It occurs to me that our busiest position coach this offseason will probably be wide receivers coach DJ McCarthy. A lot of coaches have veteran units with a lot of returning producers. DJ McCarthy needs to develop some players in order for LSU to do what it needs to do on offense.
OK, it's not like we don't return any productive receivers. We return our two most productive receivers from last season, in fact. Demetrius Byrd caught 35 passes for 621 yards and 7 touchdowns, good for 3rd, 2nd, and 1st on the team among wide receivers last year in those respective categories. Brandon Lafell caught 50 passes for 656 yards and 4 touchdowns, good for 2nd, 1st, and 3rd on the team among wide receivers in those respective categories.
We also return Terrance Tolliver (10 catches, 249 yards, 3 touchdowns), Jared Mitchell (13 catches, 143 yards), Chris Mitchell (5 catches, 56 yards), and Ricky Dixon (1 catch, 9 yards).
However, LSU is a team that wants to occasionally put 5 wide receivers on the field. It seems to me, if you want to do that, it helps to have five wide receivers who are a threat to make a play. We only have two returning who were reliable producers last year.
DJ McCarthy needs to get to coaching up Toliver, J. Mitchell, C. Mitchell, and Dixon to be more productive. We need at least two of those four guys to step up their production and be a threat to get open and get the ball to make our offense even more dangerous.
In 2006, Jared Mitchell looked like a receiver who was poised to make a little noise. He wasn't terribly productive, but he got into some games and got involved. I recall he made a monster block in garbage time at one game, putting his man on the ground. In 2007, however, he didn't do much to build on that. He got on the field more often, and made 13 catches, but almost half of those came in the game against Middle Tennessee State. It's certainly not too late for him, but it's now or never. He has to increase his production, particularly in the key games, in order to be useful on the field. I'm not asking for much. If he can double his overall production and make 10-12 catches in SEC play, he will be a very useful player.
This year, true freshman Terrance Toliver showed flashes of brilliance, but struggled down the stretch of the season. He caught the longest touchdown pass for LSU on the season, at 71 yards versus Louisiana Tech, which was also the 2nd longest play from scrimmage for us. He made a huge play against MSU in the season opener that set up a touchdown late in the first half, when the game was still in doubt. But he also didn't make a catch in the last 4 games, picked up some costly penalties in the loss to Kentucky, and the last two passes thrown his way this season resulted in interceptions because he did not go where the quarterback expected him to go. The kid looks poised to be a star, but he still has a lot of work to do to get there. If he develops as he could, I don't think it's expecting too much to ask him to make 40 catches for 500 yards next year.
Chris Mitchell is entering his junior season having made only 6 catches on his career, half of which came against Tulane this year. He just has not emerged yet as a dangerous player, and there has been some chatter that he may be moved to cornerback, which may be a good move for him. I sure don't know. I know that before the season, there was 'inside' talk that he would start the season as our #3 receiver behind Doucet and Lafell. That never really occurred, however, or if it did it did not show in the stat sheet.
Ricky Dixon (not to be confused with Richard Dickson) will be a redshirt sophomore last year. He did not get much of a chance to play last year, but if he develops in this offseason, he could rise up the depth chart quickly, because there really aren't very many receivers who have proven they need to be on the field. Word is, he's a little slow for an SEC wide receiver, but he also supposedly has really good hands, and he's a wide body for a receiver. He's sort of like a Wes Welker or Dallas Clark type then, in that he's sort of a hybrid between tight end and receiver. Being slow is a handicap, but I don't think it's such a big problem if your #4 or #5 receiver is not a burner.
In addition to DJ McCarthy's work in trying to coach up these 4 players to get two or 3 of them to be real threats, we are also recruiting a HUGE class of wide receivers who will come in as true freshmen next year. Counting expected commitments, we have DeAngelo Benton, DeAndre Brown, DeAngelo Peterson, Jhyryn Taylor, Tim Molton, and Chris Tolliver joining the squad as receivers next year. We're doubling the size of the receiver corps in a very short time, and we will probably put at least two of those guys on the field immediately. McCarthy will have to quickly teach this group how to play college football when they arrive in the summer.
He'll be a busy, busy man.