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Who Will Be LSU’s Feature Running Back?

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Kenny Hilliard runs for a score and was LSU's second leading rusher last season. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
Kenny Hilliard runs for a score and was LSU's second leading rusher last season. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

It may be the biggest question the Tigers face entering the 2013 season: Who will carry the ball?

The Tigers lost two talented junior running backs, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, early to the NFL. That left the explosive Jeremy Hill as the feature back until his arrest in late April following an altercation outside a Baton Rouge bar. Hill was LSU’s leading rusher last year with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is now suspended indefinitely, but LSU has a couple of good options to step in as the lead back. 

Senior Alfred Blue appears to be the starter come late August as he was having a great year in 2012 until his season-ending knee injury against Idaho. In less than three games, Blue rushed for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He is also LSU’s most complete back, possessing the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and pass-block to keep his quarterback clean. 

Another option is junior Kenny Hilliard. At 6-foot and 231 pounds Hilliard is capable of grinding out tough yards between the tackles in short yardage or goal-line situations and also capable of getting to the edge on a toss sweep. He was the Tigers’ second-leading rusher last season with 464 yards and six touchdowns. The jumbo back averaged nearly six yards per carry on 82 rushing attempts. 

There isn’t much proven depth behind Blue and Hilliard should Jeremy Hill remain suspended. Senior fullback J.C. Copeland is capable of handling a larger workload out of the backfield if needed.  The enormous fullback, 6-foot-1 and 272 pounds, needs to keep his attitude in check as he’s prone to picking up ill-timed penalties for taunting and fighting after the play. 

Interestingly, Les Miles and his staff did not sign a running back in this year’s highly-touted class. The position should be a major priority for the 2014 class as Blue will have no eligibility remaining and due to the uncertainty surrounding Hill. 

Fascinating Facts

  • Jeremy Hill was the first true freshman to lead LSU in rushing since Justin Vincent in 2003.
  • Hill is the only true freshman to rush for more than 100 yards against Alabama. 
  • At 6-foot-2, Alfred Blue is the Tigers’ tallest running back and he is the most experienced having earned three varsity letters.
  • Kenny Hilliard is the nephew of former LSU and New Orleans Saints running back Dalton Hilliard. 
  • J.C. Copeland is a converted defensive lineman and was one of the most coveted defensive prospects in Georgia as a senior in 2009.