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LSU Spring Football 2017: Running Backs

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Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

LSU v Texas A&M Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

For the second year in a row, LSU returns the best running back in the SEC. No, not that one, the other one.

Derrius Guice led the conference in rushing yards and average yardage per attempt as a true sophomore, and tied Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald with 16 total touchdowns (15 rushing, one receiving). Not bad for a player that entered the 2016 season as Leonard Fournette’s understudy. Guice took advantage of Fournette’s lingering high ankle sprain to rush for more than 150 yards in five games, including two games over 250 – with a school record 285 yards against Texas A&M (breaking the single-game mark Fournette set a month earlier).

Guice has a unique skillset; his quick feet and loose hips almost give him something of a scatback style that was a perfect complement to Fournette’s more bruising, down-hill power. But at a chiseled 215 pounds, Guice also has more than enough size and power to be a workhorse in his own right. With an offense that will largely focus on him, yet still diversify his role, it’s easy to picture Guice challenging Fournette’s incredible 2015 season.

One thing that Guice is lacking compared to Fournette, however, is an understudy of similar quality.

2017 LSU Running Backs

Player Ht/Wt Rushes Yards TD Yards/ Carry Hlt Yds/ Opp. Opp. Rate Fumbles (Lost) Misc.
Player Ht/Wt Rushes Yards TD Yards/ Carry Hlt Yds/ Opp. Opp. Rate Fumbles (Lost) Misc.
5 Derrius Guice (Jr.) 5-11, 218 183 1,387 15 7.6 10.2 41.00% 3 (2) 9 catches, 106 yards and one TD
28 Darrel Williams (Sr.) 6-1, 229 52 233 3 4.5 3.7 36.50% 0 (0) 5 catches, 37 yards
4 Nick Brossette (Jr.) 6-0, 218 15 145 0 9.7 8.4 66.70% 0 (0)
27 Lanard Fournette (So.) 5-10, 201 5 13 0 2.6 0.5 20.00% 0 (0)
22 Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Fr.) 5-8, 208 Four-star recruit.
Stats via Football Study Hall
Returning stater in bold.

What do we like? That Guice kid might be on to something.

Question marks: That’s a very thin depth chart.

There’s no sugar-coating it. LSU has all of four scholarship tailbacks, including Lanard Fournette, who has yet to show much of anything in game action. And there’s only one other player joining this group in the fall in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Guice has battled a gimpy ankle in camp, so one would expect that means a lot more bubble wrap for him as practices close.

Darrel Williams is the most experienced backup, and has been losing pounds in hopes of gaining a larger role as a senior. He’s always been a big, strong runner, and the thought of having a grown-ass senior power back as a late-game closer and short-yardage specialist has some appeal. But, Williams must show he can maintain his conditioning. He looked rough late in the season spelling Guice.

Third-year sophomore Nick Brossette has the most potential out of this group to break out. He’s battled injuries through his first two seasons, but should be back to 100 percent, and already had a nice relationship with new running backs coach Tommie Robinson dating back to recruitment when Robinson was on the Texas staff. Brossette is a nice mid-point in between Guice’s explosiveness and Williams’ power. He’s big enough to work in between the tackles, but has enough speed to be an asset on the edge as well.

While the No. 1 back is set in stone for the spring, there could still be a lot of carries for Williams and Brossette to compete for. That is probably the matchup to watch here.