LSU Football: Breaking Down Highs and Lows of WR Russell Shepard's Skill Set
When one thinks of the word "bust" associated with college football players, names such as Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell and Vernon Gholston often come to mind.
But those guys were all studs in the college ranks and just plummeted at the NFL level.
What about players who had sky-high expectations out of high school and just never made it at the college level?
A prime example of that would be LSU senior-to-be Russell Shepard.
The former high school quarterback arrived at LSU as one of the most highly-touted recruits in the country in 2009. He was ranked as the No. 1 athlete in the nation and No. 7 prospect overall in that class, according to Rivals.com.
But since that time, it has been a continuous uphill battle for Sheppard as he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations he arrived at Baton Rouge with.
This year could be Sheppard's last chance to prove his doubters wrong, so will he finally be able to utilize those incredible skills that made him such a sought-after prospect coming out of high school? What are those skills, and why hasn't he been able to put it all together in college?
Let's go ahead and break down the highs and lows of Russell Shepard's skill set.
Bleacher Report Style!
When talking about the fastest players in the SEC, it is impossible to leave Russell Shepard's name off of that list.
The 6'1" wide receiver has 4.4 speed and is a threat to take it to the house every time he makes a catch in space. He has very quick feet and the ability to excel after making a grab.
Shepard has what it takes to be a game-changer with that elite speed, but whether he is able to utilize that speed to his advantage has yet to be seen on the college level.
His speed alone makes him an NFL prospect, but there aren't many strengths beyond that.
At times, LSU fans get a glimpse at the guy who was the No. 1 ranked athlete in the country heading into college in 2009. But at other times, they are left wondering why this kid never panned out to what he was supposed to be.
Russell Shepard has defined the term "inconsistent" during his time in Baton Rouge.
In 2010, Shepard caught 33 passes for 254 yards in his sophomore season. He racked up 79 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers' season opener against North Carolina, and then followed that with six total yards three weeks later against West Virgina in a big out-of-conference game.
This past season, Shepard had solid outings against Florida and Tennessee, but then followed that up with duds against Arkansas and Georgia to close out the regular season.
If this kid is ever going to make a name for himself in the college ranks, he needs to find a way to be more productive on a consistent basis.
High: Understands Where to Be
Being a former quarterback, Russell Shepard understands what it's like if receivers don't run the right routes or line up where they're supposed to be.
Of course, being a quarterback doesn't transition to wide receiver from a skill standpoint, but it does from the standpoint of understanding where to be at certain times. Former quarterbacks have a better understanding of a playbook, which in return means they know where wide receivers should be on every route.
This is a nice luxury for any LSU quarterback to have. Now Shepard needs to make sure he does the other little things right if he wants to be more involved in the LSU offense this upcoming season.
Low: Pass Catching
In order to be a good wide receiver, you have to be able to consistently catch the football, whether that be in traffic, over the top of defenders or in the open field.
The point here is that Russell Shepard is not an elite pass catcher. He isn't a guy who is going to run slant patterns in between linebackers and consistently hold onto the ball after taking a pop from one of them over the middle.
If being a great wide receiver was all about athleticism, then Sheppard would be in an elite class.
But the reality of the situation is that it involves a lot more than just being a freak athlete.
When it comes to defying the top athletes in college football, Russell Shepard's name has to be included somewhere on that list.
So, just how athletic is this kid?
Well, for starters, he was an All-American quarterback in high school and then played both running back and wide receiver for LSU during his freshman season. He has now settled into the wide receiver position, where he has been a three-year starter, despite playing quarterback his whole prep career.
Oh, did we mention that he will likely return kicks for LSU this season?
Shepard has blazing speed, tremendous quickness and good size. He has 4.4 40-yard dash speed and is a threat to take it to the house any time he gets his hands on the football.
They simply don't get much more athletic than Russell Shepard.
Low: Natural Feel for the Position
Take a look at this photo here. That is Russell Shepard playing quarterback at the Under Armor All-American Game.
That was Shepard's natural position growing up through the prep ranks, and even though LSU made it clear that he might switch positions in college, Shepard seemed to hold onto the idea that he would still be playing quarterback.
The speedy Shepard switched to wide receiver at LSU and he has stuck with it since. However, after growing up as a quarterback and experimenting as a running back during his freshman season, Shepard doesn't have the natural feel for the wide receiver position that you would like to see with a starting wideout in the SEC.
He is able to make plays because of his natural athletic ability, but the thought of Shepard going over the middle and absorbing a hit is simply unthinkable.
Perhaps in his senior year, we will finally see this talented wideout develop a true feel for his position and put up the type of numbers that everyone expected from him when he arrived in Baton Rouge in 2009.