Summer Film Session: WRs
Watching spring practice videos of LSU receivers in action
By BEN LOVE
Tiger Rag Editor
We’ve reached another Tuesday in the summer, and that means it’s time for the next installment of TigerRag.com’s summer film sessions.
Last week we took a look at the men throwing the passes for LSU. Today we’ll turn the focus to those catching them.
Every Tuesday from now until SEC Media Days in late-July (July 20-22, to be exact), we’ll run out a series of videos from this past spring’s LSU practice sessions.
Each week we’ll tackle a different position, breaking down the Tigers as they go through an assortment of drills. And, to help you get a better idea of who pushes who around on the Ponderosa, we’ll feature the best of the Big Cat drill several weeks along the way.
Now, back to today’s featured position: wide receiver.
In 2011 the LSU receiving corps will be an experienced one for the most part, losing only departed senior Terrence Toliver from its two-deep.
Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard, both starters from a year ago, enter their junior campaigns with plenty of on-field training already in their rear views. Each wide-out hauled in 33 passes in 2010, though Randle parlayed his grabs into 544 yards and three touchdowns while Shepard totaled only 254 yards and one score. It should be noted, however, that Shepard was also involved in the run game to the tune of 226 yards and two touchdowns.
Following that duo is redshirt junior Chris Tolliver (who, quite honestly, is a bit of unknown moving forward due to recurring concussions) and a slew of second-year receivers, two of which saw some action last year.
Standing atop that list of sophomore playmakers are Kadron Boone (four catches, 52 yards in ‘10) and James Wright (two catches, 21 yards). Both flashed glimpses of brilliance during spring practices and will be counted on more heavily in the passing game.
After Boone and Wright are fellow recruiting Class of 2010 mates Armand Williams and Jarrett Fobbs. Williams possesses more of an ability to stretch the field while Fobbs, who coming out of high school reminded some of former Tiger Skyler Green, is more of a slot receiver with quickness.
You’ll be able to watch every player listed above on the Flip Videos below. One player you won’t see is incoming freshman Jarvis Landry. But please don’t forget the name, and don’t make the mistake of thinking his impact will be minimal in year one. All indications are that Landry, a Lutcher High School stand-out, is primed to compete for playing time right away.
Finally, this upcoming season will be position coach Billy Gonzales’ second at LSU. The former Florida coach, who helped turn Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy into household names, spent most of this recent spring drilling his guys on the fundamentals. Check out the clips below, where Gonzales helps hone concentration skills and hand-eye coordination, a key for a unit which had too many drops a season ago.
Check out today’s film session footage on the LSU wide receivers, complete with notes and observations following each clip. For identification purposes: Randle is No. 2, Shepard is No. 10, Boone is No. 86, Wright is No. 82, C. Tolliver is No. 21, Williams is No. 81 and Fobbs is No. 5.
Video 1: WRs work on burst, hands
Wednesday, April 6
NOTES: This is a drill which can most easily be translated into comeback routes or hitch routes. What Coach Gonzales has the WRs simulating is coming out of those breaks quickly (and with no false steps) and immediately turning their heads and hands toward the ball. Some things that Gonzales notes: Russell Shepard doesn’t take a big enough first step forward (which is designed to have the DB thinking fly route to keep on running past) when he goes through the drill … James Wright is too slow at the top end of his route the second time he goes through the drill. Both of these things will affect how much separation the player can gain.
Finally, on the day of this practice, here’s what I wrote on our site: “In the first two ‘burst’ videos, wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales is working with the wide-outs to be quick and get out of their breaks (commonly known as the “burst”) efficiently and without standing straight up or using wasted motion. The drill’s done in close quarters and gets even more interesting when Coach G starts to take swipes and rips at the players’ arms as the ball approaches in the second of the two clips.” And that one comes next …
Video 2: WRs burst, hands with contact
Wednesday, April 6
NOTES: Same thing here, but with Gonzales raking their arms and hands. Obviously everything he’s doing would be considered pass interference, but it reinforces concentration and the ability to fight through contact (key for a group that, as I mentioned before, had some occasional dropsies in 2010). Some things Gonzales notes: Jarrett Fobbs doesn’t pull his arms up and through the contact enough on his first time around. When the arms are too close into the body, minimal contact can deter a receiver from getting to the ball. Really, Gonzales is just trying to get him to attack the ball with his hands … Ditto for Armand Williams on the very next rep. He never pulls his left arm through and, as a result, he drops the pass.
