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LSU RB Jeremy Hill Declares For Draft

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LSU running back Jeremy Hill declared for the NFL draft Monday, clearing the way for the nation's No. 1 recruit Leonard Fournette to get immediate carries in 2014. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
LSU running back Jeremy Hill declared for the NFL draft Monday, clearing the way for the nation's No. 1 recruit Leonard Fournette to get immediate carries in 2014. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

LSU running back Jeremy Hill announced to the world that he'll enter May's NFL draft on Monday, clearing a path for the nation's top recruit in the Tigers backfield.

The SEC's version of Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Ohio State's Carlos Hyde, Hill also faced a suspension early in the season for legal trouble, not the first time he's missed time due to criminal charges, then exploded to 6.9 yards per carry and 16 touchdowns.

Hill rushed for 184 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn, helping LSU claim "best Tigers in the SEC West" status by delivering the lone regular-season loss to Gus Malzahn's team. He also plowed for 216 and two touchdowns in an Outback Bowl win against Iowa.

Reports surfaced that Hill would return to LSU, but two days before the deadline to declare, he joined several teammates as an early entrant. Hill, at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, has a well-rounded skill set as a runner and also showed potential as a receiver, and could be a valued NFL commodity if he can keep on the straight-and-narrow off the field.

As good as Hill is, it would've been a crowded and perhaps even tense backfield for LSU in 2014 as running back Leonard Fournette, the consensus national No. 1 in the 2014 recruiting class, enters the mix along with seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard; the latter two combined for more than 150 carries last season.

Fournette has yet to carry the ball in a college uniform, and football coaches generally place heavy value in known quantities, but he's one inch shorter and nine pounds lighter than Hill before entering a college weight program. Fournette will face intense pressure to produce like Hill did as a freshman in 2012 (755 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns), but don't be surprised if LSU's running game stays at the same level.

Meanwhile, the Tigers may lean on the running backs in '14 as quarterback Zach Mettenberger as well as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry ply their talents on Sundays. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron grew LSU's passing game by leaps and bounds in his first season, but he'd love to have Hill as a security blanket for the offense next season.

Expect Louisiana's Mr. Football 2013 to compete with Magee for a starting job and likely split carries somewhat evenly in the fall. Meanwhile, Hill begins the task of convincing NFL executives and personnel offices that he isn't a risk to face suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell for further off-field incidents.