LSU Tigers: Rueben Randle

Editor's note: This week, GeauxTigerNation and TideNation will examine all aspects of the LSU-Alabama rivalry during the Nick Saban-Les Miles era. Today's stories focus on the past and future of the schools' recruiting battles.

The LSU-Alabama rivalry extends well beyond the football field. Since Nick Saban took over the Tide, he and Tigers coach Les Miles have clashed in some epic recruiting battles. Through that, both coaches have learned that you can’t get everybody on your wish list, regardless of ties or proximity.

Here’s a list of five prospects who got away from Alabama and five who got away from LSU in what has become one of the nation's top recruiting rivalries.

Five who got away from Alabama:

WR Chris Tolliver, 2008 (Rayville, La./Rayville): It was a classic Tide-Tigers battle for Tolliver, the nation's No. 11 wide receiver. He took official visits to Alabama and LSU in consecutive weeks right before he made his decision. Although he chose to stay in state, the Tide were able to steal his teammate and fellow wide receiver Kenny Bell the following year.

Multiple top 10 recruits no guarantee 

June, 21, 2013
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As Michigan looks to add to a No. 1 recruiting class Insider that already includes No. 2 Jabrill Peppers, we look back at other schools that landed multiple top 10 recruits fared in those players' tenures. While Alabama hit a home run in 2009 -- landing future first-round picks Dre Kirkpatrick and Trent Richardson -- others have seen mixed results.

[+] EnlargeJoe McKnight
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJoe McKnight never quite reached the lofty expectations placed on him as the No. 1 recruit in USC's stacked 2006 class.
2006

USC Trojans
Vidal Hazelton (No. 3 recruit) Taylor Mays (8), Antwine Perez (10)
The trio signed with a USC program that was coming off back-to-back BCS title game appearances, but their reality ended up being a pair of transfers and a final game for Mays in the Emerald Bowl. Perez played sparingly as a true freshman and then transferred to Maryland. Hazelton was the leading receiver for the Trojans in his sophomore year with 50 catches but transferred to Cincinnati after his junior year. Mays stayed all four years and earned All-American status before being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the 49ers. -- Garry Paskwietz


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LSU recruitniks got a bit of good new Friday from 2013 recruit Quantavius Leslie, via Twitter.


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LSU Class of 2009 review 

January, 24, 2013
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Lamin Barrow, Josh Williford, Tahj Jones and Craig Loston will be looked at as old, old men next year when they enter their fifth-year senior seasons at LSU.

In a program that has made an art of the three-year recruiting cycle, they are only players left from LSU's 2009 signing class that was ranked No. 1 in the country by RecruitingNation.

[+] EnlargeMorris Claiborne
Rob Tringali/Getty ImagesMorris Claiborne was picked No. 6 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, one of several former LSU standouts from the 2009 recruiting class that was ranked No. 1.
That they are gone doesn't reflect poorly on a class that already has three players in the NFL and at least five who are likely to be high picks in the upcoming NFL draft. For those who stayed four years, they enjoyed three consecutive seasons of 10 victories or more, an SEC championship and a trip to the BCS championship game.

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Tiger Tale: Odell Beckham, Jr.

December, 12, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Leading up to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, we'll take a daily look at a key LSU player. We'll examine how he has done and what his challenges are for the Clemson game.

Odell Beckham, WR, Sophomore

Accomplishments: Beckham emerged as LSU's primary big-play threat, catching 40 passes for a team-high 673 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He had the team's long catch of the year, a 56-yarder. An elusive speedster, Beckham's talents translated to special teams, where he returned two punts for touchdowns. His 89-yard return for a score against Ole Miss was a key play in The Tigers' come-from behind win, salvaging senior day for LSU. Beckham averaged 9.7 yards per punt.

Shortcomings: Even after the departure of Rueben Randle, Beckham did not become a significantly more prolific pass catcher in his sophomore season. He hauled in 40 passes as a true freshman starter for the Tigers, but only had one more catch in his 12-game sophomore season, though his yards-per-catch average increased. He went through an early slump, particularly in the season's second game where he struggled with fumbles and drops against Washington. He seemed to regain his confidence late in the season.

Against Clemson: While LSU's passing game surged in the last four games of the regular season, Beckham didn't see much increase in production as Jarvis Landry seemed to be a the main beneficiary of Zach Mettenberger's new-found passing proficiency. He had 27 catches for 420 yards in the first eight games and 14 for 253 in the last four. He'll look to become a bigger part of the Tigers' resurgent passing game in the bowl.

 


Rueben RandleWesley Hitt/Getty ImagesRueben Randle opted for LSU over Alabama, and it worked out well for him.

