Watching the LSU Tigers 2012 football team has been a maddening experience for me. They make themselves look worse than they should by throwing the ball far too often and taking four of their top playmakers, Spencer Ware, Kenny Hilliard, Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue, out of the game.
The failure to commit to the run is only one source of the madness. Another is the complete disappearance of Russell Shepard.
A guy who was a 5-star recruit out of high school, a clear contributor on the 2009 and 2010 teams has become an afterthought in Red Stick.
That chart highlights the dynamic playmaker's production arc. He peaked under former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, and since the new staff of Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa have been in place, Shep has been pushed to the back burner.
OMG I played 3 plays....— Russell Shepard (@LSUShep10) January 10, 2012
After paying more attention and looking at the numbers, the kid has a right to be upset. A guy who, at one time, struck fear into the hearts of SEC defensive coordinators because of his dynamic playmaking ability is now merely an also-ran on this struggling offense.
When the issue of the disappearance of Russell Shepard is raised, some folks look for reasons. Reasons like, "well, he doesn't catch the ball very well."
Then hand that sucker off to him. Jet sweeps. Direct snaps. The Wildcat looks with Spencer Ware and Russell Shepard together in the backfield. Swing passes into space where he's able to catch a soft ball from Zach Mettenberger because, let's be honest, over his career, Russell Shepard is no stranger to a rushing attempt.
And we certainly all remember plays like this one:
Shepard has even shown flashes this season when given the opportunity.
Never in my life did I ever expect to say that something was better off under Gary Crowton, but after seeing the wasted talents of Russell Shepard, it is pretty clear that the LSU offense is not helped by the Kragthorpe/Studrawa braintrust. Not only is it minimizing an explosive playmaker, but it is also hurting the entire offense's effectiveness.
Shepard didn't just go from being a nightmare on the field to a decoy who got other people open because defenses were worried about him. No, Shepard went from a nightmare to a nobody. It is no longer "watch out for Shepard" when he's in the game; rather, it is "oh wow, Shepard got the ball; that almost never happens" nowadays.
Perhaps the off-the-field friction on the staff and between some of the players is true. Guess what? I don't particularly care. Plenty of coaches and stud players have hated each other over the years; the good ones find a way to win. And, in the case of Russell Shepard, these coaches need to figure out a way to get the kid more touches and a bigger role in this offense.