Countdown to camp: Shepard's chance

GeauxTigerNation writers David Helman and Gary Laney break down the competitions, issues and talking points of LSU's August camp. Players report to campus Aug. 1 and we'll have a preview segment every weekday in July leading up to the day the players report:

Remember Russell Shepard?

He came to LSU in 2009 as one of the nation's most coveted dual-threat quarterbacks, an athlete so dynamic that if the position of quarterback ultimately did not prove to be his calling, he'd move somewhere -- wide receiver maybe, running back perhaps-- and become one of the multi-talented stars of college football.

There have been flashes of brilliance to be sure -- a 69-yard scamper against Auburn as a freshman and a 50-yard burst against North Carolina as a sophomore. But it's never really materialized into stardom for the senior from Houston. In fact, it's kind of gone backwards.

Marred by an early-season NCAA suspension that forced him to miss the season's first three games, Shepard saw his production drop in receiving (14 for 190 yards after he caught 33 for 249 as a sophomore) and rushing (a career-low seven carries for 52 yards) as a junior in 2011.

He no longer plays running back (his primary position after moving from quarterback as a freshman), nor did he take snaps last season as a wildcat quarterback (Jordan Jefferson was the runner). Once a prolific prep passer, he has still never thrown a college pass.

He was never so discouraged as he was after making no impact on LSU's 21-0 BCS Championship game loss to Alabama, sending a tweet suggesting that he was done at LSU. "I have to do what's best for my family and myself," it said.

Cooler heads prevailed and he decided to come back with a new attitude in the spring. He caught one of two Zach Mettenberger touchdown passes in the spring game, a beautiful, diving catch in the end zone at the end of a 19-yard strike by the Tigers' new starting quarterback.

Shepard seemed to embrace his return. He helped dub LSU's top receivers "The Fab Five" and told anybody who would listen how glad he was to be back.

Does this mean Shepard will be a team leader in August camp and a productive player in September? LSU fans sure hope so and at least one important Tiger thinks so.

"Russell Shepard, to me, this is his time," head coach Les Miles said in the spring.