Many people dream of growing up with a nice, big backyard with all types of toys to play with. Slides and swings and balls. As a kid, you can invent an entire world with just a few spare parts and a few square feet of space. If you are fortunate enough to be blessed with this advantage, it's not one you should pass up. The wonders of a brilliant backyard rank somewhere near the top of life's joys. Many aren't so fortunate.
One of the pure boons of LSU setting up roots in Pineville in 1853, then re-locating to Baton Rouge in 1926, is the abundance of athletic talent in the surrounding area. Hell, football coaches at LSU could stick within the borders of the state and wind up with a respectable, competitive football team. The ability to go beyond those borders is just an added advantage, as LSU continues to grow it's backyard.
Yet the bulk of every LSU recruiting class will come from the Boot. It's made all the more easier when one of those talents plays mere minutes from your own stomping grounds. In 2015 that player is Derrius Guice.
Derrius Guice is a name that's circulated on recruiting circles for the past several seasons. He was first offered by LSU in April of 2013, as a Sophomore. That season he rushed for 1,100 yards and 11 TDs, officially putting him on the national recruiting radar. LSU, of course, knew of the talented back years before.
Guice's numbers were never truly jaw-dropping. Impressive, yes, but not the type you'd necessarily expect from a player the consensus considered one of the 100 best in the nation. As a senior, he rushed for 1,341 yards while adding another 617 in receiving for 29 total touchdowns. Good strong numbers. But placed against Jacques Patrick, a similarly ranked back from 2013, they pale in comparison. Patrick rushed for 2,000+ yards as a sophomore and a junior, with a total of 59 rushing TDs in those two seasons. Part of the blame deserves to go to Guice's average offensive line.
Still, that did not prevent Guice from becoming a productive player and eventually earning a bid to the U.S. Army All-American game. Oh yeah, did I mention he won MVP of that game? Guice is a Composite 4-star RB with a .9777 rating.
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
Short Shuttle: 4.66
Vertical Leap: 30.4"
Power Throw: 35.0"
Well, the testing numbers aren't impressive. His 40 time is somewhat pedestrian. His short shuttle is marginal, at best. His vertical is on the average end and his power throw is probably slightly above average. I don't have a major explanation for this. On the football field, Guice looks like an explosive, dominant athlete. That's generally the most important aspect, but I always have to second-guess when the testing numbers don't back up the tape. It'll be interesting to see what type of reported numbers he posts at LSU as he progresses through their strength program.
Strengths: Footwork, Hands, Leg Strength
Footwork: The highlight starting at :17 is a brilliant example of what he's capable of. He finds the crease and hits it hard, but is seemingly swallowed up by three defenders. The ability to plant and hit that spin move is a pretty rare skill. Watch again at :41 once he gets into the open field. Most runners would probably try and hit the sideline to take it to the house. Guice instead cuts it back inside and with a slight stutter step is able to make a defender miss and take it another five or so yards. 1:55 is yet another amazing example.
Hands: Guice is a natural receiver that can impact the game from the slot or catching passes out of the backfield. In fact, at the U.S. Army All-American game he netted 150+ yards in receptions... on two catches. Look here at :49, and how easily he plucks the ball with his hands and doesn't let it get into his body.
Leg Strength: For a back that most consider to be all-purpose, he runs with deceptive power. He often runs through arm tackles and is able to shuck defenders off who don't wrap up. The highlight at :56 is the best example of his ability to just truck through arm tackles and rattle off a double-digit yard carry. Watch again at 1:28. He doesn't go down easily.
Patience: I think Guice will need to learn how to better follow blockers and go to the direction of the play in college. Some this may be a byproduct of the aforementioned average line. He can be do dynamic with the ball in his hands that he tries to make a lot happen. This is a common malady that plagues young runners.
On tape, Guice doesn't at all look like the player his measureables would indicate. He's explosive, shifty and can run away from defenders. I'm not sure he's a 4.3 type guy, but he's got plenty of speed. He plays a lot like a smaller back, but is thickly built and powerful. He can dance and dash, but he can also ram and smash. He's got a unique skill set and should have everything he needs to contribute right away at LSU.
A couple weeks ago, Guice had a scare at LSU facilities when he passed out. Let's hope he's worked through that and will now be healthy and back to work again. The odds of seeing him on the field in 2015 are exceptionally high. LSU's running back corps is not only in need of bodies, Guice has the skills to crack even a deeper depth chart.
What I like most about his game is his versatility. Cam Cameron should be able to deploy Guice all over the field whether that be at fullback, tailback, in the slot, even out wide. He can catch the football like a receiver, which makes him exceptionally valuable. He'll need to slug away as a rotational back behind Fournette for the next two seasons, but don't be surprised if he jumps up to the No. 2 back on the roster by midseason.
High End: All-American. Guice has the talent to be one of the best backs in the nation.
Low End: Rotational back that always shares the load with a strong stable of other backs in his career.
Realistic: I see Guice as being a guy who will be a primary back-up to Fournette, then overtake the starting role for a season, before jetting off to the NFL to continue his career.