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2018 LSU Football Preview: Running Backs

The Tigers enter the season with question marks in the backfield for the first time in a while.

Jacksonville State v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

For the last five years, LSU has been blessed with dominant, workhorse talents at the tailback position. From Jeremy Hill through Leonard Fournette and on to Derrius Guice.

Those players are gone, and while some blue-chip talents remain, it appears as though the backfield will be forced to employ a true committee approach to running the football.

2018 LSU Roster: Tailbacks and Fullbacks

Position Player Ht/Wt Rushes Yards TD Yards/ Carry Hlt Yds/ Opp. Opp. Rate Fumbles (Lost) Misc.
Position Player Ht/Wt Rushes Yards TD Yards/ Carry Hlt Yds/ Opp. Opp. Rate Fumbles (Lost) Misc.
Running Backs 4 Nick Brossette (Sr.) 6-0, 221 19 96 0 5.1 2.6 52.60% 1 (1)
27 Lanard Fournette (Jr.) 5-10, 206 Appeared in 5 games, had 1 attempt for 7 yards.
22 Clyde Edwards-Helaire (So.) 5-8, 212 9 31 0 3.4 2.6 33.30% 0 (0) 3 catches for 46 yards
25 Tae Provens (Fr.) 6-2, 198 Three-star recruit.
24 Chris Curry (Fr.) 6-0, 219 Four-star recruit
Fullbacks/H-Backs 44 Tory Carter (So.) 6-2, 259 Appeared in 12 games with one start and caught 6 passes for 61 yards and 1 touchdown.
41 David Ducre (Sr.) 6-1, 242 Appeared in all 13 games, caught 1 pass for -2 yards.

Projected Starting Lineup: As of today, senior Nick Brossette is sitting in the top spot at tailback, and by most accounts is fitting to the new offense Steve Ensminger is installing quite well. That’s not a huge surprise, as Brossette has always been more of a one-cut, slashing type of runner, and that’s a skill set that generally fits well to the Wide/Tight Zone running game focus.

He is a former four-star recruit, so Brossette is certainly not without talent. But he’s much more known for fumbling away the first carry of the Troy game last year.

At fullback, sophomore Tory Carter returns after emerging as an excellent lead blocker last season. A converted defensive lineman, Carter is an attitude player who brought just enough versatility to the table to get on the field as an H-back in the Matt Canada offense. In Ensminger’s attack, he should do a little bit of offset tight end work, as well as a traditional fullback role. Carter can do a little bit of everything as a receiver and blocker, so that versatility should help Ensminger keep play-calling consistent across different personnel groups.

Power Point: talent and diversity.

There’s no Guice or Fournette here, and nobody that can say they’ve proven much, but let’s not act like this is a group of scrubs. Brossette and sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire were both four-star talents, and true freshman Chris Curry was a top-10 prospect in the 2018 recruiting cycle. They may be unproven, but there’s plenty of talent here that should have no problems producing if the offensive line can create holes.

And while there’s no sure-fire, 25-carry-a-game workhorse, there’s a nice collection of skill sets. Brossette may be the starter, but Edwards-Helaire may wind up leading the group in touches overall. He’ll be returning kicks and his scat-back skills could lead to him getting more touches as a receiver, to put him in space. Meanwhile, Curry’s imposing running style should help him carve out a role as a short-yardage specialist, and maybe something of a late-game closer as well, pounding out first-downs in four-minute scenarios.

And then there’s true freshman Tae Provens, who was recruited to add a speed dimension. How he performs will say a lot about running backs coach Tommie Robinson, as he offered Provens early at USC and then continued to recruit him here.

Pressure Point: nobody has done it before.

There’s nothing wrong with a committee approach to the running game; LSU has had plenty of success with it in the past.

That said, this is easily the least-proven group of Tiger backs since 2010. Brossette ran for just 96 yards last season and was largely forgotten after his fumble. Edwards-Helaire touched the ball just 25 times, and 13 of those were on kick returns (where he did not exactly distinguish himself).

Blocking will always make the running game work, and the offensive line’s play will say a lot about this group’s success. But their full potential is a big unknown right now.