So, Alabama and LSU don't play this weekend. The Crimson Tide must get past No. 11 Mississippi State before the upcoming trip to Baton Rouge for a third Game of the Century in the past year. But the fact that the two rivals aren't playing hasn't stopped anyone from talking about this rivalry for the past 10 months -- Nick Saban and his squad have been one of the main topics of debate in the Pelican State for most of this year. So who cares if we get a little ahead of ourselves?

The Tigers and Tide have squared off for so many bluechip prospects in the last few years, there needs to be a series just for alums of this game. Next week, when the game is actually looming, we'll delve into the current side of the fight.

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Trust key for LSU passing game

October, 11, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- In the season's first six games, LSU wide receivers have caught 65 passes -- not many when one considers that the Tigers have dropped close to 20.

Still, wide receiver Jarvis Landry doesn't want to portray the group as "struggling."

"We're not struggling at all," Landry said. "We're just trying to put [quarterback Zach Mettenberger] into a rhythm."

[+] EnlargeZach Mettenberger
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireLSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger says, "We're so close to being a good offense."
It seems, right now, each part of LSU's passing game is dancing to its own song, perhaps a step off the beat. The offensive line has struggled to protect Mettenberger, both in terms of physically handling assigned blocks and getting to the proper block. Receivers have struggled to consistently run the right routes or run them well, and have struggled to hang on to catchable throws. Mettenberger tries to do too much and turns the ball over.

It adds up to a passing game that is 12th in the SEC (195.7 yards per game) and eighth in pass efficiency.

One would think the Tigers need to drastically improve to have any chance to rebound from last week's 14-6 loss to Florida. The Tigers continue to face a gantlet going forward, starting with Saturday's home game against South Carolina and continuing with games against Texas A&M and Alabama.

South Carolina leads the SEC in sacks, while A&M has the SEC's individual sack leader (Damontre Moore). Alabama has the nation's best defense.

It's hard to imagine LSU being able to simply run at any of the three. And if the Tigers are to balance the run with the pass, they will have to be much more in rhythm with each other than they have been, particularly recently.

The problems, they say, are largely ones that are correctable, which had many of those involved in the passing game frustrated a bit this week.

"We're so close to being a good offense," Mettenberger insisted.

What keeps it from happening?

"Little things," Landry said.

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Beckham regains swagger in time for UF

October, 2, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- In the second quarter Saturday, with LSU's offense trying to climb out of a miserable funk, Odell Beckham, Jr., got open behind the Towson defense.

Odell Beckham
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireOdell Beckham broke out against Towson after a slow start to the 2012 season.
The only receiver out for a pass on the play-action throw, he got free on a post pattern anyway and ran with nobody near him toward the back of the end zone, just in front of, and smack in between, Tiger Stadium's iconic double goalposts. The pass from Zach Mettenberger wasn't perfect -- Beckham had to turn and extend over his head to make a stumbling catch -- but he did haul it in nicely for a 27-yard touchdown, his first of the season.

With it, the dark clouds over Tiger Stadium and the LSU passing game seemed to lift.

He added another touchdown on a 53-yard bomb from Mettenberger in the fourth quarter of the 38-22 win, capping a night in which he seemed to put the troubles of a bad game a few weeks earlier against Washington behind him and, perhaps, shook LSU's passing offense to life.

"It's definitely a confidence builder," said Beckham after he caught five passes for a career-high 128 yards and also added a 30-yard punt return. "You have to take it as a learning experience and keep working every single day."

Beckham has had to learn to deal with the humility of a bad performance this season. Coming off a freshman season where he was second on the team in receiving with 41 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns, the New Orleans native had struggled since the season's second game, when he fumbled the opening kickoff and dropped three passes during the Tigers' otherwise near-flawless 41-3 blowout of Washington.

The Towson game was the first all season where Beckham led the Tigers in receiving, a sign that he was getting back to his old self.

"Receiver, it's all about confidence," Metterberger said. "He had a great week of practice. He came into the week with confidence."

Self-confidence is not something that had been lacking for Beckham. He quickly made a name for himself as a true freshman in 2011, passing by many older receivers to become the Tigers No. 2 receiver and the starter opposite Rueben Randle. He was a reliable secondary target for both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee when defenses focused their attention on Randle.

Mettenberger said Beckham's natural self-confidence was part of his freshman success and he saw it again against Towson.

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After Randle, LSU receivers balanced 

September, 12, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- A season ago, when the LSU wide receivers met, there were several players in the room, but there was an understanding of who was "the man" in the room.

Rueben Randle, who had almost twice as many yards as the next most prolific Tigers receiver, was the main focus for quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.

"Who knew that Rueben was going to be the go-to guy?" said Kadron Boone, a little-used sophomore last season. "We just wished we were a little more involved in it. So we just looked at it as, when Rueben's not in (the game), we just have to make those plays, because if not, we know who the ball is going to."

