Can you remember the last time LSU had a significant need at running back? It’s been nearly a decade. In 2009 LSU inexplicably ranked 90th nationally in rushing. This with a back that averaged 5.4 YPC and posted nearly 1,200 yards the season before. LSU ranked outside the top half of the country only one other time since Nick Saban showed up in Baton Rouge... his first year. And most years LSU ranked inside the top 30.
If you look at the string of backs in that timespan, it’s only in recent years that there has really been major star cachet. Guys like Justin Vincent, Joseph Addai, Alley Broussard, Charles Scott, and LaBrandon Toefield carried the mantle. Good players, to be sure, but not Heisman candidates or even eventual NFL superstars. Hester became a star but less so because he outshined everyone on the field and more so because he out-toughed everyone on the field.
Now in 2018, LSU finds itself in position of having no distinguishable heir to the throne recently held by two of the greatest backs in LSU history. The new offensive coordinator is already talking about committees, but that shouldn’t be taken as evidence LSU lacks talent at the position. Contrarily, this may be the deepest LSU backfield since 2011.
Only elite prospects get offers from power five schools during their junior seasons. It’s not uncommon for those offers to come and go. The dreaded “non-commitable” offer. It’s more common for those offers to come from in-state programs, especially ones in close proximity to an athlete’s hometown. Which is what makes Chris Curry earning a Wisconsin offer in October of his Junior season so interesting. Wisconsin has a running back tradition that is, shall we say, decent, so the early interest should shed light on Curry’s ability. That said, one offer is one offer and time can shake out quality like no other.
Three months later Michigan came calling. The next month, Oregon. South Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss and USC. On March 8th, in the spring before Curry’s Senior season, LSU extended the offer. Ten days later, he rolled into Baton Rouge for an unofficial visit. Things went quiet. Sources indicated LSU looked to be in good position.
In June, Curry rolled back in town for an LSU camp. On the first day, he broke his silence and verbally pledged to LSU. Curry, who once favored nearby Miami and yearned for an offer to Da U saw everything he needed and shut it down. He took only a single official visit, to LSU, and then inked his scholarship five days later during the Early Signing Period.
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 Rating: ****
247 Composite Ranking: .8924
Curry’s composite ranking actually puts him a shade below four-star status, but looks like the composite rounds up. He’s rated as a four star and top 250 player by both 247 and ESPN, though Rivals ranks him considerably lower. As far as I can tell, he didn’t bother to attend a single evaluation camp outside of his trip to LSU and a trip to Clemson as a Sophomore. That can explain the lack of higher ratings.
Curry took the rock the distance for 90-plus yards three times during his Junior season. He didn’t get a single All-American selection. He made third team All-State as a Junior. The trophy mantle is still waiting to be filled here.
Fans frequently compare Curry to Marshawn Lynch, both due to his dreadlocks and his physical, punitive running style. They even share similar stature, standing around six feet tall while being listed around 200 pounds, despite having a pair of tree trunks as legs. It’s easy to see the shades of familiarity.
There’s no question about Curry’s physicality. He runs through arm tacklers, stands up would be tacklers, carries defenders on his back and does it all with reckless abandon. Curry looks like your prototypical goal line specialist.
But there’s another piece of his game which I think goes underappreciated and that’s how light and shifty he plays on his feet. Curry’s got a little shimmy shake, a little jump cut to him. There’s a suddeness there that should not be overlooked. In that sense, he reminds me a bit of Derrius Guice, who also ran with reckless power but proved just as capable of hitting the breaks, leaving his opponent in ashes and heading the other way. I don’t know Curry’s top speed potential. I’m not sure he has the extra gear we saw from Guice or Fournette. But I do think he has enough short-area burst to be a pretty lethal back in the vintage SEC vein.
Curry is a workout fiend.
Live from Lehigh Acres, Fla., it’s Breakfast with LSU RB Chris Curry. pic.twitter.com/x7M5YxOV8w— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) May 18, 2018
Chris Curry getting ready for Baton Rouge... #holdthattiger @thereal_chris24 pic.twitter.com/MYSdEpTjT2— Coach Chaney (@coachchaney96) March 1, 2018
Here’s how he celebrated signing his LSU scholarship:
LSU getting a workaholic! Chris Currys post signing day party in the weight room! #Holdthattiger @thereal_chris24 pic.twitter.com/NIIp5khJw1— Coach Chaney (@coachchaney96) December 20, 2017
So yeah, I don’t think we need to worry about physical conditioning. Reportedly, he kept it up, showing up in Baton Rouge in tremendous shape. He’s listed at six foot, 213, which is an impressive specimen.
Curry will play this year. I think Ensminger is right that we will see a committee approach, but I like Curry’s chances to either rise to that top of that pack or, at the minimum, absorb an equal share. By season’s end, don’t be surprised if everyone is talking about him as the best back on the team. I predict he will alleviate any concerns about the position for the next two seasons.
I’m a big Curry fan. I like seeing the work ethic, but I admittedly just like his no-nonsense running style. He runs like a back that’s 245 pounds, but at 213 he’s probably more explosive than he gets credited for. I’m not banking on Curry being a star, but I’m not betting against it either.
High End: All-SEC, high draft pick
Low End: Battles injuries, never more than a rotational guy
Realistic: Multi-year starter and quality contributor