Randle quietly taking lead at wide receiver

If you want to find the SEC's leading receiver in yardage and touchdowns, you might be surprised to find where he resides.

He isn't in Fayetteville, Ark., Columbia, S.C., or Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Head farther south and you'll find him.

Through eight games, LSU's Rueben Randle leads the league with 638 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He’s averaging 19.3 yards per catch and 4.1 catches per game. He has failed to record a touchdown in just two games this season.

Randle has already equaled his catches (33) from last year and has almost 100 more yards and four more touchdowns. There is no question that Randle has benefited from a much more aggressive offense, thanks to the addition of Steve Kragthorpe to the coaching staff, but Randle said he was more focused heading into this third season.

He took more time to work on his game during the offseason by training at Sonic Boom Speed Conditioning & Strength Training Academy in New Orleans on the weekends, where he worked with high school and junior high athletes to get more one-on-one work in a more hands-on environment.

Randle said he got more explosive out of his breaks, developed better route-running ability and got quicker off the line.

His teammates were impressed with the new and improved Randle who showed up for summer workouts, but they weren’t surprised by how good he looked.

“I saw improvements as soon as I got back,” Randle said. “The guys saw it from me during 7-on-7s and as soon as we got into camp. It was a big help for me going into the season.

“They all knew that I had it and I’d get more opportunities this year. I’m taking full advantage of them.”

He sure has and the interesting thing is that before the season, it was Russell Shepard who got most of the receiving attention outside of camp. He talked about becoming more of a focal point in LSU’s offense and vowed to improve on his sophomore season.

With his ability to play both inside and outside of the backfield, Shepard figured to grab a ton of touches in the fall. But after he was suspended for the first three games of the seasons, Randle took hold of the limelight.

And he’s made his quarterbacks’ jobs much easier along the way.

Senior Jarrett Lee said working with Randle has been almost effortless. In fact, it’s been that way since Randle came on campus three years ago. Randle’s time as a high school quarterback gives him the ability to know when his quarterbacks will get the snap and when and where to be in his routes at the right times.

“He’s a special playmaker,” Lee said of Randle. “He was a former high school quarterback, so he understands football and a quarterback’s mindset. That’s what makes him a special player. He works hard each and every day because he wants the football in his hands.

“From the spring to the summer, he grew up a lot because he knew this could be a special season for him. During the summer, I felt like he became more aggressive. He wanted the ball more.”

Randle doesn’t brag about his abilities, but no one would blame him if he flaunted his speed or the fact that his 6-foot-4, 207-pound frame makes him nearly impossible to adequately defend in one-on-one situations. Oh, and don’t forget those hands made of magnets.

Randle discusses the little things that separate him from his SEC receiving counterparts. He talks about running crisper routes, making the right checks at the line and learning how to improve his blocking.

Those are the things he says he does differently.

It also helps that the offense has expanded tremendously this year. A more open and vigorous passing game has made it easier for him to do his thing. Also having two quarterbacks slinging the ball like they have isn’t too bad, either.

“It’s fun when you get your opportunities,” Randle said. “Now, you’re running full stride and you don’t have to break stride and the ball just lands in your hands. It’s also exciting to have quarterbacks that can deliver the ball like that.”