LaFell expects to be starting new chapter
LSU wide receiver displayed flashes of potential last season
Thursday, August 16, 2007
By Jim Kleinpeter
BATON ROUGE -- Brandon LaFell's redshirt freshman season amounted to a spectacular pair of matching bookends, minus the books.
He started the 2006 season by catching a 58-yard scoring pass on his first play (in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette) and closed with a 58-yard touchdown (against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl). But between those two were only three receptions for 24 yards, an injury and inconsistency.
But now LaFell, a 6-foot-4, 194-pound sophomore from Houston, appears poised to make a quantum leap from part-time player to full-time starter and from follower to leader. His hard work in the spring and summer has paid off in rave reviews from LSU teammates and coaches.
"He's made tremendous strides; I look for big things from Brandon," said senior teammate and No. 1 receiver Early Doucet, who made a similar transition last season. "He's busting his butt and maturing. He's reaching that potential we all know he's capable of reaching."
It's crucial for LSU that LaFell reach his potential quickly with the departure of Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, NFL first-round draft picks. First-year starting quarterback Matt Flynn is going to need all the help he can get running first-year offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's playbook.
Doucet can expect to get a steady diet of double-teams, putting LaFell in a position where he will have to produce. Crowton and LSU Coach Les Miles are confident he can.
"Brandon had a great summer and a great spring," Miles said. "His height and range and outstanding athletic ability will make him a threat.
Said Crowton: "He's got all the ability he needs to step in an play full time."
LaFell agrees, but he also admits to his failings last season -- not always playing with total concentration.
But it was also hard to break through with Bowe, Davis and Doucet ahead of him. In the offseason he used the example they set to step up his game.
"I worked out every day with Early, tried to stay around him as much as I could, whether it was catching balls, running routes, lifting weights, whatever I could during my free time," LaFell said. "I patterned myself after him and Buster (Davis).
"Buster was the guy. I never saw anybody press Buster or hold him in a game. I pretty much wanted to be like him since I got here."
LaFell has added 13 pounds without losing the agility and leaping ability that give him an edge. He's also more mentally attuned to blocking responsibilities, which are a must in the LSU offense.
"You've got to do that," he said with a smile. "I used to get yelled at so much on the backside when I thought I had the play off and I didn't go block my man.
"We started a board in the meeting room to see who could get the most blocks, the most knockdowns, the most cuts. There's competition every play, we were going out there trying to kill somebody on the blocks. I've been into it.
"I'm catching the ball better. Last year I had a tendency not to look the ball all the way in. That's why I had a couple of drops."
LaFell is also cognizant that despite his inexperience, there are eyes on him as a leader. Sophomores Trindon Holliday, Chris Mitchell and Jared Mitchell, plus newcomers Demetrius Byrd and Terrance Toliver, are all less experienced than LaFell, who is starting his third season at LSU.
Score another point for LaFell.
"He's been everything we've asked for and more," Jared Mitchell said. "He's working hard every day, helping us and being a real good example. I think he's going to step in and do a great job for us."
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