MOBILE, Ala. — If they ever felt that they were overshadowed as members of the LSU football team the past four years, defensive end Lavar Edwards and wide receiver Russell Shepard certainly don’t show it.
It’s easy to see that they got fewer opportunities the last couple of seasons, however, because of the considerable talent Les Miles and his coaching staff have stockpiled for years on both sides of the ball.
For Edwards, the challenge was vying for snaps with Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. For Shepard, it was Rueben Randle in 2011 and Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry this season.
They hope that making the most of their chances this week at the Senior Bowl workouts will lead to more snaps in Saturday’s North-South game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which could make a favorable impression on hundreds of NFL coaches, scouts and front office personnel.
“I’m just trying to make the best of my opportunity here, actually focusing on me and perfecting my craft and showing what type of player that I am,” Edwards said this week. “This is a big opportunity to show all 32 (NFL) teams what I’ve got and what type of player that I am.”
When asked if he may have felt slighted by Mingo and Montgomery, a pair of juniors who are expected to go in the first round of the April draft, during his time at LSU, Edwards quickly noted he didn’t.
“Oh no, not at all,” he said. “Those two guys were great players and they made a lot of plays.
“As long as we were winning, I was fine with it.”
Shepard also said his appearance in the Senior Bowl, even though it was abbreviated, was about his opportunity to reach his potential.
“This is a chance for me to reach my potential, it’s not about getting out of the shadows,” he said after joining the South squad for Wednesday’s practice as an injury replacement.
“This isn’t about showing people that I can be the type of player I know I am,” Shepard said. “I know what I’m capable of doing and what my potential holds.”
Edwards, who is projected as a fourth-round pick by NFLDraftScout.com, is rated as the 13th-best prospect at his position. He’s the latest in a long line of LSU defensive linemen to have a shot at making it to the next level.
Last season, Edwards had 41/2 sacks, seven tackles behind the line and one interception. The 6-foot-5, 251-pounder finished his career with 101/2 sacks and said his strength is his pass-rushing ability.
Edwards was asked about the LSU pipeline to the NFL, which has had 12 defensive linemen drafted since 2005 — four in the first round.
“We have great coaches all across the board and our defensive line coach (Brick Haley) was a former NFL coach,” Edwards said.
“He taught us a lot of things and got us, everybody, prepared to make it to the next level.”
At the same time, Edwards said there was a lot of added pressure to playing on the Tigers’ defensive line because so much was expected of them — particularly because of the presence of Mingo and Montgomery.
“Every day, you try to work with those guys and try to get better in every way you can,” he said. “You had to do that because when your time comes you can make those plays.”
Edwards said he doesn’t worry about projections at this point with three months of testing and evaluating to go before the draft.
“I don’t really look at too many things,” he said. “I don’t want to think one thing and have another thing happen, so I just go with it and work as hard as I can to improve my draft situation.”
Of course, he knew this week was going to be an important part of the process.
“I tried come out and work hard because you don’t get that opportunity too many times,” Edwards said, “so I wanted to make sure that I worked as hard as I could to help myself.”
Shepard was happy to get a shot as well. After playing in the Raycom All-Star Classic on Saturday, he was back in Houston when he got a call Tuesday night to come to Mobile.
The chance to work with an NFL coaching staff on the field was invaluable for Shepard, who had just six receptions last season and is projected as a seventh-round pick or free agent.
“The best thing I can do is learn from these coaches and be humble and do the best that I can do,” he said. “LSU gave me an opportunity to play there and show my skills set and play on a great team, so I’m just blessed for the opportunity here.
“I know the coaches know that I can play football, that’s why I’m here. My thing is to show them that I can consume the playbook in a short period of time and that I’m just a good person.”
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