Sending a pair of running backs to the professional ranks a season early would ordinarily be a big blow to any program. LSU, to a certain extent, has been immune to that. The Tigers have traditionally maintained a loaded backfield, and this season’s is no different- for right now. With Jeremy Hill’s current suspension and the running back position’s demands, you can never have too many. Entering the 2013 season, LSU has plenty of talent at tailback, and that’s without one coming in this summer. But we all know why that is.
The Departed: Spencer Ware- NFL Draft; Michael Ford- NFL
They’re Back: Jeremy Hill (6’2”, 235, Soph.); Alfred Blue (6’2”, 220, Sr.); Kenny Hilliard (6’0”, 231, Jr.); Terrence Magee (5’9”, 220, Jr.)
Who’s New: None
What We Know: As of right now, Jeremy Hill is suspended from the football team. I’m not an attorney, and I’m not going to play one either. What we know is that Hill has had a run in with the law previously, and this case is still pending. Les Miles’ protocol has been to let the legal system run its course before making a determination in regards to his football team. Until that time, I won’t talk too much about that situation. I’ll talk about Hill on the football field. He’s a beast. Hill played in 11 games last year and scored 12 touchdowns. Without question he’s got the size and vision to run between the tackles, but the question with Hill is speed. He answered that with long touchdown runs against South Carolina, Texas A&M and Clemson. Hill isn’t the fastest running back in the country, but he doesn’t get caught from behind. With a season under his belt, Hill has proven that he has the ability to be a feature back in the SEC. Miles also proved that Hill was his guy last year. Against Alabama, the freshman carried the ball 29 times. LSU running backs rarely carry the ball 29 times. Miles hitched his horse to Hill’s wagon when the chips were down last year.
You hated to see Alfred Blue go down last year against Idaho. He’d climbed over 100 yards in each of the first two games before a knee injury cut his season short. It’s possible that Blue is the most complete back on the Tiger roster. He’s got a wide receiver-type frame with running back strength. He is great between the tackles and plenty capable of making plays in space. By the same token, he’s a great pass blocker and receiver out of the backfield. Cam Cameron has a history of using his running backs in the passing game. Blue fits in there. Blue has never carried a season’s workload in his career. His largest number of carries is 78 in a season. That’s likely the final test in Blue’s last season in college.
Kenny Hilliard exploded onto the scene late in 2011, gouging the Georgia defense in the second half of the SEC Championship game. He, much like Hill in 2012, entered college game with a body ready to take on the physical contact in the SEC. Hilliard has shown the ability to break a big play, and he generally gets the tough yardage when called upon. In 2012, Hilliard amassed six touchdowns through three games, but then snaps became difficult to come by. As Hill emerged, Hilliard’s role diminished almost entirely. Some off the field issues may have hindered Hilliard’s playing time, either way, there was only one football and four Tiger running backs expecting the ball. Hilliard was the odd man out. Entering the 2013 season, Hilliard is healthy and in good shape.
Terrence Magee is a great athlete. His a little on the short side, but he’s think and very agile. Because of the insane depth at tailback, Magee spent last season at wide receiver which never really bore much fruit. He did learn some valuable skills on the outside, and his hands have never been questioned. He was a great outfielder in high school. Every time I think of Magee as a running back I think of the play he made his freshman year at Ole Miss. He took that famous Les Miles lead toss, plunged through the line of scrimmage, spun 360 degrees through a tackle, stiff armed another, outran another, and then he drug another 13 yards before two more brought him down. It was an incredible run. Magee has the tools to play in this offense. He’s just got a crowd off talent at the same position.
What To Expect: Here’s where we can get a little more hypothetical in terms of Hill. I think Hill will be suspended for a couple of games, but I see him playing football this year. And when he does I think he’s LSU’s lead back. Hill is in the conversation with T.J. Yeldon and Todd Gurley as the best back in the league. If he’s out there, LSU will go to Hill in every big spot, and he’ll produce big time. He’s just that type of talent.
If and when Hill is out, Blue becomes the No. 1 back. He was that guy before the knee injury last year. I’ve got no reservations about saying that Blue is healthy. He was running before the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and he went through spring drills at full speed. He just hasn’t been hit yet. I expect Blue will take some contact in fall camp to get him ready, and I think he’s the starter against TCU. Blue will be an 85-125 yard per game guy with Hill out. He’ll also be involved in the passing game. I really expect the running backs to catch a few more balls this year. That fits Blue’s game really well.
As I posted earlier, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Hilliard at LSU. With Hill and Blue healthy and eligible, Hilliard’s carries will be few and far between. He’ll see action against the non-conference patsies, but big game carries will go to the other two. That said, I think Hilliard is in there against TCU. I don’t think Hilliard will scare teams in terms of the big play, but he’ll be solid. Nothing spectacular.
I’d be surprised if Magee made a big impact this year. That would mean injuries have riddled the depth chart a bit. Like I said earlier, Magee has some skills. I think we see those in 2014, along with a back who hasn’t quite made it to Baton Rouge for good yet…