Another year, another crop of NFL backs to replace for LSU recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Frank Wilson.
Gone are 1,400-yard rusher Jeremy Hill and four-year contributor Alfed Blue at tailback. Ditto for three-year-plus wrecking ball J.C. Copeland at fullback.
For Wilson it's business as usual and, as he describes below, part of his overall plan for how to run the Tiger backfield and get his products prepared for the pro level.
On bringing freshmen backs along . . .
“We try to match a veteran player with one of our incoming freshmen, kinda like a big brother-little brother program to model for them what it is to be a college player or a young pro, as Coach [Les] Miles and Coach [Cam] Cameron would say. So they model for them what it is to be effective in their time management, how to study, how to watch film. Certainly we do it as a staff, but in the absence of us there’s the ability to know how to go in there with discipline and get it done. Our veteran backs have done an outstanding job of bringing those guys along.”
On the situation at fullback . . .
“Connor is our starting fullback. Melvin is developing. He’s an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield. The mentality to play the fullback position is unique. You have to at times lose your sane mind to go in there and do the things that are asked of them. Melvin in a sense is not insane enough. He’s starting to lose his sanity. He’s getting there. It is a tough position, and we ask them to do tough things. We’ve been very fortunate the last several years to have great fullbacks like J.C. Copeland and James Stampley and Quinn Johnson. Right now I think Melvin is at a stage in his career where he’s starting to recognize that and he’s embracing it.”
On what he wants for Fournette this season . . .
“I’d just like Leonard to do the role we have in store for him, whatever it may be. Right now I’m not sure what it is. How much we’ll call upon him or how many carries he’ll need to have or balls he’ll have to catch or how often he’ll have to block a guy, we don’t know those things. It’s so early in the process, but he’s awfully talented. At one point he’ll be called upon, and it’s my job to have him prepared to do those things. For him it’s just about embracing the opportunity and maximizing his potential.”
On his expectation for the whole backfield . . .
“There’s been a standard of backs here during the Miles era, whether it’s been Keiland Williams or Charles Scott then after that Stevan Ridley, Richard Murphy, Spencer Ware, Michael Ford. Year after year going back to 2005, where you had Joe Addai, those guys have gone on and set a standard of begin NFL-caliber running backs. With the four we have here right now, they’re going to try and uphold that tradition. We’ll coach them at that level and anticipate them being able to do so.”
On if his fresh-legs approach is working . . .
“Yeah, I would say it’s working. As we were told by the NFL scouts that come to our Pro Day and then the Combine, our guys are NFL-ready. Their knowledge base has allowed them to be prepared, and they can step into an NFL camp or go to an interview and represent themselves well enough to where they know these guys are prepared to be a pro. I think certainly their health and maximizing their opportunities here, being productive, prepares them to go to the NFL and do the same thing.”