Video 3: WRs work on getting off jam
Tuesday, March 29
NOTES: Let’s set the scenario first. Gonzales has the receivers as if they’re split out right (looking in over left shoulder at QB), and he wants them punching/grabbing the DB’s shoulder pads with their right hands, then swimming over the top with their left hands. All of this helps tremendously with gaining separation off the line of scrimmage. Other subtleties he’s teaching (of which some of the LSU wide-outs are better than others): He has them making contact with the back of the shoulder pads on the end of the swim move to help even more with separation (watch the left hands closely). Also, and most important, he constantly reminds them to keep their hands up pre-snap so as not to use wasted motion in getting them there upon the whistle.
One another note: The veterans have a pretty good grasp of what Gonzales is after here. But all four rising sophomores (Wright, Boone, Williams and Fobbs) have a little trouble, and he uses this drill as a teaching point for the quartet. What he wants from them all is a more aggressive first step forward into the DB’s body while making that initial contact on the defender’s shoulder with the right hand. Watch closely at the very end as he instructs Boone. Small things, but the younger players will eventually learn them and close the mental gap of the game where some of the veterans are still ahead.
Video 4: QBs to WRs Corner Routes
Tuesday, March 29
NOTES: Now for some actual route-running, an area in which I feel certain receivers are noticeably ahead of others on this LSU team. Here’s my evaluation directly following that practice: “It’s becoming clear some of the younger receivers are better route runners than others. Among the guys who excel in that category are James Wright (No. 82) and Kadron Boone (No. 86). It comes as no surprise then that these two, along with rising junior Chris Tolliver, are the first names on the depth chart once you get past starters Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard.”
Take a look at the video and you’ll see what I mean. Boone, in particular, is probably the most polished route runner of the four younger players. Wright isn’t far behind and has a long stride, which can make up for a lot. But listen as Gonzales gets on Williams the first time around. The critique is simple: He’s too slow out of his break and consequently didn’t catch up to the sideline-bound ball. That’s why Coach G is encouraging Williams to “pull yourself out,” meaning pump the hands faster in the cut toward the corner to get going quicker in the other direction. Bit of the same thing with Fobbs, too.
As far as the older receivers, they’ve got this drill down, too. Experience helps. So does a large amount of natural talent, as Shepard put on display with his go-up-and-get-it grab the second time through the drill. If No. 10 can learn to be more consistent, watch out. He’s capable of the spectacular, as we see, but it’ll take a little more concentration on the easy ones to separate him from his peers.
Video 5: Big Cat Pt. 2 (WRs)
Tuesday, March 15
NOTES: One player you haven’t heard me say much about in these ‘Notes’ sections is Rueben Randle. There’s a reason for that: No. 2 is a very smooth player whose overall wide receiver skills are more advanced than anyone else in the corps. There just hasn’t been too much for me to critique on him.
Something else that makes Randle a cut above: his physicality. That much is on display above as he whips youngster Ronnie Vinson from the opening whistle of his turn in the Big Cat ring. Randle has more upper-body strength than most cornerbacks can handle. He definitely follows in the big-body footsteps of Michael Clayton and Dwayne Bowe at LSU. The next step is for him to consistently stalk block as well as those two former Tiger greats.
Other notes from the WRs turn on the Big Cat: Fobbs had a pretty decent effort against a taller player with long arms in Tharold Simon … Wright wasn’t bad going against upperclassmen Ron Brooks, as the two more or less battled to a draw … Shepard has great leg drive, constantly churning them, which was evident as he eventually overpowered Derrick Bryant.
Editor Ben Love covers LSU football and men’s basketball for Tiger Rag. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.