30 days, 30 topics inside the world of LSU football.
TSD is previewing and analyzing the 2014 edition of the Tigers from every angle, bringing you a daily dose of "Summer Session" each weekday through July 11, three days before the unofficial kickoff to football season at SEC Media Days.
TODAY'S SESSION: SPLITTING RB PIE
Another season on the horizon, another loaded backfield in Baton Rouge. The make-up of the running back stable may be a little different than most years, with two seniors and two true freshmen, but there's undeniable quality from top to bottom of the RB depth chart.
Today I'm examining and giving a premature forecast on how Frank Wilson may divvy up the carries between his four options. But before I move on to the 2014 cast, it's helpful to look at how Wilson, hired in December 2009, has handled his troops over the past four seasons at LSU.
20131. Jeremy Hill: 203 for 1,401, 16 TD
2. Terrence Magee: 86 for 626, 8 TD
3. Alfred Blue: 71 for 343, 1 TD
4. Kenny Hilliard: 68 for 310, 7 TD
20121. Jeremy Hill: 142 for 755, 12 TD
2. Kenny Hilliard: 82 for 464, 6 TD
3. Michael Ford: 71 for 392, 3 TD
4. Spencer Ware: 94 for 367, 1 TD
20111. Michael Ford: 127 for 756, 7 TD
2. Spencer Ware: 177 for 707, 8 TD
3. Alfred Blue: 78 for 539, 7 TD
4. Kenny Hilliard: 62 for 336, 8 TD
20101. Stevan Ridley: 249 for 1,147, 15 TD
2. Jordan Jefferson: 123 for 450, 7 TD
3. Michael Ford: 45 for 244, 3 TD
4. Russell Shepard: 32 for 226, 2 TD
To me the first thing that stands out is while Wilson always likes to play multiple guys to keep everyone fresh (a strategy that works in-season and long-term when it comes to the NFL), he will absolutely accommodate a bell cow if LSU has one in a particular season. See Ridley in 2010, with more than five times the carries of the next running back, and Hill in 2013, with almost 2.5 times as many carries as Magee.
So spinning things forward to this fall, if either Magee or Hilliard or newcomer Leonard Fournette is playing with fire, you can bet Wilson will ride the hot hand. What history tells us is more likely, though, is for various individuals to carry the torch for smaller stretches at a time – a half, a game or a couple of games.
It's my expectation then that each of LSU's lead three backs will be "the guy" in spurts (maybe most akin to the 2011 season). Magee, who broke out behind Hill last year, and Hilliard, who's never had less than 62 carries in a season, will likely be the two to usher the Tigers out the gate. But, as the season goes on and Fournette gets his feet under him, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he became the equivalent of Hill by SEC play.
The fourth member of the stable, freshman Darrel Williams, is also expected to play, but I believe it will take injuries for him to garner the amount of touches to end up top four on the team in rushing this fall. In my opinion the primary starting quarterback will make that list along with Fournette, Hilliard and Magee (especially if it's Brandon Harris).
As for way-too-early projected numbers, here's where I'll start: I believe in a season like 2014, which is projected to be run-heavy, there will be about 360 combined carries available to LSU's top three backs.
I'll take a stab that Fournette, who starts relatively slowly but gains steam, leads the team in rushes with about 160 carries. After that I'll say Magee gets more totes (and yards) than Hilliard, maybe 115/85, but that Hilliard plows into the end zone more often. And for what it's worth, I'll put the quarterback position down for 80-90 combined rushes.
There will be a lot of rushing for the Bayou Bengals in 2014, and that's a rough look at how I think they'll carry the mail.