“He’s one of those guys who never says much, even when it comes to talking trash to the other team,” said junior cornerback Morris Claiborne, who lines up opposite of Randle every day in practice. “I think the only time I have ever seen him say something is at practice when he got into it with Tharold Simon.
“Other than that, he’s never had much to say.”
But after Saturday’s 41-11 win over Florida, the junior out of Bastrop spoke up.
Maybe it was the emergence of freshman Odell Beckham Jr., who came into the week with 268 yards and two touchdowns under his belt.
Or maybe it was a challenge from his teammates, a group that Randle said he’s let down with hit-or-miss performances. Against Oregon and Kentucky, Randle combined for 47 yards and a touchdown on two catches. In the three games in between, he’s accounted for 272 yards and two touchdowns on 17 catches.
However you slice it, it looked like a different Randle on Saturday.
“I think I had something to prove,” Randle said. “Last week I only caught one ball. I wanted to make a bigger statement this week.
“This was one of the key games I wanted to come out and show what I could do. This was a big game and I wanted to make big plays.”
Randle’s biggest play came on LSU’s second snap from scrimmage.
“Jarrett put it on the money and I didn’t have to break stride,” Randle said.
Lee said of the 46-yard touchdown that put LSU out front 7-0: “We have been running it really hard, and we thought the secondary might bite on the play action, and they did just that. Rueben ran right by them and it worked out for us.”
It was the beginning of Randle’s biggest game of the season, a four-catch, 127-yard afternoon that catapulted Randle back into the offensive spotlight - which is just where the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder belongs.
“People need to realize that Rueben is not just our team’s No. 1 receiver, but he would be that same guy on most every team in the country,” receiver Russell Shepard said. “He can be a difference-maker whenever he wants to be.”
Whenever he wants to be.
That might be the phrase to best sum up Randle, who one minute appears disinterested and then very much engaged the next.
“It’s like a switch,” Claiborne said. “He walks around like he doesn’t care about things, but then he turns it on and you don’t stand a chance. In practice he will show one speed, then in a game he suddenly shows off another level of speed that you never knew he had.
“I think he just keeps getting better and better.”
If you ask Randle’s starting quarterback, the motivation boils down to responsibility.
This season, Randle, now more than ever, knows the weight that comes with helping carry an offense through a national title chase.
“He understands what he has to do to help us win,” Lee said. “If he’s double-covered or it is single coverage, he wants the ball in his hands.”
LSU coach Les Miles sees the same thing as his quarterback.
“We look for him to make plays,” Miles said. “He’s maturing into a hell of a receiver.”
A hell of a receiver is just what the doctor ordered, especially on an offense that has finally found an identity to call its own.
If LSU can continue to run the ball at will, then Lee will continue to pick his spots to make opponents pay through the air – which has been successful in large part because of individual efforts from Randle and Beckham.
It’s seemingly the perfect recipe.
“That makes our team special,” Lee said. “Whoever has to come in and make the play, that’s what they are going to do - whether it is Odell or Rueben or Russell. They are going to make plays.”
In a situation where the sky seems like the limit, the biggest concern for Randle’s future might be his health – though he likely won’t admit to you that he’s hurting even if he’s obviously affected.
“I am getting pretty healthy, but I just have bad knees,” he said. “When it comes to game day, I don’t feel anything at all.”
Without any ice packs on his knees or worry in his tone, Randle quickly skipped past concerns for his health and back to the performance from Lee, which has Randle excited about where the passing game goes from here.
“(Lee) is pretty accurate throwing the deep ball,” Randle said. “As long as he continues that, then we will take more shots. If the defense brings safeties into the box, we have to take those shots.”