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LSU Spring Football 2021 Position Preview: Running Backs

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Can anybody emerge and stake their claim as LSU’s go-to running back?

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

All last summer, Ed Orgeron was adamant in his belief that he had three starting-caliber running backs and tried to divvy up the carries to reflect that.

It didn’t work. The only thing equally shared amongst the trio of Ty Davis-Price, John Emery, and Chris Curry was frustration. Injuries and poor offensive line play slowed down the LSU running game and the trio was held under a combined 1,000 yards rushing, which is unheard of for a program that has as many famed running backs.

All season long the thought was the running back room was too crowded and come the offseason someone was going to have to transfer. That’s exactly what played out when Chris Curry transferred to Utah.

The 2021 running back room will be a little crowded too with the additions of four-star freshmen Armoni Goodwin and Corey Kiner, but with Davis-Price and Emery both draft eligible at season’s end attrition could be a blessing, especially if LSU takes another pair of backs as Corey eluded to Monday.

But what happens in 2022 and beyond can wait. In the here and now I only have one question in regards to the running backs: who the heck is going to emerge as the bell cow this year?

2021 LSU Running Backs

Player Height/Weight Carries Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Long Miscellaneous
Player Height/Weight Carries Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Long Miscellaneous
3 Tyrion Davis-Price (Jr.) 6'1"/232 104 446 4.3 3 35 8 receptions, 47 yards
4 John Emery (Jr.) 5'11"/215 75 378 5 3 54 14 receptions, 73 yards
8 Tre Bradford (So.) 6'0"/190 10 58 5.8 0 12 3 receptions, 13 yards, 1 TD
27 Josh Williams (So.) 5'9"/195 22 88 4 0 30 No catches

Somebody, I don’t care who, has to assert themselves and be the guy in the LSU backfield. Neither Goodwin nor Kiner enrolled early so the vets will be battling for the lion’s share of carries.

I’ve long been driving the “John Emery is special give him more touches” bandwagon. Orgeron has said he feels like Emery and Davis-Price could be LSU’s equivalent to Reggie Bush and Lendale White. If he still believes that, then it is well past time he starts giving Emery a workload similar to Bush.

Ty Davis-Price is a very good running back and will almost definitely be playing in the NFL in either 2022 or 2023. He was the second leading rusher for the greatest offense in college football history and he’s entering his third year with the program. But he ain’t John Emery.

I’m of the belief that Davis-Price should be the complimentary back, not the other way around and the numbers back that up. Davis-Price got 29 more carries but Emery had the higher yards per carry. Emery also caught more passes than Davis-Price. The one drawback is Davis-Price is the better pass blocker than Emery, but I’m sorry if one guy gives me more yards per carry and is better catching the ball coming out of the backfield I’ll take that over a superior pass blocking back. Again, I like Ty Davis-Price but in my opinion the roles need to reversed.

LSU also has a pair of sophomore running backs who had smaller roles in the Tiger offense. LSU tried using Tre Bradford primarily as a receiving back, and he caught a fourth quarter touchdown against Florida. I’m curious to see how Bradford’s role in the offense changes heading into 2021, it felt like every time he checked into a game it was always a pass thrown his way. Can he be counted on to be a more well-rounded back? Or will his presence continue to be a dead giveaway as to what the offense is trying to accomplish?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Bradford’s small bit of legal troubles. Bradford was arrested and booked at the West Baton Rouge Detention Center around Christmas for an alleged shoplifting incident at a Walmart. Bradford reportedly called it a misunderstanding and it doesn’t appear any kind of discipline has been handed down by the program. Not yet at least.

I also want to take some time to shoutout Josh Williams, the former walk on back who was awarded a scholarship. Williams got 22 carries and looked pretty good when he got his number called! Remember when he ripped off that 30-yard run against Ole Miss? That was cool as hell and I wish he would’ve scored a touchdown.