LSU’s Best Kept Secret

Photo from Icon SMI

Russell Shepard entered LSU with very high expectations by all the major recruiting agencies. He was a big-time prospect who played quarterback in high school, but he was figured to transition over to receiver quite nicely once he got on campus in Baton Rouge.

Shepard enrolled early, and as expected, Les Miles moved Shepard over to receiver, but he did allow him to play some quarterback in the spring and worked him as the Wildcat quarterback.

LSU learned real fast that Shepard can be that everything, impact player they need in this league. During his freshman campaign, Shepard took direct snaps at quarterback, screens at wide receiver and reverses from the slot, but even still, LSU’s offense never has quite figured out to how to fully use him as a staple and playmaker.

Former LSU Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton never could quite figure out how to maximize Shepard’s ability, and that might be part of the reason the offense has been rather suppressed during the latter portion of his tenure.

So, here we are – Russell Shepard is yet again entering another SEC season figured to bring big things for this LSU offense.

However, the new guy in town – OC Steve Kragthorpe – could be the best thing that ever happened to Shepard at LSU. Shepard has settled nicely into his receiver role this spring, and he certainly hopes this passing game can pick it up.

Last season, Shepard started things off with a 50-yard touchdown run against North Carolina, and he caught his first touchdown pass against the Tar Heels later in the game. That was the only receiving touchdown on the year for Shepard – believe it or not.

For the life of me, I cannot believe we are still talking about Shepard hopefully being a breakout player in 2011.

However, in order for Shepard to be effective, he has to touch the football a minimum of 10-12 times per game.

He is often compared to Percy Harvin. Let’s take a look at Harvin’s stats during his tenure at Florida compared to Shepard’s:

NAME Year Rec. Yards Rush Yards Total Yards TD
Percy Harvin Fr. ’06 34 for 427 41 for 428 855 5
Russell Shepard Fr. ’09 5 for 34 45 for 277 311 2
Percy Harvin So. ’07 59 for 858 83 for 764 1,622 10
Russell Shepard So. ’10 22 for 254 32 for 226 480 3
Percy Harvin Jr. ’08 40 for 644 70-660 1,304 17
Russell Shepard Jr. ’11 ? ? ? ?

Another interesting method of comparison is to look at the average length of play (both receiving and rushing) of Percy Harvin and Russell Shepard during these years:

NAME Year Avg Rec Play Long Avg Rushing Play Long
Percy Harvin Fr. ’06 12.6 yds 58 yds 10.4 yds 67 yds
Russell Shepard Fr. ’09 6.8 yds 13 yds 6.2 yds 69 yds
Percy Harvin So. ’07 14.5 yds 52 yds 9.2 yds 66 yds
Russell Shepard So. ’10 7.7 yds 22 yds 7.1 yds 50 yds
Percy Harvin Jr. ’08 16.1 yds 70 yds 9.4 yds 80 yds
Russell Shepard Jr. ’11 ? ? ? ?

Obviously as you can see, the production of Harvin was much greater than Shepard in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but I do consider them very similar. While the talent of Percy Harvin is tough to compare anyone to, it’s also worth noting that the Florida offense during Harvin’s tenure was much different than the LSU offense which Shepard has been playing in.

1,000 total yards and 10 touchdowns should not be out of the question, but it would be doubling his 2010 performance.

The one main point is this – Shepard cannot be a factor unless you give him the football. A guy can have all the talent in the world, but if he has no one to get him the ball he’s useless.

If the Tigers want to have a high-octane explosive offense, Russell Shepard simply has to touch the football more times per game. Steve Kragthorpe will be looking to do just that this year in Baton Rouge.

COMMENTS

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  • Percy’s numbers are insane.

  • Percy definitely was the playmaker for FL. However, FL had tons of speed and proven athleticism you had to worry about, which helped kinda open up Harvin to BE that playmaker. If Shepard gets the ball more this year, he’ll definitely do alot with it, however, if its only him doing everything on offense, how easy will it be for a stout D in this league to contain him. Shepard’s going to have to step up his game, LSU is going to have to get him the ball, and someone is going have to be there with him, and somehow help him to be that guy for LSU, like Percy was for FL.