Position coach: Frank Wilson
Starters returning: 0
Lettermen returning: 5
11 Spencer Ware (5-11, 223, So.)
OFF THE BENCH
4 Alfred Blue (6-2, 215, So.)
42 Michael Ford (5-10, 215, So.)
14 Terrance Magee (5-9, 212, Fr.)
27 Kenny Hilliard (5-11, 240, Fr.)
35 James Stampley (5-10, 239, Sr.)
44 J.C. Copeland (6-1, 280, So.)
Out of action: None
Veteran difference-maker: Spencer Ware
Rising star: Freshman Terrance Magee
Something to chew on: Spencer Ware’s Cotton Bowl performance – 102 yards on 10 carries – last January helped thrust the sophomore into the starting role in 2011. Now, Ware will record his first career start back in Cowboys Stadium, and look for No. 11 to pick up where he left off last time out.
Numbers of note: 15 and 18. The last time LSU had two running backs play through the season without injury, Charles Scott rushed for 18 touchdowns in 2008 and Stevan Ridley rushed for 15 touchdowns in 2010. Ware will try to push beyond that mark, especially with Jordan Jefferson, who rushed for seven touchdowns last fall, out of the picture.
This unit will shine if: Michael Ford or Alfred Blue become major contributors. Spencer Ware will get the lion’s share of the touches, but Wilson will rotate bodies in until he finds the hot hand to complement Ware. Ford and Blue both have experience, and the staff has praised their play through fall camp. If the production follows, the Tigers backfield will help carry an offense that is adjusting to two new coordinators in one offseason.
This unit will struggle if: Ware doesn’t get into a rhythm in the first half of the season. The game plan without Jefferson will likely involve running to set up the pass, and the majority of that workload will be on Ware. He will need to shine for the offense to get back on track.
Prediction: Even without senior Josh Dworaczyk (knee injury), the offensive line is as experienced as any in the SEC. That will help Ware and Co. get into a comfort zone, and from there the deep backfield will begin to wear defenses down. Watch for the running game to carry the offense this fall.
Quotable: “Coach Frank says to get in there and feel the moment … I think that first game we will see who can separate themselves from the pack.” – Alfred Blue on competition at running back