Randle helping LSU make big gains in passing game
Rueben Randle only has to make a few catches a game to have a
major effect on the way teams try to defend LSU.
With an offense defined mostly by its powerful running game, the
top-ranked Tigers do not have to rely on their 6-foot-4, 208-pound
star receiver as much as other teams might.
Yet when opposing defenders cheat up to play the run or bite on
a play-action fakes, Randle can make them pay with a big play.
”We’re going to run the ball, and whenever the safeties come
up, we’re going to pass the ball deep, so we’ve pretty much defined
what we want to do,” Randle said this week, as the Tigers prepared
to play at Tennessee on Saturday. ”As a receiver, we’ve got to
take advantage of the times we do get the ball and just make the
Randle is certainly doing that.
He had four catches for 127 yards against Florida last weekend,
including a 46-yard score and a 57-yard reception that set up
When asked about Randle’s influence on a game, Tennessee coach
Derek Dooley gave an animated response in which he essentially
sounded like a coach who wasn’t sure how much could be done beyond
hoping LSU quarterbacks Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson make bad
throws when Randle gets open.
The problem, Dooley said, is that LSU’s running game, which is
averaging nearly 184 yards, forces defenses into tighter formations
along the line of scrimmage.
”Then they fake (the handoff) and all of a sudden their fast
guy is about 50 yards down the field,” Dooley said. ”It looks a
little bit like what (LSU’s 41-11 victory over Florida) looked
like. One (defender) out there, man (coverage), grinding coffee,
hanging on, `Please, don’t be an accurate throw. Please, don’t be
an accurate throw.”’
Given Randle’s size, speed and good hands, he was a highly
sought recruit coming out of Bastrop High School in Louisiana. If
his primary concern had been the number of times per game that
plays would be designed for him, he might have been better off in
another program that runs a spread offense.
Yet, Randle was aware of LSU’s recent record of sending
receivers on to NFL careers. Also, staying close to home and
playing for a team that seems to contend for a national title every
few years made sense.
LSU coach Les Miles gave Randle a chance to play as a true
freshman, but the receiver offered only glimpses of his true
potential, finishing 2009 with 11 receptions for 173 yards and two
TDs. As a sophomore last season, Randle raised his totals to 33
receptions for 544 yards and three touchdowns, which ranked second
on the team in each of those categories.
Perhaps most importantly, he demonstrated for the first time
what a game-breaker he could be with three catches for 125 yards,
including a 75-yard touchdown, in a closely contested victory over
Only halfway through this season, Randle already has a
team-leading 23 receptions for 446 yards, an average of 19.4 yards
per catch. The junior also has four touchdowns.
”He is a big play-maker for us,” Miles said. ”He’s maturing
into one hell of a receiver.”
Randle said his improvement over previous seasons stems in part
from learning how to use his strength and size, in addition to his
speed, to get open.
”I’m working to be more physical,” Randle said. ”On certain
routes I need to use my size a little more instead of trying to
lose everybody at the line of scrimmage.”
Lee said Randle is a good enough now to beat multiple defenders
on a play, never mind his dominance against single coverage.
”There’s a couple times he has been double-covered and he has
gotten open this year,” Lee said. ”Rueben’s a special player. He
makes plays and works hard in practice. We’re going to keep going
to Rueben, so I think he’s determined this year.”
Randle, who played quarterback and receiver in high school, sees
the trust Lee shows in him as a high compliment.
”I’m proud to have a quarterback like Jarrett Lee that has the
confidence in me to throw it in double coverage because I work on
that in practice,” Randle said. ”Whenever the ball’s in the air,
I just go up and attack it. And no matter how many guys are around,
I try to make the play.”
AP Sports Writer Beth Rucker in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to