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2015 LSU Football Optimistic/Pessimistic/Realistic: Running Backs

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The heartbeat of the 2015 offense is, without a doubt, in the backfield.

Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Tailbacks

7 Leonard Fournette (Soph.)

6-1, 230

187 carries for 1,034 yards (5.5), 7 catches for 127 yards and 24 kick-off returns for 625 yards (26.0) with 11 touchdowns.

34 Darrel Williams (Soph.)

6-0, 232

64 carries for 302 yards (4.7), 6 catches for 63 yards, 1 kick return for 21 yards with 3 touchdowns.

5 Derrius Guice (Fr.)

5-11, 222

Five-star recruit.

4 Nick Brossette (Fr.)

6-0, 218

Four-star recruit.

27 Lanard Fournette (Fr.)

5-10, 187

Three-star recruit.

There isn't a ton of experience here with just two lettermen, but there's a ton of talent, including this cat Leonard Fournette, maybe you've heard of him.

He arrived to an unprecedented level of recruiting hype, and Fournette delivered with an LSU freshman record 1,034 yards in 2014. The going was a little slow early on, but you could kind of see Fournette start to pick up his blocks and see the plays a little better by about week five, and he closed out the second half of the season with four games over 100 yards, including a massive performance in the Music City Bowl with 264 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. He appears to be a little bit lighter than his listed 230, probably closer to 225 by his own estimation, and it would stand to reason that should help his explosiveness a little bit.

Fournette is the platonic ideal of the LSU running back in the Les Miles Era. He has the size to run power and zone between the tackles and the speed and vision for stretch plays. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and can block. And while there's still talent to spread the load around a bit, look for him to be the first back since Stevan Ridley to push the 250-touch mark in 2015. In the Music City Bowl you began to see Cam Cameron use him more as a chess piece in the offense, motioning him around and running a number of fakes through him to try and create space for other players. Even though Fournette only touched the ball 13 times on offense (out of just 52 total plays), he impacted nearly every offensive snap. Regardless of who is handing him the ball this season, it's going to be No. 7's offense in 2015.

Classmate Darrel Williams should move into the Kenny Hilliard short-yardage/late-game closer specialist this season. Williams has shed a little weight and showed slightly quicker feet in the spring. He didn't see much work after about midseason but early on, showed that he could run behind is pads really well in short-yardage situations, and even got some snaps at fullback. I would imagine he'll spell Fournette at times, and get more work with leads in the fourth quarter, when punishing the defense and picking up first downs becomes a premium.

Behind them is LSU's 2015 recruiting haul at the position, which features the five-to-three-star spectrum with at least two that should get on the field quickly. Derrius Guice is the headliner, a 220-pound bowling ball that shows a different level of quickness than what we've seen from LSU tailbacks in the past. He showed in phenomenal shape this summer and really attacked the conditioning program, reportedly running all 26 of the 110-yard sprints that players are tested on, in 14 seconds. Total.

Guice reminds me somewhat of Kevin or Marshall Faulk, with a short, stocky build, quick feet and really good hands. If he can learn blitz pickup quickly, look for him to get on the field on third downs. I'd also like to see him maybe get some jet sweep carries out of the slot on occasion.

Nick Brossette was kind of the forgotten man in the 2015 class, as a player from right on LSU's campus who had been committed for a long time and was extremely productive, if lacking in some elite measurables. But what he does bring is a very complete skill set for everything the Tigers want. He runs inside and out, catches the ball and blocks. He reminds me a bit of Alfred Blue -- a guy that was never the first back on anybody's list, but always got on the field and produced.

Lanard Fournette, Leonard's brother is also in the mix. He's a bit smaller, but well-built for his weight, and projects as an all-purpose back and return specialist.

Fullbacks

44 John David Moore (Soph.)

6-4, 235

Accumulated no stats in eight game appearances

41 David Ducre (Fr.)

6-0, 239

Four-star recruit.

32 Tony Upchurch (RS-Fr.)

6-1, 241

Redshirted as a wide receiver.

47 Bry'Kiethon Mouton (Fr.)

6-1, 255

Three-star recruit.

At a time when there is some talk of de-emphasizing the fullback a little bit, LSU may have its best depth chart ever both in terms of numbers and some intriguing talent.

Former walk-on tight end J.D. Moore is the presumptive starter, and seemed to take control of the job in the spring. He's more of a taller, leaner body than what we're used to, but still managed to make some nice lead blocks in the spring game (that's really all we have to go on here), and even showed some ability to catch the ball in a couple of gauntlet drills during the media portion of practice this August.

But the more intriguing talents are certainly behind him. True freshman David Ducre is a massive running back with some nice speed. Redshirt freshman Tony Upchurch was originally recruited as a wide receiver. Both guys could offer a different, more multi-faceted look to the position, provided they can clear the hole in the running game.

Another true freshman, Bry'Kiethon Mouton, is another former tight end. Overall, don't be surprised if we see more of an H-back look when LSU uses two backs in non-short yardage situations. This group of fullbacks are a little more versatile than what LSU's had the last few years.

Optimistic

LSU runs its offense through Leonard Fournette, he touches the ball between 250-300 times and contends for the school single-season rushing record of 1,686 yards. The rest of the depth chart supports him, with Williams closing some games out in the fourth quarter and Guice chipping in the occasional big play.

Pessimistic

Luckily, even the worst case for this group is still pretty good. Things could sputter a bit if Frank Wilson tries too hard to get too many players touches. Ride the No. 7 stallion unless somebody else is just red hot in a game.

Realistic

I don't know about breaking records, but I do know that Fournette is one of the most talented runners LSU has ever had, and he'll produce strong numbers so long as he doesn't get hurt. And yes, even if the passing game still struggles, this unit will produce. Look for Williams to vulture some touchdowns away on the goal line. He and Guice will likely fill roles somewhat similar to Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee to Fournette's Jeremy Hill.