LSU is one of the worst rushing teams in America. Can Tigers find a solution?
For a team with a whole bunch of talented running backs, LSU sure has had a whole bunch of trouble finding a running game.
The trouble persisted throughout last season as the Tigers finished 12th in the SEC in rushing yards per game (121.7) and yards per rush (3.3).
The game average was no doubt affected by the fact that LSU played from behind a lot and sometimes from way behind and wound up passing a lot more than it otherwise would have.
But the per-rush average showed that the Tigers weren’t very effective even when they tried to run the ball.
Ty Davis-Price led LSU with 446 rushing yards (17th in the SEC) and John Emery II was second with 378 (21st in the SEC).
Both returned this season and were joined by highly-regarded freshmen Armoni Goodwin and Corey Kiner, producing a lot of optimism for the running game.
But after 2 games, LSU is still looking for answers. They’re averaging just 86.5 yards per game — which ranks 116th nationally — and have rushed for just 1 TD.
The running game was nearly non-existent in the season-opening loss to UCLA – 49 yards on 25 carries.
It started out nearly as weak against McNeese State last week before improving and producing a modest 124 yards on 36 carries.
“I was pleased with the improvement we saw in the run game,” coach Ed Orgeron said.
Still, the Tigers are averaging a mere 2.8 yards per carry and the cast of runners and blockers is ever-changing.
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Emery hasn’t played because of an academic issue and he seems likely to miss the entire season, though Orgeron’s explanation of Emery’s status during his Monday news conference was about as clear as the running back depth chart.
Orgeron started off clear enough: “John Emery is out for the year.”
Later, though, he said of Emery, “Things could change. If they do change, we’ll play him. Could they change? Yea, but that’s out of my control.”
So presumably Emery’s fate is in the hand of the academic side of the operation, which Orgeron said does “a great job of communicating with us.”
So Emery is done.
At least for the game against Central Michigan on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
Maybe longer. Maybe much longer.
Davis-Price, though, will be available against the Chippewas.
And Orgeron called both freshman running backs “outstanding.”
“I do believe that they need to touch the ball more,” he added. “Those guys are dynamite, man. You’ll see more of them.”
Well, more of Kiner at least on Saturday.
Goodwin sustained an ankle injury against McNeese and Orgeron said “I don’t think we’re going to have Armoni this week.”
Orgeron added that he hopes to have Goodwin back for the SEC opener at Mississippi State in Week 4.
In yet another twist, Tre Bradford, who transferred to Oklahoma during the summer, has returned to LSU and Orgeron said “hopefully we can play him this week.”
So the anticipated committee of Davis-Price, Emery, Goodwin and Kiner could be the committee of Davis-Price, Kiner and Bradford.
At least for Saturday night.
None of the running backs will be able to start rolling unless the offensive line blocks better than it did in the first 2 games, and that’s unlikely to happen until the line gets healthy.
Three starting linemen did not play against McNeese because of injuries. Orgeron said he expects guard Chasen Hines to return this week, but tackle Cameron Wire won’t. Tackle Austin Deculus’ status is uncertain.
“I do believe the offensive line has to gel,” Orgeron said. “We need continuity and everybody back. … The offense is not performing like we want to perform right now. That’s obvious.”