It's that time of year when camps are starting and pads are popping. With less than a month to go before the season starts, Three & Out returns to give you a periodic look at what's going on in the SEC. In today's edition, we take a look at one of the most important pieces of the LSU offense, Vandy's permanent head coach and the Tide on the tube.
MAKING THE SWITCH
Coming off a down season, and with head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton firmly implanted on the hot seat, the LSU offense is going to be one of the most heavily-scrutinized units in the SEC in 2010. To try and give it a kick start, Miles and Crowton moved highly-regarded quarterback prospect Russell Shepard to wide receiver this offseason. The Tigers open camp on Aug. 4, and Shepard's ongoing transition to wide receiver is going to be one of the hot topics in Baton Rouge.
As a wide receiver/running back/wildcat quarterback in 2009 Shepard showed flashes of brilliance, rushing for 277 yards and two touchdowns, including a 69 yard scamper against Auburn that put the game out of reach. But he only caught five passes last season for 34 yards, and was noticeably absent from the field in losses to Florida and Penn State. Did that show a lack of confidence in his ability? Maybe. But the more likely explanation is that the LSU offense just never seemed to find an identity last season.
Shepard may be that identity.
He has the athletic ability and already had spring practice to adjust to his new surroundings. Having another month to prepare for opening day will go a long way towards completing the transition. His athleticism has drawn comparisons to former Florida standout Percy Harvin. As luck would have it, Shepard's new position coach Billy Gonzales held the same position at Florida while Harvin was with the Gators.
Is Shepard the next coming of Harvin? No. At least, not yet. But don't be surprised to see Shepard emerge as the SEC West equivalent to Kentucky's Randall Cobb in 2010. That's not bad company to be in.
Now, if only LSU could figure out how to give Jordan Jefferson the time to get Shepard the ball...
THAT WAS FAST
When former Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson retired last month, it threw another curveball into what has already been a busy summer. The Commodores acted quickly, naming Robbie Caldwell their interim head coach. Three weeks and a trip to Birmingham later, Caldwell is now a full-fledged SEC head coach, after Vice Chancellor David Williams removed the interim tag from his title on Monday.
"I think what it says is we see Robbie as our head football coach," said Williams. "I don't want to start any speculation one way or the other, but we see him as our head football coach. We're 100 percent behind him and his staff."
He's never been a head coach in the SEC, so it's fair to say that Vanderbilt's support of him could change rather quickly if the 'Dores don't start winning some games. But he did get the SEC media to talk about Vanderbilt during SEC Media Days, which is not an easy thing to do. Who knew that discussing turkey insemination could be so effective???
TIDE ON THE TUBE
That ESPN deal seems to be working out okay for the SEC.
ESPN announced that they will air an hour-long special on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday, Aug. 18 at 7:00 p.m. ET. The show, which will be called Alabama All-Access, will go behind-the-scenes of summer practice as the Crimson Tide look to repeat as SEC and National Champions.
According to the network, the show will "give viewers a first-time look at practices, team meetings and campus facilities for eight days, beginning Aug. 3." With the Tide looking to defend their titles, replace nine starters on defense, contend with the ongoing Marcell Dareus investigation and promote Mark Ingram as a Heisman Trophy candidate for the second straight season, it certainly is well-timed television.
Of course, it's not exactly unprecedented. SportsSouth basically did the same thing two years ago with Under The Lights: Alabama Football. Details...
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
2010 Offseason Three & Out Archive