Miles implies Byrd to start vs. 'Bama
LSU wideout LaFell has had costly drops
Thursday, October 25, 2007
By James Varney
BATON ROUGE -- LSU hopes to be completely healthy for perhaps the first time since Week 2 when it faces Alabama on Nov. 3. But some changes in the starting lineup could be looming, in particular at wide receiver.
Although coaches have stood behind Brandon LaFell, they have been disappointed with the sophomore wide receiver's performance while senior Early Doucet was out for four games and most of a fifth with a reported groin injury. LaFell, after a solid performance in the Sugar Bowl, was selected a starter in preseason camp.
He remains the team's leading receiver with 30 catches for 412 yards and a touchdown. But while Doucet was out, the most reliable receiver on the team was tight end Richard Dickson, who has caught 16 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
LaFell has dropped passes in nearly every game. In two cases his bobbles led to interceptions, most painfully last week against Auburn when quarterback Matt Flynn found him deep and LaFell failed to gather in an arcing pass with no one around him on the 14-yard line. Instead he popped it into the air, where it was grabbed by Auburn cornerback Patrick Lee. LaFell did not return to the game.
LaFell has been standup about these shortcomings and never dodged a question. But LSU officials said Wednesday he would not be available this week for interviews. Flynn said his confidence in LaFell is unwavering.
"After every one of those (drops) I've gone up to him and said, 'I'm coming right back to you; I'm looking for you on the next one," Flynn said. He praised LaFell's work ethic and that of his other receivers, calling it better than expected for underclassmen, and predicted all of them would leave a mark at LSU.
"They're going to be a phenomenal group of receivers, and Brandon is going to be a big part of this offense," Flynn said.
LaFell is not the only LSU receiver afflicted with the drops. But his have been the most spectacular and consistent, and when Coach Les Miles was asked this week who his starting receivers would be if the Tigers played this week he answered, "The two at the end of the last game."
That would be Doucet and junior Demetrius Byrd, who caught a 58-yarder in the third quarter that set up a field goal and then made a nice play on the ball in the closing seconds to catch the winning touchdown.
Almost immediately, Miles seemed to sense he had made a mistake, and he hastened to add that "No. 1" -- LaFell -- would play substantial time.
Byrd has also shown streaks of unreliability, and all three of his big catches -- the two against Auburn and a 62-yard touchdown against Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 15 -- came on the same fly patterns.
But against Kentucky, Byrd dropped what would have been a tough catch inside the 5-yard line, and the Tigers settled for a field goal in a game they lost in triple overtime. Against Auburn, Byrd dropped a ball on second-and-17, and LSU had to punt two plays later.
Byrd said starting is not a concern.
"To tell you the truth, it really doesn't matter to me," he said. "As long as when they call my number I get up and make a play. It doesn't matter about starting as long as we get the 'W.' That's what I'm really worried about."
Senior tailback Jacob Hester said the underclassmen thrust into more prominent roles have played better than they are given credit for.
"We lost one of our leaders, one of our go-to guys and kind of unexpectedly," he said. "So we were looking for a leader at the receiver position, and all those guys are young. It's no fault to them, they've never been in a position where they were asked to lead."
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Re: Miles implies Byrd to start vs. 'Bama
Well, it's about time. Brandon has just played horrible. Maybe this can spark him back into catching the ball again. That is, when he goes back in.
Re: Miles implies Byrd to start vs. 'Bama
Brandon has had many key drops. I can't lie when he missed that passed from Flynn that turned into an inteception I said " If they lose this game the blame is going to be on him"
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