LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard is working his way back into game form after being ineligible for the first three games of the season.
He made his debut at West Virginia two weeks ago and caught one pass for 16 yards and ran once for 3 yards. Last week against Kentucky, he ran once for 13 yards, and though he couldn’t snare a couple of passes he got his hands on, he did make two catches with a high degree of difficulty for 35 yards.
“I’ve got to be more consistent, and that just comes with me playing more and more games,” Shepard said. “This was my second game back, but I definitely made some key third-down catches. I did a pretty good job of blocking on the perimeter, but there were some grabs I wish I could have got back.
“But I’ll make some grabs throughout this year. I’m playing better. I look better. I look more natural at the position. I’m making catches that I never would have made last year or the year before. I’m definitely seeing some progress. I just need to keep building off the success I’m having kind of early and keep getting better.”
Freshman Odell Beckham has emerged as the Tigers’ leading receiver (20 catches), one ahead of Rueben Randle as Shepard works his way back.
“I think Russell Shepard continues to improve,” coach Les Miles said. “He gives us some toughness, the ability to catch. He had two catches that were just exceptional catches (Saturday). I like the way he’s coming.”
Local Tigers “sincere”
Miles said he can sense a special feeling that players from Louisiana have for competing for the Tigers.
“The guys in this state that play for this school, it just seems that they care more,” he said. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful piece. It’s a feel that’s certainly collective of team, but for the guys who come from the boundaries of Louisiana it’s heartfelt. It’s more sincere.”
Miles said Louisiana players see the contributions that other locals have made early in their careers and they want to do the same.
“If you look at Drake Nevis (Marrero), Glenn Dorsey (Gonzales), Tyson Jackson (Edgard), Marlon Favorite (Harvey) and some of those guys from the area,” Miles said, “there’s a want to follow in the footprint and the history of the guys who come from the area and went to LSU.”
Several LSU players from Louisiana are having an impact as true freshmen this season, like Beckham (New Orleans) and Jarvis Landry (Lutcher), who has also contributed as a receiver.
Anthony Johnson (New Orleans) has found a niche in the line rotation as a defensive tackle, and Kenny Hilliard (Patteron) has gotten some snaps at fullback.
Defensive end Jermauria Rasco (Shreveport) made his debut against West Virginia, and running back Terrence Magee (Franklinton) got very positive reviews in preseason camp and made his debut in the victory against Kentucky on Saturday.
Gator pulls for Tigers
LSU linebacker Ryan Baker chose to play for the Tigers even though he is from Grand Ridge, Fla., which is about 200 miles from the Florida campus and about 50 miles from the Florida State campus in Tallahassee. His mother, Lynn, will be in Tiger Stadium cheering for LSU on Saturday, which doesn’t come naturally to her.
“She’s a Florida graduate. She’s a Gator fan,” Ryan said. “We don’t really talk about it. I’m playing in the SEC right now, and she supports me as much as possible. Any time (the Gators) are playing us, she’s in my corner.”
Touchdown Express runs
The Capital Area Transit System will conduct its Touchdown Express transportation service on Saturday for the LSU-Florida game in Tiger Stadium.
The service consists of routes that will provide continuous service beginning at 10:30 a.m. and ending one hour after the game ends. Kickoff is approximately 2:30 p.m.
The service costs $1.75 each way ($3.50 round trip). Individuals can park and board the Touchdown Express at Lafayette and Convention (Hotel Indigo and Hilton Hotel) and Florida Boulevard/I110 Underpass (free parking), where there are approximately 300 parking spots
For information about the CATS service, call 225-389-8920 or visit www.brcats.com.
Miles is behind schedule on going for fourth downs. Jordan Jefferson’s 1-yard sneak for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal last week was LSU’s first attempted fourth-down conversion this season. In Miles’ previous six seasons, LSU has gone 55-for-87 on fourth-down conversions, an average of nearly 15 attempts per season. The Tigers are on pace to attempt just 2.4 conversions this season.
As well as LSU’s defense has played this season, it is last in the Southeastern Conference on percentage of scores allowed when opponents get inside its 20 (91.7). Tigers opponents have seven touchdowns and have made all four of their field goals inside the 20.
LSU has scored 57 points on 12 takeaways, and its plus-1.8 turnover margin per game leads the SEC. ... The Tigers lead the SEC in fewest sacks allowed (0.6 per game).