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Kadron Boone Mettenberger's TD target 

September, 12, 2012
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BATON ROUGE -- With Jordan Jefferson still suspended and starter Jarrett Lee having led LSU to a 25-point half lead, quarterback Zach Mettenberger got the most significant snaps of his sophomore season in a 49-3 Sept. 10, 2011 win over Northwestern State.

Playing the entire second half, Mettenberger completed 8 of 11 passes (the only passes he threw all season) for 92 yards, including his first, and only, touchdown pass of the season, a 19-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to little-used receiver Kadron Boone.

It was, evidently, a sign of things to come.

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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.

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LSU has two picked in first round

April, 26, 2012
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When the Dallas Cowboys drafted LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday, he became the latest to prove that where one is ranked on the recruiting boards in high school does not predict where one will eventually be on draft day.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brockers
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMichael Brockers used his time at LSU to emerge as a premier defensive tackle.
In fact, a disconnect between how players are ranked -- and even what position they’ll eventually play -- is what marks the early picks in LSU's NFL draft class. Of the two LSU players picked in Thursday’s first round and the ones who might go in the second round, two were unheralded and only one plays the position he was projected to play coming out of high school.

Take Michael Brockers, who was projected as a defensive end coming out of high school, but emerged Thursday as a first round pick as a defensive tackle at No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams. Or safety Brandon Taylor, who will likely go in the second or third round today after projecting as a cornerback by recruiting services out of high school.

Claiborne was an unheralded recruit coming out of Fair Park High School in Shreveport, La., in 2009. A high school quarterback, Claiborne became a dominant corner for his home-state Tigers, showing NFL scouts not just speed and good size, but impressively fluid hips and ball skills.

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Morris ClaiborneAP Photo/Gerald HerbertCornerback Morris Claiborne performs at LSU's pro day in March in Baton Rouge.

Mercifully, draft day has dawned.

It's been a winding road of workouts, interviews and speculation in the more than 100 days since Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers announced their intentions to enter the 2012 NFL draft on Jan. 12. With the draft finally beginning Thursday, the pair that helped anchor LSU's Southeastern Conference championship defense look like a lock to be selected in the opening round.

ESPN's Mel Kiper has projected Claiborne, the Thorpe Award-winning cornerback to be a top-six pick. Brockers' stock has been a little more volatile, as he's jumped from No. 27 to No. 8 before falling to No. 15.

As Brockers is quick to point out, none of that matters now.

"It's in God's hands right now," the defensive tackle said. "It's in the hands of the GM's and the coaches and whatever they think is the best fit for their team."

That relaxed attitude is easy to talk about, but perhaps a bit harder to follow through on. From the day of their announcement, through the NFL combine to LSU's pro day workouts and everything in between, LSU's first round prospects have gone through the gauntlet of media and league scrutiny. At the start of this final week, Brockers said he was doing his best to avoid the talk.

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Morris ClaiborneGary Laney/ESPN.comFormer LSU defensive back Morris Claiborne speaks to the media following pro day.

Pro day is a process that takes hours, but for a trio of top NFL draft prospects, success in Thursday's LSU pro day could be measured in tenths of a second.

Because for cornerback Morris Claiborne, wide receiver Rueben Randle and defensive tackle Michael Brockers, the highlight of their day came in the critical slivers of a second they all cut off the 40-yard dash times recorded at the NFL combine in February at Indianapolis.

The hope is that the improvement will translate to another productive first day for LSU in the NFL draft in April. If nothing else, there were a lot of Tigers hoping for a career playing for pay. Twenty-one Tigers off the 2011 team, plus a handful of former players, worked out on Thursday.

And the biggest attraction there showed the scouts, GMs and three NFL head coaches in attendance - the Vikings' Leslie Frazier, the Jets' Rex Ryan and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin - that his measurables are indeed better than what they were in Indianapolis.

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LSU also losing Reuben Randle to draft

January, 15, 2012
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LSU receiver Rueben Randle will also make himself available for the NFL draft, Randle's father told The Baton Rouge Advocate.

That means the Tigers are losing an SEC-high four underclassmen to pro football. Cornerback Morris Claiborne and defensive tackle Michael Brockers announced their intentions on Thursday to enter the draft. Receiver Russell Shepard has tweeted that he's leaving LSU.

Randle was LSU's leading receiver this season with 53 catches for 917 yards and eight touchdowns. Randle averaged 17.3 yards per catch and was one of the top big-play receivers in the league. Randle and Shepard were the only two players on the team who caught more than two touchdown passes this season, meaning rising sophomores Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry will be counted upon to assume much larger roles next season.

Here's the most up-to-date list of SEC underclassmen declaring for the draft. The deadline is Sunday:

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