NEW ORLEANS — If LSU opens things up Monday night in its national-championship BCS battle with Alabama, you would have to assume that would mean going long to Rueben Randle. Randle, for one, wouldn’t mind, especially after his breakout season that includes 50 receptions for 904 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I’m looking forward to making more plays. The first game everybody said was boring,” Randle said with a smile. “Everybody understands that. We’re looking forward to making more plays downfield.”
This has been a breakout season for Randle for a few reasons. After playing quietly the past two seasons, the product of Bastrop, La., watched LSU’s previous go-to guys move on, Brandon LaFell two years ago and Terrence Toliver after last season. And LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa said Randle “bought into it” this season, working harder and taking on the role of being a playmaker.
“I felt the need,” Randle said. “I was a leader on this team, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and I was one of the older receivers here, so it was really in my hands to make plays at receiver …
“It all clicked all of a sudden. I did a great job of getting open for the quarterback, and when they had time to throw the ball they looked for me really well. So it’s just been putting everything together.”
Luckily for LSU, he doesn’t seem to mind which quarterback is throwing the ball. For the first eight games of the season, that was mostly Jarrett Lee. When Lee lost his job to Jordan Jefferson, Randle didn’t miss a beat. For that matter, he seems to have a great non-verbal communication relationship with Jefferson when a play goes out of system.
“We’ve got a good understanding and you have to have that between any quarterback and receiver,” Randle said. “You’ve got to have that chemistry so he can deliver the ball to the right places.
“I think we communicate well off the field. And I tell Jordan all the time if such and such happens, we’re gonna do this and that. So it’s understood between us.”
However, when LSU beat Alabama 9-6 in Tuscaloosa on November 5, Randle was one of four Tigers who had just two receptions apiece on a day when the LSU quarterbacks combined to complete 9 of 17 passes for 91 yards and two interceptions, both by Lee.
“In the game they kind of doubled him a little bit and took him away from us,” Jefferson said. “But since he’s one of our key guys, we have to find ways to get him the ball. We have to do whatever we can to get the ball to him.”
Alabama offensive coordinator Kirby Smart said Alabama really didn’t do anything special to Randle, who averages 18 yards a catch.
“I don’t think we stopped Rueben Randle as much as they limited Rueben Randle,” Smart said. “They played conservative last game. They didn’t throw the ball vertical down the field. You go back to the game and see they didn’t take a lot of chances. They were going to win the game on defense. And that’s what they did.
“So did we stop him? Or did they not allow him to screw it up? I don’t know. But they did not take a lot of chances with Rueben.”
Randle, who had receptions of 30 or more yards in eight games this season, gave credit to Alabama.
“They had a good scheme, they had their safeties over the top, and every once in a while they had an end or a backer go flying in underneath the routes,” Randle said. “So they had a pretty good scheme that we were pretty surprised about.”
He expects more of the same Monday.
“You know they’re going to be aggressive,” Randle said. “It’s going to be tight throughout the game. We’re not going to go out there and push them around. It’s a great defense, so you have take every ounce of yardage you can get.
“Hopefully we can take advantage of every opportunity. You can’t leave plays out there.”
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