Randle turning into playmaker for LSU

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BATON ROUGE (AP) — 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.

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“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 play.”

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 another touchdown.

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.