LSU used a committee of running backs last season.

As spring practice winds down, the Tigers don’t have enough scholarship running backs available to form a committee. But the committee should reconvene in time for preseason practice and be bigger and better than it was last season.

Three of the team’s 4 experienced backs – Josh Williams, John Emery II and Armoni Goodwin – have not participated in spring practice, which concludes with a quasi-Spring game Saturday afternoon in Tiger Stadium.

Williams is nursing an injury, Emery is focusing on academics and Goodwin is still recovering from an injury that ended his 2022 season prematurely.

That means the only experienced back participating in the spring is senior Noah Cain, who had team-highs of 8 carries and 2 rushing touchdowns, along with 58 rushing yards, the last time the Tigers took the field as Williams and Goodwin were sidelined for the 63-7 victory over Purdue in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 2.

“Noah is a great leader,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “He leads by example with the way he practices hard and the right way. He’s a lot more aware of what he has to work on. He’s become leaner and that has improved his quickness. His movement is much more fluid. You can see it in the way he runs the football.”

Williams was the team’s primary 3rd-down back last season and in his absence Cain –the only running back to participate in all 14 games last season – has gotten more situational work on 3rd down.

“Noah has gotten a lot of work in pass protection,” Kelly said. “He’s improving in his ability to pick up 3rd-down blitzes and that’s really going to help him. He’s a more complete back.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock said that ideally every back will be a complete one, but inevitably each will have their own relative strengths and weaknesses. Matchups as well as game evolution will dictate roles.

Last season, quarterback Jayden Daniels was by the far LSU’s busiest and most-productive rusher. His team-leading total of 186 attempts was almost double that of Williams’ 2nd-highest total (97).

Daniels finished with 885 rushing yards, followed by Williams (532), Cain (409), Emery (375) and Goodwin (267). Daniels also led the team in rushing touchdowns (11), followed by Cain (10), Williams and Emery (6 each) and Goodwin (5).

The Tigers will continue to lean heavily on Daniels’ running ability again in 2023, but a bigger and more effective committee could reduce the workload and threat of injury for the quarterback.

Kelly said Cain has been a good “mentor” for 4-star freshman Trey Holly, an early enrollee who is the all-time rushing leader in Louisiana prep history (10,523 yards) and rushed for 146 of the 160 touchdowns he scored at Union Parish High School, which he led to the Louisiana Division III state title game last season.

Holly, 5-7, 191 pounds has been compared to former LSU star Dalton Hilliard (1982-85), who had a similar frame and skill set and rushed for more than 4,000 yards in his college career.

He also will invite comparisons to a more recent Tigers running back – Nick Brossette (2015-18), whose prep career rushing record (8,704) Holly shattered.

Brossette had to bide his time behind more experienced running backs for 3 seasons before breaking out as a senior. Holly could have more of an immediate impact.

LSU is awaiting the arrival of another 4-star freshman – Kaleb Jackson of Liberty Magnet in Baton Rouge, who’s a bigger (5-10, 200) and stronger back than Holly – during the summer.

In the meantime the Spring will conclude with a bunch of seldom-used backs and walk-ons spelling Cain and Holly.

They’re all long shots to join the committee, but it’s worth remembering that Williams arrived as a walk-on in 2019 before earning a scholarship after the 2020 preseason camp and emerging as chairman of the 2022 committee.

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