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Countdown to camp: Catch it like Beckham?

7/8/2012

GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:

Before he moved to a pro career with the New York Giants, Rueben Randle emerged as a go-to receiver for LSU.

A big target who was fast enough to haul in the tough pass, he caught 53 passes for 917 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior, good enough production in an otherwise sub-par passing game to motivate him to leave LSU a year early and eventually get selected at the end of the second round of the NFL draft by the Giants.

Fast forward to this season. There is optimism among LSU faithful that the Tigers' passing game will be better with new quarterback Zach Mettenberger. But how about the impact of the departure of a high NFL draft pick like Randle?

If there's a go-to guy to emerge for new wide receivers coach Adam Henry, it'll probably be sophomore Odell Beckham, Jr., who emerged as the Tigers' No. 2 receiver last season behind Randle with 41 receptions for 475 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Here's a look at the postion:

Wide Receiver

Key returners: Odell Beckham, Jr. (5-11, 183, So.), Russell Shepard (6-1, 185, Sr.)

Key Losses: Rueben Randle (Second round draft pick, New York Giants), TE Deangelo Peterson (starter).

Others returning: Kadron Boone (6-0, 195, Jr.); James Wright (6-2, 201, Jr.), Jarvis Landry (6-0, 190, So.), TE Chase Clement (6-5, 251, Sr.), TE Tyler Edwards (6-4, 235, Sr.), TE Travis Dickson (6-3, 230, So.), Jarrett Fobbs (5-11, 195, So.), Armand Williams (6-3, 200, So.), TE Nic Jacobs (6-5, 253, So.),

Newcomers: Avery Johnson (6-2, 180, Fr.), Paul Turner (5-11, 186, RS-Fr.), TE Dillon Gordon (6-4, 265, Fr.), Travin Dural, 6-2, 170, Fr.), Kavahra Holmes (6-1, 180, Fr.).

Strengths: Beckham lacks size and perhaps elite speed, but as a true freshman he proved to be a precise route runner and a reliable pass catcher a quarterback can count on. Look for him to emerge. Shepard possesses elite speed and the ability to run after the catch. The top five receivers -- Landry, Wright and Boone are the others -- have put in much work with Mettenberger.

Weaknesses: Not only does Randle's departure leave the Tigers without a proven go-to receiver, it also leaves the Tigers without the prototypical big receiver. At 6-2, Wright will be the closest thing. With Peterson's departure, tight ends don't look to be a big part of the passing game this year. Clement has been more of a blocker in his career. Shepard has never lived up to his much-hyped expectations.