterson’s big game of 2009 came against No. 1 Alabama, where the sophomore hauled in two catches for 40 yards – highlighted by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Jefferson in the second quarter.

A converted wide receiver, Peterson – who strength coach Tommy Moffitt is still working to add weight to – has flourished at tight end, and LSU will look to use the up-and-coming talent when the team goes to four-wide sets.

Losing Richard Dickson, a four-year starter, certainly hurts. However, Peterson’s promise softens the blow. Right now, the sky is the limit. This spring should give him time to develop his game even further, especially under the tutelage of Gonzales.

Mitch Joseph

6’5”, 275, Junior

New Iberia, La.

Last Season: two catches for 18 yards

Outlook: Joseph played the blocking tight end in a three-man rotation in 2009, and we expect much of the same from the New Iberia native next fall. Joseph hauled in just two catches working behind Dickson and Peterson; and with Edwards and Peterson in the mix for 2010, don’t expect those numbers to jump too much.

Tyler Edwards

6’3”, 237, Sophomore

Monroe, La.

Last Season: 11 games played, one start, no recorded offensive stats

Outlook: Edwards’ only start in 2009 came against Ole Miss, though short-yardage situations often saw Edwards thrown into action – one of the more reliable blockers in the unit.

For Edwards, the spring will be interesting to watch. Travis Dickson is coming in during the summer and could make a push to see time by next fall, so Edwards will want to lock his spot behind Peterson up over the coming months. A first-team all-state tight end twice coming out of Monroe in high school, Edwards has the potential to grow into a solid tight end with the Tigers. This spring should give him his first serious platform to prove just that.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories