The fullback is a vital cog to the Les Miles playbook. Say what you will about it's usefulness in the landscape of modern spread 'em out football, old-school brain-bash power-run authoritarians will continue to rely on the merciless assassins that lead the way for the run game. LSU has found a fullback from all manner of places. Walk-ons, converted linebackers, converted defensive tackles, converted offensive linemen, jumbo running backs and on down the line. The primary qualification seems to be whether or not the player likes to hit other players a lot. Fit that bill and you probably have a spot in the LSU offense.
2015 will be an interesting season in that regard. There's almost zero returning fullback experience. The one player who has taken snaps there is actually a tight end. The four players currently listed as "FB" on the roster consist of: a converted WR, a converted, walk-on, lineman, another walk-on and David Ducre.
Ducre himself is a specimen worth consideration. At 6'0", 239 pounds, he's thickly built and proportioned much like the mauling meathead you'd come to expect at the position. Yet, he was a successful high school tail back and each time he was given opportunities in camp settings, proved nimble and explosive enough to perhaps carry the load as a lead ball carrier. What does that mean? It means Ducre gives us options at FB, and perhaps the most versatile player to ever take the position.
Ducre isn't a name that starred on many recruiting sites heading last season's recruiting cycle. I'm certain the coaches were well aware of him and held him in high regard, but he didn't dot any top 100 lists or even best players in Louisiana lists. When LSU offered in February of last year, it came as a bit of a surprise. Ducre wasn't an All-State, known quantity. He wasn't even All-District. There wasn't outrage, especially given Ducre's gaudy physique and impressive measurables, but more curiosity. Days later, Ducre pulled the trigger on his commitment and never looked back.
Most interestingly is seeing how the various sites evaluate Ducre. 247 Sports insisted on rating Ducre as a FB. Rivals and ESPN listed him, instead, as an RB. 247 at least honors him by ranking him the no. 1 FB in the entire class.
There was never much drama to Ducre's recruitment. He took no visits and there was never even a mention of possible interest in anyone but LSU. Unlike the many who proclaim it, Ducre's recruitment firmly ended the day he committed to the Tigers.
100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career.
97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who displays pro-potential.
89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country.
79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.
Tale of the Tape
40: 4.43 (self reported)
Short Shuttle: 4.32 (self reported)
Vertical Leap: 34" (self reported)
Let's just assume these numbers are all fudged positively. Ducre is still a good athlete. Is he really a 4.4 guy? I'd be surprised. He runs well for his size, certainly very well for a FB. Which is why we'll likely see him take some snaps as a tail back.
Strengths: Power, Versatility, Footwork
Weaknesses: Running Style, Speed, Blocking
Power: At 240 pounds, it'd sure be a shame if he ran like a butterfly. Fortunately, he does not. :23 you get a great feel for his style. One cut, downhill, if it's in my way, I'm going to run it over. 1:11 is another great example of how he simply runs through tacklers with relative ease. In fact, most every clip on the reel is Ducre needing to be brought down by multiple defenders.
Versatility: Most backs Ducre's size are one-trick ponies, who can run downhill with mass and force, but do little else. The most intriguing part to Ducre's game is that he flashes the ability to be a weapon the staff can move around on offense. At :38 you can see his ability as a pass catcher.
Footwork: Tying to the above, for a big guy, he's surprisingly nimble. Look at :52 and how well he's able to dance out of trouble and get down hill. 1:44 you get to see how quickly he cuts to avoid defenders. What I particularly like is that Ducre doesn't dance, but makes a sharp cut to get open field and gets back going.
Running Style: As exhilarating as it is to watch Ducre pump and pump and pump his legs with multiple defenders draped over him, I also can't help but be concerned what type of blows that will expose him to at the higher levels. He'll need to learn some discipline and the fact that it's okay to go down now and again and save some for next down.
Speed: I don't think he's a guy that's gonna house one from 80 out, but I could be wrong. That's not a deal breaker, but it'll be interesting to see how much speed and agility he can maintain as he presumably gets larger in college.
Blocking: Big unknown. We don't know what he can do here. That's a big question mark for a guy who is expected to make immediate contributions as our FB.
What is and what will be with Ducre are possibly two different things. The RB cupboard isn't exactly full right now, but the FB grouping is even more sparse. Through pure necessity, Ducre may need to see the bulk of his snaps at FB in 2015. This is assuming LSU sticks with the same type of playbook we've seen throughout the majority of the Miles era, and deploys a lot of 21 and 22 personnel. If LSU opts to shift to more spread looks with one back, Ducre could become another back in the rotation to help spell Fournette and Williams.
I do know that getting to campus early is a big bonus for Ducre. If he's to play, he'll need to learn the playbook. Historically, they've opted for lesser talented players who fully understand the schemes over more talented players who are inclined to make mistakes in pass pro or go the wrong way on a handoff. Hitting the playbook and reps are the only way Ducre can make a dent there.
I'm curious to see how he grows in college. Does he continue to add mass and get up to 250, even 260 pounds? If so, he's a FB all the way. If they keep him where he's at, he's a guy that's versatile enough to give the LSU coaches some options. He can play FB, but he can be a single back, he can dot the I, hell he could possibly even get in the slot and be a threat in the screen game. He's an interesting player.
Running back is typically a position young players can make an impact at early. FB is slightly more difficult, though not unprecedented. Can Ducre enter this fall as LSU's starting FB? I think so. Will he? I'm not sure. He'll need to stand out this summer, not just show up and expect it. At any rate, I expect Ducre to contribute in major games in 2015.
High End: Starter at RB.
Low End: Starter at FB.
Realistic: I think he'll be a hybrid player that will play some FB, play some H-back, play some tail back. He's the type of guy I could see getting slotted in at RB due to injury and breaking off 200 yards. Can he do that consistently that? I don't think so. But I think he'll be a hell of a lot of fun to watch and have some sterling moments in his career.