Posted by Jerry Hinnen
LSU may have kept one receiver in the fold. But their best one is off to the NFL.
Junior Rueben Randle -- the Tigers' leading receiver in their undefeated (and ultimately unfulfilled) march to the BCS National Championship game -- announced Friday that he would be forgoing his final season in Baton Rouge to enter this April's NFL draft. Randle's father Emmett Randle confirmed that his son had filed the necessary paperwork to join the draft as a third-year player.
“There was no one particular thing,” Emmett Randle told the Baton Rouge Advocate. “It was a combination of things that told him he needed to move on.”
One of those things is likely that Randle could prove to be a first-day draft pick; Emmett said that the NFL had graded Rueben as a potential second-round pick, and with prototypical pro size at 6'4", 208 pounds, Randle's stock shouldn't be harmed by pre-draft workouts.
It's that same rare combination of size and athleticism that made Randle one of the nation's most elite, highly sought-after recruits in the class of 2009, when he was regularly tabbed as one of the top five prospects at any position. The sky-high expectations meant that his production as a freshman and sophomore -- 44 total receptions, just over 700 yards -- was viewed as something of a disappointment.
Randle made good on his potential and then some in 2011, however, leading the Tigers with 53 receptions, 917 yards, and 8 touchdowns. His 17.3 average yards per-reception led the SEC among receivers with at least 50 catches. (We here at Eye on CFB named him first-team All-SEC for the impact his downfield receiving threat made on the LSU offense.)
So the move makes sense from Randle's perspective. But it won't make it any easier for the Tigers to take, not with Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers having already elected to enter the draft as well. Fellow receiver Russell Shepard will be staying in Baton Rouge, but the national title game (as well as the Tigers' first meeting with the Tide) showed how badly the LSU offense needs to develop its deep passing game against truly elite defenses--and now the Tigers will lose their only bona fide downfield threat. The hole left by Randle's decision won't be an easy one for Les Miles to fill.
Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.