Depth at running back has been one of LSU’s strengths for years.
The Tigers have had more SEC-caliber running backs than they could accommodate with carries throughout this decade.
In 2015 and 2016 they had Leonard Fournette, backed up by Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams, before Fournette bypassed his senior season to go to the NFL in this spring’s draft.
This year Guice and Williams have provided a powerful 1-2 punch as the No. 18 Tigers (9-3) have won six of their past seven and await their bowl destination. Guice had his second consecutive 1,000-yard season despite having a leg injury for half the season. Williams had two 100-yard games, became the first Tiger to have 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in a game, and has scored nine touchdowns.
But Williams’ college career will end in the bowl game and it’s likely Guice’s will too because he’s expected to follow Fournette’s lead and bypass his senior season to go pro. So LSU has work to do to assure similar depth in 2018 and beyond.
“It’s something that I worry about at night, to be honest with you,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron told a caller to his radio show last week.
Two days earlier, Orgeron had said he expected Guice to go to the NFL, though the running back had not told him that. If Guice leaves, the Tigers will have four running backs on their roster with eligibility remaining.
Nick Brossette will be a senior next year, Lanard Fournette (Leonard’s brother) will be a junior and Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Justin Jones will be sophomores. None has extensive experience.
This season, Brossette has 19 rushes for 96 yards. Edwards-Helaire has nine rushes for 31 yards, three receptions for 46 yards and has been the primary kickoff returner with 11 runbacks for an average of 21.1 yards. They’re the primary candidates for significant playing time next season. Fournette has one carry for 7 yards and Jones hasn’t touched the ball.
“Brossette has had some excellent practices,” Orgeron told the caller. “Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a tremendous back. Lanard Fournette has made tremendous improvement.”
Orgeron said LSU is “going to be looking at others” beyond the commitments it already has from two 3-star high-school running back recruits, according to 247sports.com — Tae Provens (5 feet 11, 187 pounds) from Madison County, Ala., and Chris Curry (5-11, 200) from Lehigh Acres, Fla. Another Alabama prospect — Harold Joiner (6-3, 218), a 4-star recruit from Mountain Brook — is considering LSU.
“When you lose Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams, you’ve got to replace them,” Orgeron said. “Good thing about Louisiana, there’s always some great backs. There’s some young great backs in this state we’re going to get.”
Perhaps the hottest name among Louisiana running backs is Anthony “Pooka” Williams (5-9, 170) from Hahnville, who is a Kansas commit. Williams has had three consecutive 300-yard rushing games in the playoffs as Hahnville prepares to play in the state semifinals in Louisiana’s highest classification.