Depth showing at running back

Alfred Blue and Terrance Magee shared the workload this weekend, proving that LSU's backfield is just as deep as it appears.

With SEC play about to kick into high gear, LSU coach Les Miles is likely to start really leaning on his ground attack.

One glance at the schedule and you know opponents certainly will.

Next week Florida could be without starting quarterback John Brantley, meaning speedsters Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps will likely become even more involved in the Gators’ attack.

LSU’s next home game is an Oct. 22 bout with SEC Western Division foe Auburn, meaning sophomore sensation Michael Dyer is headed to Baton Rouge.

After a bye, the Tigers head to Tuscaloosa – where one of the nation’s best running back tandems, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, will also be coming off a week of rest.

Tough sledding, but don’t go thinking the Tigers will get lost in the shuffle.

Sophomore duo of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, who entered the fifth week of football with a combined 618 yards and nine touchdowns, have been consistently reliable.

But in LSU’s SEC home opener against Kentucky, the pair combined for 34 yards on 13 carries.

Good defense? Nope.

This story was about Miles digging for depth.

“We feel like coach wanted to see what some guys were about,” offensive lineman Will Blackwell said. “That was our mission (Saturday).”

On LSU’s first drive of the game, Ware – just four carries in – went down with an injury and wasn’t used again. Worry not, Miles said Ware would return to action against Florida and likely could have played if the outcome would have been in contention.

The game didn’t belong to Ford, either.

Instead it was all about sophomore Alfred Blue, a familiar face late in games, and freshman Terrance Magee, who burned his redshirt and scored a touchdown.

“We have a stable of backs and they are doing a good job for us right now,” quarterback Jarrett Lee said. “If someone goes out, another guy comes in and makes plays.”

In a 35-7 rout of the Wildcats, Blue and Magee picked up the slack and then some. Miles went to both backups at least once in every quarter, and they combined for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 28 touches.

“It’s nothing new to us,” Blackwell said. “We have had these guys in camp and spring practice, and we know what they can do. We’ve been excited about all of them.

“It makes me happy to see (Magee) and Blue get in there and get some recognition.”

More than recognition, the pair earned the trust of their head coach – paramount in a backfield that has proven to be kindest to those who produce and protect the football.

“I anticipated playing a lot (Saturday), so I just seized the moment,” said Blue, who finished with 72 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

“I do feel like the coaches are starting to like me out there a little bit more. I think I am versatile, because I have speed and power. Anything for me to get on the field, blocking or special teams or running; if they want me out there then I’m there.”

After Miles talked up Magee during fall camp, fans wondered aloud why the freshman turned into Casper the Ghost once the regular season arrived.

While wildcat looks will have to wait, Magee’s 38 yards and one touchdown in his first collegiate action left Miles confident that the Franklinton native didn’t need a redshirt season to get acclimated to the SEC.

“We think Magee is going to be a heck of a player and we wanted to get his career started,” Miles said. “We’ve been talking about it for the past couple of weeks, to be honest with you. With Ware going down, it just seemed like the right time.”

Blue said that Miles has faith in all three returning running backs, and that Magee’s progress has the staff ready to work a fourth back into the mix on a regular basis.

Russell Shepard’s return after a three-game suspension means receivers will also get involved in the running game. Shepard took the ball on a jet sweep once against Kentucky and picked up 13 yards to move the chains.

Then there’s another running threat fresh off a suspension.

Miles reinstated Jordan Jefferson, LSU’s one-time starting quarterback, earlier this week after a grand jury reduced the charges against him to misdemeanor simple battery.

When he announced his reinstatement, Miles didn’t hint at when Jefferson would see action again, but stressed that Lee was the team’s starting quarterback and Jefferson was No. 2.

So when the Tigers faced fourth-and-1 from the goal line, Miles pulled Lee and put in Jefferson, his more powerful, running quarterback.

It didn’t matter that it was the first quarter and that Jefferson hadn’t practiced with the team but twice since late August.

“It was kind of the plan to use him early,” Miles said. “Based on the situation and one the availability of Ware, it led to us using Jordan Jefferson quickly.”

Jefferson never attempted a pass, but the senior did rush three more times for 28 yards, showing off the legs that could keep him involved in an offensive game plan based around Lee at quarterback.

“We will use Jefferson in a variety of ways,” Miles said.


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