Editor’s note: folks I’d like you all to meet Ben who will be joining us this season as a new contributor for football and gymnastics. You all can find Ben on the Twitter at @BenSLASports. Welcome, Ben!
Last year, the Tigers didn’t run the ball well. Part of that was due to injuries and inconsistency along the offensive line, but another part was the lack of a solid back beyond Ty Davis-Price, who’s gone to the NFL. John Emery Jr. is one of the keys to LSU building back a solid rushing attack, but he’s not alone thanks to one of Brian Kelly’s early transfers in: former Penn State running back Noah Cain.
247 Sports ranked Cain a 4-star recruit in the class of 2019 and the 6th-best running back in the nation (98th-best recruit overall). Coming out of IMG Academy, Cain considered LSU to be his dream school. Unfortunately, he knew that LSU already had a loaded running back class and decided to go to Penn State. Cain was born in Baton Rouge but moved to the Dallas area with his mom after Katrina. He spent time off from school in Louisiana because his dad and the rest of his family lives in Baton Rouge, including former LSU star wideout Michael Clayton. Cain was one of the first guys Brian Kelly brought in as part of his focus on getting Louisiana guys back home through the transfer portal.
2019: 84 carries for 443 yards (5.3 ypc) and 8 TDs (Penn State freshman record), 7 catches for 52 yards
2020: (Named to preseason Doak Walker Award watch list) 3 carries for 13 yards (season-ending leg injury in opener at Indiana)
2021: (Named to preseason Doak Walker Award watch list) 106 carries for 350 yards (3.3 ypc) and 4 TDs, 19 catches for 114 yards
I don’t think it’s fair to call Cain’s 2021 season a disappointment. Penn State was a bad running team last year, averaging fewer rush yards per regular season game than LSU, gaining 106.4 ypg to LSU’s 109.3. Also, Cain split carries with Keyvone Lee in 2021, who had 530 yards on 108 carries. His career has been a bit rocky, so it’s tough to predict what his LSU career will look like, but you should know two things. First, he’s not a power back at 5’11” and 226, he instead finds openings with his shiftiness. Second, he took a medical redshirt for the 2020 season, so he still has up to three more years of eligibility. Third, he’s a leader on and off the field and earned awards for his fight back from his 2020 injury. I think it’s important to have guys that are good players and good people, and Noah Cain certainly seems to have both going for him.
High End: Very solid back-up or second running back that keeps the defense on their toes when subbed in. He may not be that traditional starting back that a team banks on, but he’s a glue guy every championship team needs. Plays in the NFL for several seasons on teams he uplifts after becoming a 4th-round pick.
Low End: 2021 was actually a sign of things to come, he rarely produces anything beyond the occasional 20-yard run and he becomes Brian Kelly’s first recruiting failure.
Realistic: A solid team leader who gets 300 yards a season, makes you confident when he’s subbed in that he’ll get a few yards and scores a few TDs.
Again, I’m not sure which version of Noah Cain we’re getting. Are we getting the guy who scored 8 TDs on 5.3 ypc as a freshman? Are we getting the guy who ran for barely 3.3 ypc last year? We’ll see as the season progresses.