Willing to wait

After a stellar prep career as Louisiana's all-time rusher, Kenny Hilliard arrived at LSU with sky-high expectations. But he knows he has time on his side as he learns the ropes at the college level.

Some day in his college career, it's pretty likely LSU freshman Kenny Hilliard is going to be a go-to back.

His history makes it hard to believe anything else will transpire.

Until then, though, the leading rusher in the history of Louisiana high school football is happy just to be on the ride.

Hilliard enters his freshman season further down the depth chart than he's likely ever been – at best fourth behind the sophomore trio of Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Alfred Blue.

If that notion has the Patterson native and one of the state's all-time best backs down in the dumps, Hilliard certainly wasn't tipping his hand Tuesday at Media Day.

"I'm just really excited about being here and getting my career started," Hilliard said. "I'm just gonna wait my turn. Once my name is called, I'm going to be ready to seize the moment."

When that time comes is a mystery as LSU prepares for the 2011 season. And now where Hilliard might line up is a bit up in the air as well.

Tigers coach Les Miles has made a point of mentioning Hilliard when he's talked about who's in the mix for carries.

New offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa said the hot-hand approach will be prominent with the backs, but the versatility at the position will likely generate opportunities for any back who proves his readiness.

"We're very fortunate to have three or four guys this year who each have different tools," Studrawa said. "One is big, some are lighter and some can catch the ball out of the backfield. We want to take advantage of their abilities the best we can. We'll have different running plays and schemes where we can use the talents of those guys and do what is best for us and them. We're going to mix and match these guys and try to use their abilities all at the same time."

That's where Hilliard's new role could come into play.

In recent practices since LSU began practicing as a full team, Hilliard has spent a lot of time at fullback, and he's held up well in blocking drills, especially in blitz pickup work.

Part of Hilliard's transformation is a result of the bottleneck in front of him with backs who have already proven themselves at the Division I level for a season.

But the idea of Hilliard putting a hand in the dirt and occupying the fullback spot is also connected to his bulkier size (5-foot-11, 240 pounds) compared to his cohorts, and what role he could potentially fill in the crowded and multitalented backfield rotation.

Of the five primary tailbacks, Hilliard's size makes him the best equipped for the kind of power runs that have been as prominent to LSU game plans as high white hats and tasty grass.

Those tough-as-nails yards when the back carves out first downs and wears a defense down. Those yards that Stevan Ridley, Charles Scott and Jacob Hester have hammered out the last four years, often to sew up an LSU victory.

"I'm more like a power back than most of the other guys who are going to run the ball for us," Hilliard said. "If they want me to go in there and play fullback, then that's what I'm going to do. Third-and-1, if the coaches need somebody to get that yard, they can give the ball to me and I'm going to pound it out."

For four years at Patterson, Hilliard's coaches gave him the ball in every imaginable situation and he delivered.

He topped 1,800 rushing yards in each of his four seasons at the prep level and soared past 2,300 yards as a sophomore and junior. His final tally was 8,603 rushing yards – a state record – and 106 rushing touchdowns.

Some players with that kind of resume might show up on campus and expect an immediate chance to shine.

Especially one whose uncle paved the way at LSU in record-setting fashion.

Dalton Hilliard's spectacular four-year career paved the way for his nephew at LSU.
It's not hard to find Dalton Hilliard's name splashed all over the Tigers' record book. A star running back from 1982-85, Dalton Hilliard carried the ball more than anybody in school history (882) and racked up the second-most yards (4,050) and touchdowns on the ground (44).

Kenny Hilliard wasn't alive yet when his uncle starred at LSU and was barely old enough to know better when Dalton Hilliard was forging a solid eight-year NFL career with the New Orleans Saints.

But Kenny hasn't hesitated to pick his uncle's brain and emulate old video clips he's seen. High on the list of lessons Kenny learned from Dalton was to be humble and put team first.

So, whether his freshman consists of playing fullback or filling a role as a third-down specialist because of his blocking skills or simply standing on the sidelines, Kenny Hilliard is anxious to contribute toward what he said he came to LSU to accomplish.

"Whatever it takes to win games and win championships, I'm willing to do it," he said.

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