LSU Tigers: Russell Shepard

Multiple top 10 recruits no guarantee 

June, 21, 2013
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.

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

BATON ROUGE, La. -- GTN writer Gary Laney took your LSU recruiting questions:

Henry (Montgomery, AL): Gary, are there any Alabama recruits catching LSU's attention? I f not may I suggest one name? Taylor Stallworth.

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- In four years playing for LSU, fans got to see Russell Shepard do a lot.

Coming out of high school in 2009 as one of the country's top dual-threat quarterbacks, he lined up in the backfield in college and ran with the ball as a running back. He'd line up outside and in the slot and catch passes (or, mostly not get thrown to) as a wide receiver. He'd return kicks.

[+] EnlargeRussell Shepard
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRussell Shepard said that while he has never had to backpedal in his career, he did a pretty OK job of it this week at LSU's pro day.
What we didn't see him do is what NFL scouts had him doing Wednesday at LSU's pro day. Shepard backpedaled, turned to catch the ball, changed directions and reacted, all drills he was doing at -- of all things -- defensive backs.

Russell Shepard, a cornerback?

Don't laugh.

"I had six teams come up and tell me they wanted to see me do DB work," he said. "I never knew I was going to do it. But I did decent today."

That made pro day an extension of Shepard's entire career, at least his college career. Few have ever questioned Shepard's athleticism -- he put that on display during physical testing, running a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, and jumping 38.5 inches in the vertical leap -- but the question has always been how to utilize it.

Shepard has played every offensive skill position at LSU -- quarterback, running back and receiver -- but never was asked to flip to the other side of the ball until Wednesday.

"I've never backpedaled," Shepard said. "For my first time, I felt I did pretty decent. A lot of the teams were impressed. I could be a DB at the next level."

The thought had hardly crossed his mind before pro day. He was a high school quarterback who would alternate in college between being primarily a running back and primarily a wide receiver, all the time getting the occasional look as a wildcat quarterback.

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- There's a new wrinkle to the Russell Shepard saga.

The blue-chip, dual-threat high school quarterback turned underachieving college receiver was worked out by NFL scouts Wednesday during LSU's Pro Day at, of all places, defensive back.

"Never played there in my life," Shepard said. "About six teams asked me to work out there. I thought I did pretty good. Like they told me, it's added value."

[+] EnlargeRussell Shepard
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireRussell Shepard showed his versatility at LSU's pro day, working out for several teams at defensive back.
Shepard gave NFL teams reason to look for places he might fit. He excelled during physical testing, joining a list of LSU players who had good days.

Shepard ran a 4.5 electronic 40-yard dash and also had a 38.5-inch vertical leap, results that do not suggest a player who struggled to get involved in LSU's offense in his four years and was so marginalized, he was not invited to the NFL combine.

He wasn't the only Tiger to test well. Running back Michael Ford ran a 4.44 40-yard dash and had a 39.5-inch vertical leap, both results slightly better than his combine results. Linebacker Kevin Minter ran a 4.67 40 and had a 34.5-inch vertical leap, both significant improvements over the combine.

"We were at home," Minter said. "Makes all the difference."

Here are some other notables:

  • Defensive end Barkevious Mingo did not participate in testing, but like former teammate Tyrann Mathieu got involved in position-specific drills.
  • Defensive end Lavar Edwards ran a 4.78 and hit 21 repetitions in the bench press, looking like the next LSU player who might be drafted after not starting for the Tigers.

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- It's only going to look like an all-comer's combine.

LSU's Pro Day on Wednesday will feature a whopping 28 participants, the result of a year where the Tigers sent 13 players to the NFL combine. Among the players will will participate is former LSU player Tyrann Mathieu.

Of the 28, 21 were members of LSU's 2012 team, while seven more participants were members of past LSU teams and are trying to catch the interest of teams as free agents.

Fans can watch the event live on ESPN3 at 1 p.m. ET.

Here are the players who are participating, according to LSU:

2012 team members: DE Chauncey Aghayere, K Drew Alleman, TE Chase Clement, DT Josh Downs, OT Josh Dworaczyk, DE Lavar Edwards, OT Chris Faulk, RB Michael Ford, DT Bennie Logan, C P.J. Lonergan, DB-KR Tyrann Mathieu, DE Barkevious Mingo, LB Kevin Minter, DE Sam Montgomery, S Eric Reid, WR Russell Shepard, CB Tharold Simon, RB Spencer Ware, P Brad Wing, DT Cleveland Davis, TE Tyler Edwards

Past Players (last year at LSU): OG Will Blackwell (2011), LB-DB Karnell Hatcher (2011), OL T-Bob Hebert (2011), QB Jordan Jefferson (2011), QB Jarrett Lee (2011), DS Alex Russian (2011), RB Charles Scott (2009).

