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LSU Needs to be Careful With Russell Shepard

Carter "The Power" Bryant Monday, September 19, 2011 , , , , , ,
Deci$ions. Deci$ions. 
Can Shepard make big plays vs WVU?
Photo via USA Today

If anybody is known for making the tough deci$ions, it's LSU coach Les Miles. That's why "The Mad Hatter" gets just under $4 million smackers a year in salary. 

From staying away from Michigan twice to going for it on fourth down to picking which blade of grass to eat, Miles seems to always be right. This season, "The Mad Hatter" hasn't had to make many difficult ones on the field because of his team's dominating performance in their first three games. 

But one of Miles toughest decisions will be in Morgantown next weekend. 

The piquant, joyous LSU receiver Russell Shepard is one of the most electric players in college football when he has the ball in his hands. Off the field, Shepard is considered as one of the team's leaders. 

Shepard is the most exciting sound bite on the team. The entertainment factor he brings can't be matched. When I interviewed him for 91.1 KLSU fm, he instructed me on how to increase my "Swag." 

LSU's No. 10 will be on the field for the first time this season when they step on the field versus West Virginia. Despite his clean reputation, Shepard fell victim to NCAA violation by breaking some kind of code mumbo jumbo that we all know about by now

But if Miles and the LSU coaching staff decides to fully insert Shepard into the game plan, their offense will look just as ugly as my explanation of NCAA code in my last sentence. Yet he insists Shepard will fit in fine. 

"I don't think it will take time for Russell to get back into it in any way," said Miles on Monday. 

There is no need to ruin what isn't broken. Sure the offense only put up 16 points last week vs Mississippi State, but quarterback Jarrett Lee is 40-59 with three touchdowns and one interception on the season. 

Beckham Jr's stellar play still hasn't made fans miss Shepard.
Photo via Courier News 
Lee's passes were crisp and on the dot last versus the Bulldogs. The 1-2 receiver tandem of Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. has Tiger fans drooling here in the south. The power running game behind an offensive line filled with injuries has been spectacular. 

Shepard's transition to receiver wasn't a smooth one last season. And after a dynamite start running the football, teams figured out how to stop his explosive runs to the outside on jet sweeps. 

On primetime national television, Shepard will see touches versus West Virginia. While outside handoffs  and sweeps can be effective, it won't be versus the Mountaineers. They run a 3-3-5 "okie" front defense that is vulnerable when teams have a power rushing attack. 

Shepard isn't a power rusher. His speed is best used against teams that run more classical 4-3 defenses. His two best games were against Vanderbilt and North Carolina, both 4-3 teams. 

Shepard can better utilized in the return game. Why not have him return punts or kicks? Nobody yet has been able to break one yet for the Tigers this season. 

Miles has a tough decision to make. Shepard is a team first guy to the highest degree. Other players, including Beckham Jr, raves about what Shepard can do to their offense. 

"I can't wait (for Shepard to be back)," said Beckham after the game. "He adds a whole new dimension."

But sometimes addition by subtraction is always a good thing. And maybe back-seating Shepard is the right thing to do. 

Miles needs to be careful to not ruin the rhythm of the offense. And things will only get tougher for Miles now the Jordan Jefferson barfight situation is beginning to clear up.  

If Miles wins big this year, he earns bonuses and easily makes over $4 million. But for that to work he has to make the right deci$ions. 


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