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Friday, September 25, 2009
Kicking it with LSU's Brandon LaFell

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

 
 Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE
 LSU receiver Brandon Lafell has posted eye-opening numbers over the past two seasons.


The SEC has no shortage of marquee receivers.

A.J. Green at Georgia, Julio Jones at Alabama, Dexter McCluster at Ole Miss and Randall Cobb at Kentucky would be at the top of any list.

But that list isn’t complete without LSU’s Brandon LaFell, who is the No. 1 NFL draft prospect in the league among senior receivers. He has the speed and size every team covets, and his production the last two seasons has been outstanding.

A year ago, he caught 63 passes for 929 yards and eight touchdowns, which tied for the most in the league. He was named first-team All-SEC by the Associated Press following the season. But when the preseason honors came out this season, he was stuck on second team.

It didn’t go unnoticed by the 6-3, 205-pound LaFell, who’s been shadowed by every defense the Tigers have faced this season. Still, his 14 catches through three games are more than every other player in the league with the exception of Auburn’s Darvin Adams and Green.

The thing LaFell hasn’t done so far is hit the big play. His longest catch is 21 yards, although he had a pair of touchdown catches last week in the win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

He’s confident that he and the LSU offense are just getting started and took some time this week to break it all down:

Did anything in particular get you untracked last week with the two touchdowns?

Brandon LaFell: It just sort of happened that way. Coach called the right plays. My receivers down the field made a couple of blocks for me, so it wasn’t really breaking out. It just was taking what was there.

Where do you think LSU is offensively right now?

BL: I think we’re real close to putting it all together. We had a pretty good game against Washington and then came back and had an OK game these last two games, where we really didn’t throw it that well or run it that well. We just did enough to win the ballgame. So it’s coming. I feel like we’re on track to really break loose.

What’s held LSU back offensively in the first three games?

BL: It’s not that we’re not used to everybody. We’ve been together and had the whole summer and the whole spring to get ready. But I think we all thought we would be clicking by this time. We just haven’t yet. We’ve had a few series that were pretty good, but we want to put together a bunch of series in a row this week.

How have teams defended you this season?

BL: I’m getting a lot of double teams, and they’re really trying to take me away on third downs by rolling the safety over there where I am. On first and second downs, they’re trying to take away our running game. But on third down, they’re coming after me.

How impressed are you with what Jordan Jefferson has done in his first full season as a starter?

BL: He’s doing what they’re asking him to do, managing the game, making sure we win the game and making sure we win the turnover margin every game. That’s been happening so far. He’s only had one interception. So he’s playing winning football, and I think you’ll see him do more as we go on in this season.

How wide open is the West race this season?

BL: I think it’s going to come down to the last week of conference play. There are a lot of teams that could win it, and we have to play a lot of good teams on the road. We also have to play Florida at home, and you know that’s going to be a big game. But we can’t look at it as a whole. We’ve got to look at it as what’s right in front of us. If we don’t, we won’t be there at the end.

With Georgia and Florida coming up in back-to-back weeks, is there any chance you guys aren’t as focused this Saturday as you need to be against Mississippi State?

BL: Nah, that’s not going to happen. We know what happens when you’re not ready to play every week in the SEC. I don’t care who it is, and we know Mississippi State is coming to take us out. We’ve got to have that same attitude.

How has your game evolved?

BL: As the years have gone on, I’ve gotten better in different parts of my game. My first year, I had a couple of drops, and everybody wondered if I had good hands. Then I got better at running routes and getting open, and then I got into the weight room and focused on my blocking. This year, I just want to be a better teammate all the way around.

Is it pretty obvious to you that your team chemistry is better than last season?

BL: It’s way better than it was last year. If something started going the wrong way last year, there was no stopping it. There was a lot of finger-pointing going on in the locker room, things like that, and we took it upon ourselves in the summer to make sure we weren’t going to have any of that on this team. When that stuff starts, it’s hard to get it stopped.

Who are the toughest defensive backs you’ve gone against in the SEC?

BL: I’d say Jerraud Powers at Auburn last year, and Joe Haden at Florida is really good, too. The other one is Kareem Jackson at Alabama.

Has it motivated you guys that LSU has sort of been an afterthought this year when people talk about the league race?

BL: It doesn’t really matter. We haven’t played our best ball. Nobody has seen our best ball this year. Everybody has just seen what Alabama and Florida are capable of. Even though we’re one of the top teams, nobody is focusing on us like they are those other teams. That’s not a problem, though, because we know week in and week out we all have to go play each other.

With defenses trying more to take you away, do you have more guys on this offense that can make them pay for that?

BL: We have so many guys that can make plays, so I don’t really get mad when they gang up on me because I know it’s going to come back to get them. Sooner or later, people are going to have to start coming back and playing me man-to-man. It gets frustrating. But at the same time, if they’ve got two guys on me, somebody’s going to be making a play for us.

What went through your mind when you heard Washington beat Southern California?

BL: We were surprised, but we weren’t shocked. We knew Washington was pretty good after playing them. We saw how good that quarterback (Jake Locker) was. That guy … everybody was saying after the game that he was going to be a first-round pick.