LSU Class of 2009 review 

January, 24, 2013
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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Top LSU recruit misses 

January, 22, 2013
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Under Les Miles, LSU has been great about finding an obscure prospect and turning him into a solid college player, an award-winner and often a high NFL draft pick.

That doesn't mean the Tigers aren't immune to players who turn out to not be as good as promised.

Here are five that didn't pan out as advertised since ESPN started rating players in 2006. In all five cases the player was guilty of nothing more than not being as good as many thought he would be. All but one finished their four-year LSU career and won at least one SEC title and played for, or won, a national championship:

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Where LSU will need help: Offense 

January, 4, 2013
BATON ROUGE, La. -- There are some unknown variables when trying to figure out where true freshmen might play a big role on a team.

Avery Johnson
Davide De Pas/ESPN.comClass of 2012 wide receiver Avery Johnson looks to re-enroll after going to prep school for a year. He could contribute to LSU as soon as next season.
Take LSU right tackle Vadal Alexander. The 2012 signee became a true freshman starter at right tackle halfway through the season, something nobody saw coming. But when left tackle Chris Faulk suffered a season-ending knee injury, it opened the door for Alexander to move into the lineup, and he took the job and ran with it after another veteran starting tackle, Alex Hurst, left the team.

Similarly, with a veteran stable of running backs returning, few saw true freshman Jeremy Hill emerging as a primary running back for LSU this year. Yet, it took only one injury -- to original starter Alfred Blue -- to get Hill the break he needed to start getting carries and eventually become the starter and the Tigers' leading rusher.

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What's next for LSU after RSJ decision? 

December, 11, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- With Ricky Seals-Jones making his pledge to Texas A&M Monday morning, LSU missed on a much-desired 2013 recruiting target and was perhaps left with a hole in its recruiting class after the Tigers parted ways with former commit Chuck Baker last week.

Where is LSU left at wide receiver without Seals-Jones? Let's take a look.

What's left after 2012: Almost everything.

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3 Up, 3 Down: LSU 41, Ole Miss 35 

November, 18, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Three things we liked, and didn't like, from LSU's 41-35 win over Ole Miss Saturday.

1. Miles' rant: After the senior night game, the usually affable Les Miles took umbrage with characterizations of his small senior class as one lacking stars and was upset with media characterizations of wide receiver Russell Shepard as "a flop."

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Identity found, Tigers look toward bowl 

November, 16, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- A few days after his LSU team beat Mississippi State 37-17, a game in which the offense scored on seven of 10 possessions, LSU coach Les Miles declared, "This is us."

The Tigers offense is clicking. The defense is its dominant self, save some issues defending two-minute offense. It's a shame there isn't an eight-team playoff in college football because if there were, Baton Rouge would be buzzing about must-win games against Ole Miss and Arkansas and how much damage the LSU could do if it got in the playoffs.

Alas, college football still lacks any kind of playoff, at least for a couple more seasons. So instead, No. 7 LSU (8-2, 4-2 in the SEC) plays its last home game Saturday against the 5-5 Rebels hoping to continue its recent offensive rebirth, thus becoming a foe that the teams in the BCS Championship Game are glad they don't have to play.

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Big 3: Tigers remain motivated

November, 7, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- At practice this week, Les Miles said he has seen a motivated LSU team following a heart-breaking loss to Alabama that all but killed the Tigers' hopes of BCS or SEC championships. The media has noticed a motivated practice schedule. Monday and Tuesday post-practice interview sessions have run close to an hour late, a sign that the Tigers are putting in a hard week's work leading up to this week's game with Mississippi State. Miles addressed that issue and others on Wednesday morning's SEC teleconference:

1. What's our motivation?: When Miles fielded the inevitable question about LSU's motivation post-Alabama, he said his team had plenty.

"Our team is, first and foremost, a very capable club," he said. "They want victory. We have a need to win and it's a weekly need."

LSU (7-2, 3-2) closes its regular season with three opponents it figures to be favorites against: Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

2. Get them the ball? Miles was asked about two players who have had diminished roles in the Tigers offense: wide receiver Russell Shepard and running back Kenny Hilliard.

Of Shepard, who has touched the ball just 17 times this season, Miles said "We expect to get him more balls. There are a lot of snaps he can play for us."

He simply has not been getting them. As a receiver, he is a forgotten man with six catches. Once the top-rated dual-threat quarterback and one of the top prep players in the country, Shepard's best work has come as a situational running back this season. Against Alabama, he carried twice while taking pitches as a running back. At running back, he also had a 78-yard touchdown run against Towson.

Of Hilliard, whose playing time has diminished since Jeremy Hill has emerged as a primary back, Miles said there are "reasons for his slowed improvement." He did not specify what those were, but did say Hilliard, who has not carried the ball in the last two games, should compete for more carries. Hilliard is second on the team in rushing with 420 yards on 71 carries.

3. Russell's improvement: Miles noted the play of Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell as part of the reason why the Bulldogs are off to a 7-2 start.

