Southern receiver Randall Menard hopes for a breakout year ... after his toe injury and a long road back _lowres

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- Southern's WR Randall Menard catches the ball during practice at the Louisiana Leadership Institute on Wednesday, August 5.

Randall Menard put up big receiving numbers for Southern in 2013.

The wide receiver from Breaux Bridge, then a freshman caught 19 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 19 yards per reception.

Expecting to take another step forward the following year, Menard barely had a chance.

Menard’s sophomore year was over after the very first play of the 2014 season when he tore a ligament in his toe against Louisiana-Lafayette.

“The ball was underthrown so I tried to go back and catch it, and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Menard recalled.

Menard was granted a medical redshirt and enters this season as a third-year sophomore.

Between the injury and now, however, there was rehab. And there wasn’t much Menard could do to speed up the rehab. He could only go as far as his doctor and toe would allow.

“You’ve just got to take the time to let it heal on its own, and then a doctor will let you know what you can and cannot do,” Menard said.

Reflecting on his season-ending toe injury, Menard said that the time away from the game was humbling.

“It was very disappointing, but my coaches made me realize that maybe I was going into the season too big-headed,” Menard said. “It was just a sign of God telling me, ‘You’ve got to slow down.’ ”

Menard’s position coach, Chris Coleman, is confident his receiver can return to form — but he concedes that Menard’s health is still keeping him from getting back to where he was as a freshman.

“I think he’s clearly a little bit rusty, having not had spring ball and going down the first play of the season,” Coleman said. “But he’s come along. I know from a mental aspect he grasps the offense well. He knows what’s expected. It’s just getting that repetition and that muscle memory to kick back in.”

In addition to the torn toe ligament, Menard has dealt recently with tendinitis in his knees. They are almost back to normal, he said, thanks to treatment.

“It’s been bothering me for a little while, but it’s been getting better,” Menard said.

In Southern’s passing game, Menard uses his speed to beat slower defensive backs and stretch the field. His 6-foot-3 frame makes him an ideal red-zone threat. Menard compares his ability to take the top off of defenses and win jump balls to skills held by Antonio Brown and Randy Moss.

Menard was supposed to redshirt in 2013, but while on the scout team, he impressed the coaches so much that they felt compelled to turn him loose.

Menard was named SWAC Newcomer of the Week following a game against Alcorn State, in which he caught three passes for 119 yards two touchdowns; he also returned a blocked punt 6 yards for another touchdown.

Coleman says he wants his young receiver to concentrate on improving instead of basking in personal accolades. He wants Menard to master his “fast twitch” skills, which will allow him to better run three-step and intermediate routes.

“I told him he had a good freshman year for a freshman,” Coleman said. “But if we were to put these numbers on a senior it wouldn’t look so great. He understands he has to continue to develop and get better.”

Despite being a year removed from football — and being a part of a wide receiver corps that’s 14 players deep — Menard said he’s confident he’ll return from injury and have a season to remember.

“Hopefully this season will be my breakout season,” Menard said. “I’ll double the amount of yards and touchdowns from my freshman season.”