TSD is running a story a day this week and into next week, combing through each position with a detailed look at who and what is being lost and the names/games of the 2015 targets that will be groomed as replacements in the short- and long-term.
Here are previously published breakdowns: Offensive Tackle, Defensive End, Safety and Linebacker.
Next position up: Running Back.
LEAVING A VOID
If only LSU could recruit the quarterback position like it recruits running backs, right? The Tigers will watch two talented seniors walk out the revolving door this offseason in Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee and will still have two rising sophomores in the mix, both of whom are big-bodied backs who got SEC experience in year one, and incoming freshmen, to boot. That’s just the way it goes when Frank Wilson, LSU’s recruiting coordinator, also happens to coach the position and has a track record of putting his players in the League.
But when it comes to the two players departing – while both had impacts during their stays in Baton Rouge, Magee (5-9, 217) will be the more difficult to replace in my opinion. The rationale: He’s been more versatile and LSU already has big backs on campus in the style of Hilliard. Magee came into this season with a career 759 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. He added to those totals 545 yards rushing and three touchdowns as a senior, often times doing it as second fiddle to Leonard Fournette. Magee, a Franklinton native, also finished third on the team in receptions (16) and fifth in receiving yardage (162) while returning the opening kick of the Kentucky game 49 yards. Especially with young, developing quarterbacks in the fold, LSU will miss a reliable pass-catcher and pass-protector like Magee.
Not that Hilliard’s career was anything to sneeze at. If anything the 6-foot, 232-pound bruiser bored you with his consistency while on campus. But don’t sleep on his production. No, he wasn’t ever the same player again as he was down the stretch of his freshman season, but Hilliard registered at least six rushing touchdowns in four straight years. He finished his four-year run with 1,531 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns and in 2014 accounted for 431 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in only 10 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Hilliard excelled in short-yardage and goal-line situations, a role that Wilson have to reassign in 2015 for the first time in four years. He could also line up at fullback and not miss a beat.
Finally, on a leadership front, let's not forget that with Magee leaving the coveted No. 18 jersey is back vacant as well. He wasn't the loud, chirpy type, but underclassmen knew to follow Magee's lead. These kinds of characteristics, on top of the measurables and athletic ability, must be replaced from one season to another, too.
FILLING THE VOID
LSU loses two senior running backs, but the Tigers have plenty coming down the pipeline to refill the stable. Leonard Fournette will certainly continue to get the lion's share of carries as one of the most talented backs in the entire country. Darrel Williams should see a bigger role as well, taking over as the true power back. Behind those two will be a group of freshmen, as LSU has three committed in the 2015 class.
Derrius Guice (pictured above) is the highest rated of the bunch, ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the state. He's one of six finalists for the U.S. Army Player of the Year award after running for more than 1,300 yards in his senior season. He's probably the fastest of LSU's three commits, bringing the kind of quickness and agility the Tigers will lose with Terrence Magee. He should be a great complement for Fournette and can expect to get plenty of carries as a freshman.
Nicholas Brossette should have a big role, too. Coming off a record-breaking high school career, he's maybe the most well-rounded of LSU's RB commits. He has legitimate breakaway speed to separate once past the defense. But he's also big and physical enough to pound it up the middle and shed a few blocks in the process. He is the softest of LSU's commits, though. He's taken an official visit to Notre Dame, and plans to check out Texas and Arizona State after his season. The Longhorns are the biggest threat, but the Tigers are still confident they can keep him home.
David Ducre's the forgotten man when it comes to LSU's RBs in the 2015 class. He'll be the first on campus, though, as he'll enroll next month. He'll benefit from all the added reps during spring practice, and the LSU coaches see him taking over Kenny Hilliard's role in the offense. Ducre has the body of a fullback but the ability of a running back, so he'll serve a hybrid role for the Tigers. He'll make his case this spring to factor in Frank Wilson's running back rotation.