"He is a very capable passer," Miles said. "And they have a very nice scheme." Miles noted that wide receiver Chad Bumphis was "a very talented" option for Russell to throw to.

Russell is fifth in the SEC in passing, averaging 217 yards per game with 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU played through two-thirds of the season before finally getting a break, but the bye week has arrived. It's safe to say the offense hasn't been the juggernaut fans were hoping to see in 2012, but it's been good enough to allow the Tigers to control their own destiny with two top-11 teams coming to Death Valley during the next two weeks.

Defensive grades come Friday. For now, this is how the LSU offense grades out heading during the off week.


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Hurst taken off LSU depth chart 

October, 17, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. -- If LSU offensive tackle Alex Hurst is to return to LSU any time soon, you wouldn't know it from the depth chart.

Hurst no longer appears on the depth chart released Tuesday by LSU. Freshman Vadal Alexander is listed at the starter at right tackle, and sophomore Elliott Porter, also the backup center, is listed as the second-team right tackle.

Sixth-year senior Josh Dworaczyk, who started at left tackle last week after Hurst left the team for undisclosed personal reasons, is listed as the starter at left tackle, backed up by junior Chris Davenport.

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When Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from LSU, everyone knew his loss would be felt in a big way.

It wasn’t his coverage skills that everyone worried about. It was the fact that he could change a game in the blink of an eye. He had the uncanny ability to make a play from anywhere and send the game soaring in LSU’s favor.

He was dynamic returning the ball -- just ask Arkansas and Georgia -- and he could force a turnover out of nowhere to put a dent in any sort of offensive momentum for one of LSU’s opponents.

We knew Mathieu’s absence would hurt, but it’s become clear that the spark he had for the Tigers is being missed more and more as the season goes on.

As we approach the halfway point of the college football season, the team long thought to be a legitimate national title contender is in search of some sort of jolt that will catapult it back into the title chase. The offense is too much of a mess right now, and points won’t come unless a spark is found.

Who can do his best to pick up where the Honey Badger left off? Right now, it’s hard to find anyone who fits that mold on offense, defense or special teams.

[+] EnlargeOdell Beckham
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertLSU is hoping that Odell Beckham Jr. can consistently be a spark for its sluggish offense.
No one can be Mathieu. That’s obvious. But someone has to be able to give this offense -- and this team -- some life. And the way the offense has sputtered along for the past few weeks, it needs it in a hurry or things could really get away from LSU.

Remember, this team didn’t exactly have an explosive offense last season. Having Rueben Randle as a legit deep threat helped, but LSU never scared anyone with its offense. It toppled teams with a wave of momentum that started with a play from Mathieu. Even when LSU’s offense looked pitiful last year, Mathieu saved it. LSU doesn’t have that right now.

There are a few candidates, but I think a lot more has to be put on the plate of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. He’s an extremely talented athlete and has the kind of elusiveness and speed that just screams “playmaker.”

We’ve seen flashes from him, but they’ve been in small doses. He had a 70-yard punt return that went for a touchdown against North Texas in the opener and had that five-catch, 128-yard performance against Towson two weeks ago, when he caught touchdown passes of 27 and 53 yards.

After being mired in inconsistency for the first four weeks, we finally saw this young star, who was one of LSU’s best offensive players last year, break out the way people were waiting for. But it didn’t last very long.

Against Florida this past weekend, Beckham was nearly eliminated from the game plan by Florida. He was ineffective returning the ball, totaling 22 yards on four returns, and his only big play on offense actually benefited the Gators.

You know, the 56-yard catch-and-run that he fumbled over to Florida after he decided to challenge Matt Elam instead of staying in stride. That play changed everything for LSU and led to the Gators’ game-winning scoring drive.

With quarterback Zach Mettenberger struggling with just about everything that comes with the position right now, he could really, really benefit from having Beckham be a real star for this team.

Beckham has the speed to be a true deep threat. He’s agile enough to make defenders look silly. And he’s a tough player. He could hurt teams returning the ball or catching it. But he’s just too inconsistent, and Mettenberger can’t find him enough.

Russell Shepard is another player with all the skill to be great, but inconsistency and focus continue to weigh him down when he steps on the field. And LSU just doesn’t appear to have that game-changing defender back there -- at least no one close to having the playmaking skills of the Honey Badger -- but maybe one of those young corners can step up.

Not having that spark has really hurt this team, especially with all of the offensive issues. This offense is not good enough right now. It needs help. Not having that jolt to pick the offense up and put it in good field position doesn’t help. This team is going backward far too much, and it has to find someone who will push it forward.

The enthusiasm and excitement we were used to seeing from the Tigers has been lost. The Honey Badger isn’t coming back, but someone has to give this team some sort of juice if it wants to make another title run.


LSU's Talented Youth
LSU head coach Les Miles talks about the loss of talent to the NFL Draft, how he will replace quarterback Zach Mettenberger and his expectations for running back Leonard Fournette.


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