As if winning the West isn’t tough enough, perhaps one of LSU’s toughest tasks this season will be managing the stacked offensive backfield. The Tigers’ offense will feature a much more balanced attack in 2012, as opposed to last year’s run-heavy offense, which lacked a downfield throwing threat.
The Tigers have five players in the backfield who all could potentially start for other teams in the SEC, and they are all are looking to get touches.
LSU’s depth chart a season ago featured – in order – Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard.
Here’s a look at what each did in 2011:
While having that much depth at running back is a great luxury to have, it also can be an added struggle to keep all of them happy, focused and motivated. All four handled it very well last season, but what happens when there are fewer run plays?LSU had three backs eclipse the 500-yard mark. There weren’t many teams to accomplish that feat in 2011, but Oregon was another team to do it.
The Tigers ran 870 total plays in 2011. 591 of them were runs and only 279 were passes. So, 68 percent of the time, LSU was running the ball.
In contrast, Alabama and Georgia had much more balanced offenses than LSU. Bama ran 865 plays, with 508 (58.7 percent) of them being runs. Likewise, Georgia ran a total of 1,016 plays, with 582 (57.3 percent) of them running plays.
Since injuries have kept Ware and Ford off the practice field thus far, Blue and Hilliard really have taken advantage of the added snaps. Both have shined during scrimmages, and they are the two backs atop the depth chart entering North Texas.
When Les speaks, he mentions Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue first, followed by Ware and Ford. But he’s talking about another freshman named Jeremy Hill as well, sandwiched right in between all four of them.
So, there’s one more back looking to gets some carries in the already-stacked backfield. With the emergence of a passing quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, there will be fewer carries for the Tigers this season, unless the offense runs 150 more plays. I will tell you now that Mettenberger will be throwing it more than 32 percent of the time, as Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee averaged in ‘11.
With less rushing attempts and more mouths at the running back table than last year, it will certainly be interesting to see how Miles uses these five tremendously talented players without it becoming a problem or a distraction.
If anyone can do it, position coach Frank Wilson and The Hat can.