Tyrion Davis-Price has opportunity to shine in LSU spring game
Most of the attention at the LSU spring game Saturday will be focused on the quarterback competition.
But the member of the backfield who might have the best opportunity to stake a claim to a leadership role next season is running back Tyrion Davis-Price.
While Max Johnson, Myles Brennan, TJ Finley and Garrett Nussmeier split the reps at quarterback, the Tigers will be short-handed at running back.
Head coach Ed Orgeron said LSU will keep its offense very basic in the spring because the Tigers are in the early stages of learning new coordinator Jake Peetz’s scheme and Orgeron doesn’t want to tip his hand to next season’s opponents.
Eventually the competition at running back could be as crowded as the one at quarterback, but that hasn’t been the case during spring practice and especially won’t be the case Saturday.
John Emery Jr., who has been in a tight competition with Davis-Price for playing time since they both arrived at LSU 2 years ago, will not play Saturday as part of his ongoing recovery from surgery.
Orgeron said Josh Williams and Tre Bradford also will be sidelined by undisclosed injuries. Four-star recruits Armoni Goodwin and Corey Kiner haven’t arrived on campus yet, but are expected to strengthen the preseason competition.
Saturday, Davis-Price will be center stage.
“We’re very thin at running backs, most of our running backs are hurt,” Orgeron said. “I wish we could have a full scrimmage to where we had all our backs and we could crank it up pretty good.”
Neither Davis-Price nor Emery has established himself as the primary running back.
It would be helpful for the Tigers if either one – or perhaps one of the freshmen – could emerge as a versatile, reliable every-down back the way Clyde Edwards-Helaire did during the 2019 national championship season.
But a continuation of the tandem approach can be just as valuable if any combination of backs can simulate Edwards-Helaire’s productivity.
Davis-Price and Emery have been linked together since they arrived.
They were both highly regarded freshmen who seemed to have the ability to compete with Edwards-Helaire for playing time, but the older player seized control of the position and the two youngsters just managed to get their feet wet during the title run.
Last season Davis-Price, Emery and fellow sophomore Chris Curry were engaged in a three-way competition in the wake of Edwards-Helaire’s departure to the NFL.
Curry took the early lead, but Davis-Price emerged as the primary contributor with Emery coming on late in the season.
The running back-by-committee approach didn’t sit well with Curry and shortly after the season he transferred to Utah, once against leaving Davis-Price and Emery as a tandem.
And so it remains – until the freshmen arrive.
Orgeron has been satisfied by what he has seen from Davis-Price and Emery during spring practice.
“I was so pleased with the play of the running backs,” Orgeron said last week. “Tyrion Davis had some big plays, John Emery did a great job. They looked like the backs I recruited.”
Davis-Price (6-1, 232 pounds) and Emery (5-11, 215) have different running styles – Davis-Price being more physical and powerful and Emery being more explosive and more skilled as a receiver.
Emery seems to have the higher ceiling, but Davis-Price has been more productive in each of the last 2 seasons, totaling 741 rushing yards compared to 566.
Goodwin and Kiner arrive with complementary skill sets just as Davis-Price and Emery did 2 years ago. Goodwin is more like Emery and Kiner is more like Davis-Price, though he might most closely resemble Edwards-Helaire with his combination of elusiveness and power.
Williams, a former walk-on, and Bradford each had fewer than 100 rushing yards last season. Bradford’s arrest on a shoplifting charge in December clouds his situation.