Great running back play dots LSU football history to the point that it’s almost an assumption LSU will be solid there. It’s easier to think of seasons, or runs of seasons, with great RBs than it is to remember the last time LSU had a season without one. Hell, it’s like the inverse to LSU’s QB luck. Jim Taylor. Billy Cannon. Charles Alexander. Dalton Hilliard. Kevin Faulk. Jeremy Hill. Leonard Fournette. Derrius Guice. And those are just the stars. Rondell Mealey. Charles Scott. Jacob Hester. Harvey Williams. Joseph Addai. Terry Robiskie. Garry James. LaBrandon Toefield. Art Cantrelle. Hell guys like Cecil Collins, Justin Vincent and Alley Broussard had moments of greatness.
So, as a RB recruit headed to LSU those are the shoes you are to fill. Good luck, kids.
RB is a position that LSU majorly struck out on in 2017. The staff put all their eggs in the Cam Akers basket only to come up empty handed. Thus, it became imperative the staff add at least a couple RBs in the 2018 signing class.
Early in the process it became clear LSU wouldn’t be in contention for any of the top prospects in an admittedly down year for the position. Even the high ranked targets LSU wanted started flying off the board. So, in the Spring of last cycle, LSU reset it’s board a bit and honed in on a handful of prospects they identified as players they liked.
One of those prospects was Tae Provens, a somewhat lightly recruited 3-star from northern Alabama. Provens featured offers from Auburn, Tennessee, USC and Oklahoma State, among others, during his Junior season. On February 1st, 2017, LSU extended their offer. A month later, Provens named Tennessee his leader. In early June he named a top 5 of Auburn, Tennessee, Louisville, South Carolina and LSU, just ahead of making a visit to Auburn for their Big Cat recruiting weekend. Speculation rose he could even give his pledge. It didn’t wind up coming to fruition as Auburn seemed to like Provens as a more nebulous “athlete” whereas Provens preferred to play RB at the next level.
Then, a couple of weeks later, seemingly out of nowhere, Provens committed to LSU. When pressed, Provens cited his close relationship with RB coach Tommie Robinson and his desire to play RB and play right away. He never looked back. Provens signed in the early period and enrolled early. He’s already on campus participating in Spring Practice.
110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.
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. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.
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 is projected to play professionally.
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. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.
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.
247 Composite Ranking: ***
247 Composite Rating: .8625
Provens didn’t opt to do the camp circuit, which is one factor when it comes to national rankings. Pair that with the lack of distinct evals, and I think you get a better picture for why Provens wound up with a 3-star rating. Even LSU lists Provens as an “ATH” on their official roster.
At 6’0”, 187 he’s got just okay size for either RB or WR. His LSU bio says he could be a threat “in the slot or in the backfield,” which suggests the staff may think he’s the typing of moving chess piece you can deploy all over the field. Recruiting writer Steve Wiltfong wrote last summer, after Provens commitment, that one source described Provens as an “Alvin Kamara type player.” This was obviously before Kamara had an insane breakout rookie season, but that’s a versatile type of back LSU hasn’t really seen since the days of Kevin Faulk.
It can be hard to judge speed and explosiveness from HS tape, especially for a prospect like Provens who doesn’t have any public testing times or verified camp performances celebrating his athletic prowess. All of that to say that on tape he looks fast. He looks especially quick. He uses his speed to get the edge with consistency. He can run away from defenders. But what if all these guys suck? That’s the part I don’t know.
What I do know is that he has sensational footwork and I think that translates. I bet he can work that ladder drill with the best of them. Provens is the type of guy that can “get skinny” and find a sliver of space and turn it into something big. Some of the highlights on the tape are downright nifty with his ability to dance out of trouble. At times, backs of this variety can be too dance-y, but I think Provens does a solid job of getting himself N/S.
He can also catch and his HS team frequently put him in position to catch the ball out of backfield. I can’t remember the last LSU back that was truly a great pass catcher from the backfield. Guys like Fournette and Guice could do it when called upon. Even well at times. But it was never a way we consistently deployed them in the offensive game plan. I think Provens is a step above those guys.
He does not run with much power. Not his game, and probably won’t ever be. As such, it may limit his overall every down effectiveness. He should get bigger and stronger. 6’0”, 187 is entirely respectable size. Alvin Kamara was listed at 5’10”, 195 out of HS. He’s 215 now. Not unfathomable for Provens to add a solid 20 pounds of muscle and be sitting in that 210 range. That’s solid size, but he’ll never be a bruiser.
Is Provens just a complementary piece? Is he a 3rd down back? Is he a guy they line up to get the ball to creatively? Orgeron mentioned that Provens is already turning heads in Spring Practice. LSU’s RB depth chart is paper thin. Not only is their no established starter, the returning veterans have hardly made contributions throughout their careers. So there’s a clear path here for Provens to get on the field.
Better still, his freshman competition won’t be arriving until the Fall, so Provens will have opportunity to embed himself in the playbook and get into the working flow of the program well ahead of Chris Curry.
I’m not fully sure what to think of Provens. I think there’s a chance he could breakout. But odds are he has a career similar to someone like Alfred Blue on the high end. I think he’s a contributor and a guy that will play a part in the offense over the next few seasons, though I doubt he ever ascends to be a full-time starter.
High End: Multi-year contributor and starter at RB
Low End: Positional switch to WR or DB. Backup depth for his career.
Realistic: Contributor that never rises to starter status. Special teams ace. A quality team player.