LSU looks for ways to involve Russell Shepard

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLINGLSU wide receiver Russell Shepard breaks free for a first down as he stiffarms Alabama defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first half of last week's game at Tiger Stadium. Shepard, a senior, has six catches and 11 carries this season.
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLINGLSU wide receiver Russell Shepard breaks free for a first down as he stiffarms Alabama defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first half of last week's game at Tiger Stadium. Shepard, a senior, has six catches and 11 carries this season.

LSU senior wide receiver Russell Shepard has all but vanished from the passing game, but it seems the Tigers are trying to get him involved in the offense.

Shepard has caught just six passes this season, which is not only fewer than four wide receivers have, but also fewer than two running backs and the same as another running back (Spencer Ware). Shepard hasn’t caught a pass in any of the last three games.

But against Alabama last week, Shepard carried the ball three times for 22 yards. In fact, Shepard, who played quarterback in high school and running back as an LSU freshman, has carried the ball more times than he has caught it this season. He has 11 carries for 128 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown run against Towson.

Shepard said the offense has worked on getting him more involved, even having him line up under center as Ware, another former high school quarterback, has done several times.

“We’re going to have those opportunities with me back there at quarterback sometimes, Spencer Ware — we’ve even got a couple more quarterbacks that people haven’t seen back there,” Shepard said. “When you go into a game plan, you prepare for a lot of different things. But when you get in a game, there are only a certain number of things you can do, so you have to kind of wait for the game to see what goes on.”

It remains to be seen how Shepard will be used against Mississippi State on Saturday, but he seemed confident that he’ll have a role to play down the stretch.

“We’re working on some things with me more so in the backfield, just giving me an opportunity to get my hands on the ball as quickly as possible and make some plays,” Shepard said. “The coaches have come up to me and they’ve told me that we’re going to figure out ways to get me in the game plan, figure out ways to get me more implemented into touching the ball. It’s going to be good. Things are going to work out for me.”

Shepard’s ties to Mullen

Shepard spoke highly of State coach Dan Mullen, who recruited Shepard when Mullen was an assistant at Florida.

“I have a relationship with coach Mullen through recruiting,” Shepard said. “He’s a heck of a coach. If I didn’t go to LSU, Florida was probably the next school I would have attended. I have a pretty good relationship with him, and throughout the years, me and him after talked after games. He’s a good man.

“He does a great job of getting the ball into his playmakers’ hands. He’s doing a great job at that program with the talent he has had, and it’s going to get better and better, because he’s going to get the type of players that he wants, the type of kids that fit into his scheme. He’s a great offensive-minded coach.”

Mills learns from mistake

LSU lost to Alabama 21-17 last Saturday when running back T.J. Yeldon slipped out of the backfield unguarded, caught a swing pass from AJ McCarron and raced 28 yards untouchded for the winning touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.

Freshman cornerback Jalen Mills missed a call and blitzed when he should have backed out of the blitz and been in position to defend Yeldon.

Safety Eric Reid said he believes Mills, who has started every game as a true freshman, will grow from the experience.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Reid said. “That one was just at a critical part of the game. He knows what happened. He’s learned from it, and I’m pretty positive it won’t happen again. You feel a lot of weight on your shoulders, but we just tell him everybody mistakes, and sometimes, that’s how you learn.

“He’ll be all right. He’s a great player, and he’ll continue to grow and play big for us.”

Two years ago, when Reid was a freshman, he was thrust into the game against Alabama when Brandon Taylor suffered a foot injury. Reid said he remembers getting “outflanked” and allowing Mark Ingram to “stroll into the end zone.”

“Especially being a freshman, you don’t want to mess up for your team. So whenever something happens, it’s easier to remember when you make a mistake,” Reid said. “It gives you motivation to remember that particular call.

“I remember (linebacker) Kelvin Sheppard fussing at me. He got onto me about that. Now I know to make sure I stay outside.”

Gilmore to pick LSU or UF

Greg Gilmore, one of the nation’s highest-rated uncommitted players for 2013, is set to announce his commitment live at 4 p.m. Thursday on the “Recruiting Nation” show on ESPNU.

Gilmore, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive tackle from Hope Mills (N.C.) South View, has narrowed his finalists to LSU, Florida and Oklahoma, though he is expected to choose between the Tigers and Gators.

Gilmore made his last official visit to LSU for the Alabama game last weekend. Reportedly, his mother favors Florida because it is closer to home, but will not stand in his way if he wants to attend LSU.

A consensus four-star prospect, Gilmore is No. 52 on the Scout 300, No. 104 on the ESPN 150, No. 112 on the 24/7 Sports Top 247 and No. 202 on the Rivals 250.

Injury updates

LSU coach Les Miles said after practice Wednesday that he’s unsure when G Josh Williford will return to practice. Williford, who hasn’t played since suffering a concussion against Florida on Oct. 6, practiced last Wednesday in anticipation of being available for the game against Alabama. “That was not good for him,” Miles said, “so we backed him off.” Williford hasn’t practiced since. ... Miles said LB Kwon Alexander, who suffered a broken ankle against the Gators, “may in fact be back by the bowl game, if not before that.” ... Miles said he “would not anticipate” LB Luke Muncie, who has been bothered by a stomach problem, “starting or playing a lot.” Lamar Louis will be the primary strongside linebacker.

Advocate sportswriter
Scott Rabalais contributed
to this report.