LSU Player to Watch: Odell Beckham Jr.

Alabama vs LSU

By Dave Friedman

For many years LSU has produced high quality wide receivers. From five-time Pro Bowl selection Charley Hennigan in the early 1960’s, to Eddie Kennison, and Dwayne Bowe. No Tiger wideout has been picked higher than Michael Clayton who went 15th overall to the Bucs in 2004. Clayton stood 6’4” and was dynamic for Tampa Bay as a rookie. However, he got injured his second year in the NFL and never was the same. While Odell Beckham Jr. does not have the size of Clayton, he is poised to join Bowe, Brandon LaFell, and Rueben Randle as a contributor at the next level. Before he moves on to greener pastures, the junior will look to make big plays against Alabama on Saturday.

Last weekend Beckham, who is listed at six feet tall and 193 pounds, torched outmatched Furman for six catches, 204 yards, and two touchdowns. It was the sixth time this season he has averaged at least 19 yards a grab. He has caught a pass of at least 22 yards in every game for the Tigers this season. Five times he has eclipsed 100 yards receiving. Here’s the scary part, he’s just as dangerous if not more as a return man.

A year ago Beckham averaged over nine yards a punt return and scored twice including an 89 yard back-breaking score against Ole Miss. This year he has upped the average to nearly 10 yards a punt return while tallying more than 24 yards per kick return. His speed and big play ability was really on display September 7 against UAB. Beckham caught five passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns against the Blazers. Then, late in the game, he returned a missed field goal by catching it in the back of the endzone and scampering 109 yards for his fourth score of the game. His 189 all purpose yards a game lead the SEC by a margin of more than 28 yards a contest.

Beckham’s dad, Odell Sr., played running back for the Tigers in the early 90’s. His mom, Heather Van Norman, was an All American track and field performer at LSU. She was a part of five National Championships, two indoor, and three outdoor. The couple found out that Heather was pregnant while she was training for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Some women would change their routine knowing a baby was on the way. Not Van Norman. She continued to work out. She ran for her first six months of pregnancy, then began walking stadium steps, and finally transitioned to pool workouts. From the time Odell Jr. was three weeks old he attended classes with his parents at LSU. Six weeks after giving birth, Van Norman returned to competitive workouts, and less than half a year later she helped the Lady Tigers to another National Title.

At Newman High School in New Orleans, Beckham Jr. became just the second player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He joined Cooper Manning, Peyton and Eli’s older brother, in the record books.

Despite his success, and future in the NFL, Beckham has struggled against Alabama. In three meetings with the Crimson Tide he has a total of 11 catches for 127 yards. His work as a punt returner has been no more successful against the Tide. Because he is likely to turn pro after the season, this is his last chance to show scouts what he can do against the most difficult defense he’ll face in college. As double-digit underdogs, a big play in the passing game or special teams from Beckham might be the best recipe LSU has for an upset.