Wide Receiver – Sophomore
Head coach Les Miles… “I think Shepard has had a really great summer. He just keeps doing things better and better and I think he is a guy we will have to turn to and see if he makes some plays.”
Miles will be the first to admit that LSU didn’t use Russell Shepard to their advantage during his freshman campaign; so getting him onto the field remains priority number one from the faithful.
The first step was a move away from quarterback. Check.
Shepard found a fulltime home at wide receiver - a spot far from the days of endless hours of work with the passers turned into Casper the Ghost-type roles on Saturdays.
Running as the third receiver on one of the shallowest units on the team, Shepard stumbled through workouts in the spring. At times his routes looked sharp. Other times he looked like an athlete who had played quarterback his entire life.
His hands were a different story. They looked bad most of the time, rarely seeing a day where Shepard could reel in multiple balls without seeing one hit the turf.
Fast forward to the fall and there’s a new Shepard in town, and this time No. 10 looks like he has played wideout every snap of his football days. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder grabs everything in his reach, and he flashes speed off the line and after the catch that no one else on the offense can match.
Shepard has locked up the starting slot spot, and through most of camp he ran alongside senior Terrance Toliver as the team’s second receiver.
Freshman – Wide Receiver
Head coach Les Miles… “I think he’s physical, and I think he expects himself to do well. He’s a fast learner.”
If receiver depth was shallow before, the injury to Chris Tolliver (concussion) takes the worry to a whole new level. Of the team’s three names with game experience, only Terrance Toliver has caught more than 11 passes. Shepard, who suited up at quarterback last season, hauled in only five catches.
The message to the newcomers was an easy sell: prove you can play and you will see the field. During the opening days of camps the team was split into veterans and freshmen, seeing wide receivers Kadron Boone and Armand Williams join on with the veterans for evaluation purposes.
The two stayed there until the sides joined together a few days into camp, leaving no signs of Wright through week one.
Then came the scrimmages.
First for the Belle Chase standout was a 65-yard, one-touchdown performance behind a pair of snags in the opener. Though a full stat report was not released, Miles said that Wright followed that performance up by winning the day again in the team’s second full-squad scrimmage.
Whether he is the first name to the field from the 2010 class of wideouts remains to be seen, but Wright left no doubts with his fall campaign that he would avoid a redshirt and see the field as soon as North Carolina.
Junior – Running Back
Head coach Les Miles… “It appears to me that we are going to run the football, and I like the stable of running backs we have right now … I’ve felt like Ridley has come off fast.”
Ridley won the starting carries last season by default after veterans Charles Scott and Keiland Williams went down to injury. When redshirt freshman Mike Ford ripped through the spring and kept pace with Ridley week in and out, anticipation grew that the Leesville native could buck Ridley – and Richard Murphy, for that matter – from the field and earn the starting job.
With fall camp in the rearview, that doesn’t look to be the case.
Ridley came out running as strong as ever, seeing the 6-foot, 225-pounder draw praise from Miles after each of the team’s three scrimmages. In the final scrimmage where no stats were released, Miles called the junior runner one of the three offensive stars of the afternoon.
Word on Ford’s progress this fall has come sparingly, leaving Tigers fans to believe that game one – at least until Ford takes the rock and runs with it – will belong to No. 34.
Senior – Running Back
Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton… “He is healthy now … his knee is better. I feel like he can catch, run the ball, has understanding and has intelligence. He's working all the time on running the football.”
If Ford was to blow through fall camp, those that counted Ridley out likely didn’t hold much hope for the fifth-year man Richard Murphy, who was now sporting a pair of surgically repaired knees as he fought off not just Ridley and Ford, but a slew of young freshmen as well.
Yet, the No. 18 jersey – once worn by Jacob Hester and passed down to Richard Dickson – didn’t find its way into the hands of Murphy on accident. Resiliency would be key.
In the team’s second scrimmage, which focused primarily on red-zone work, Murphy’s patience paid off when he was given six touches, which he turned into 61 yards and touchdown runs of 23 and 20 yards.
Healthy for the first time in a year, Murphy said that he views the 2010 season as his final chance to prove his worth in a Tiger uniform. From what we’ve seen so far this August, it doesn’t look like the Rayville native is letting the opportunity pass him by.
Junior – Tight End
Head coach Les Miles… “He certainly is a very dangerous receiver on the pass, and I think his career is really just starting. He’s the kind of guy that will eventually be a first choice for us in a lot of the passing sets.”
If there’s a forgotten link to the LSU offensive chain, it’s tight end Deangelo Peterson.
A one-time wide receiver, the 6-foot-4, 243-pounder is a nightmare for linebackers and defensive backs on pass routes. The first glimpse of that came last fall when all five of Peterson’s touches resulted in either a first down or touchdown.
In the second showing, LSU fans are hoping for more love sent Peterson’s way – and it appears Miles and the offensive coaching staff has that plan in mind.
During a scrimmage that focused primarily on red-zone and tight-zone situations, Peterson matched the production of senior wide receiver Terrance Toliver when he hauled in a team-high two touchdowns on three catches for 49 yards.
One thing is certain, the Tigers have plenty of tight ends at their disposal – but none that feature a skill set anywhere close to Peterson’s. According to starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, the months ahead will serve as his tight end’s breakout campaign.