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Five Things, LSU Spring Football: Running Backs

Stacy Revere

Running Backs

4 Alfred Blue (Sr.)

6-2, 220

40 carries for 270 yarrds (6.7 ypc), 2 TDs in four games. 7 catches for 45 yards.

33 Jeremy Hill (So.)

6-2, 235

142 carries for 755 yards (5.3), 12 TDs. 8 catches for 73 yards.

27 Kenny Hilliard (Jr.)

6-0, 231

82 carries for 464 yards (5.6), 6 TDs. 3 catches for 21 yards.

14 Terrence Magee (So.)

5-9, 212

1 catch for 7 yards, 1 carry for no gain.


44 J.C. Copeland (Sr.)

6-1, 272

21 carries for 67 yards, 4 TDs. 3 catches for 54 yards.

43 Connor Neighbors (Sr.)

5-11, 236

1 carry for 5 yards.

1. Good news first -- that's a damn good top three at tailback. Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard have all had their big moments. Hundred yard games and big plays against ranked opponents at important moments. And last season, Jeremy Hill looked like he could maybe be the most complete runner LSU's had in some time. He has size and power with the speed to go the distance once he hits the open field. And of course, there's J.C. Copeland, a powerful, versatile fullback that can also run and catch the ball when asked.

2. Bad news second -- this is probably as thin a running back group as LSU's had in some time. Granted Terrence Magee is a player that everybody has always been bullish on in terms of potential (his move to receiver last season was truly one of those "we gotta get this kid on the field" moves, even though it didn't turn out that way), and Connor Neighbors really graded out well as a blocking fullback when asked to do so. Still, this is a team that's been used to having much higher numbers at this position in recent seasons. And it's not like depth hasn't been tested at running back before. Silver linings: with the top three guys on the depth chart all kind of similar in terms of skillset, we might not see as much running back shuffling as we've seen at times (though that's been dramatically better under Frank Wilson compared to Larry Porter); super recruit Jeryl Brazil (who recently broke his OWN STATE RECORD, WHICH PREVIOUSLY BELONGED TO TRINDON "HOLY SHIT THAT GUY IS FAST" HOLIDAY) has a built-in spot in the backfield to step into -- think Holiday, but real football player-like size; and of course, we all know that there's a pretty special running back recruit for the 2014 class that this all sets up extremely well for.

3. So far in camp, it's really promising to have Blue as close to 100 percent as possible. He was off to a great start before his knee injury in 2012. And most accounts have Hilliard re-dedicated following a very shaky season. An ankle injury slowed him slightly around midseason, and between Hill's emergence and some light footwork on his own part, Hilliard fell out of favor. The tools that we all fell in love with in November of 2011 are still there. And of course, there's Hill. He truly has the look of a star workhorse runner; the question is whether he's ready to assume that role and whether the staff is ready to give him. I'm of the opinion that he could probably stand to lose 5-10 pounds just to get a little bit faster, but that's just me. What these running backs' roles will be in this new offense? That is where things get interesting.

4. Through two weeks of this spring, it seems that Cam Cameron is mostly focusing on the passing game and the spread sets of his new attack. Reports from Saturday's scrimmage, which was reportedly focused on first-and-10 situations, using a lot of one-back, multi-receiver looks, including the pistol as well as the shotgun. I would be this is because in terms of LSU's two-back looks, not a lot will change. This offense will never get too far from the I-formation, power/zone running and play-action. That's Cameron's style as much as its been LSU's under Miles. The one back look definitely fits Hill and Blue's skill-sets. The latter is the typical zone-blocking slasher with good speed and enough size to run between the tackles, while Hill is a bit of the inverse. A hard-running, one-cut type of back with size and power but the speed to also make the corner. What's interesting, could be Magee's role. He's a gifted receiver, hence his move there last year, and he's much more of a shifty, ping-pong type of back with quick feet in space. You have to wonder if Cameron will make more efforts to use him there. That model could also work for Brazil, once he hits campus.

5. But, like I said, you can't get too far away from the team's two-back roots. Not just because that's built into this program's DNA, but it also keeps one of the offense's better players on the field in Copeland. He slimmed down last season and really developed into a true multi-purposed player. Caught passes well, ran well when asked. He's not necessarily a player that needs five or six touches a game, but it's nice to know he's there when you want to throw a quick flat pass or run a trap in short-yardage situations. Neighbors doesn't give you the same versatility though. One wonders if Hilliard has perhaps been cross-trained in that spot a little, just to add a bit of depth and versatility. Fullback will also need to be a priority in this recruiting cycle as well. We all remember what happened the year after Quinn Johnson left.