First up is senior running back Kenny Hilliard, who made quite a splash as a freshman and had a nose for the end zone during his entire career in Baton Rouge.
HILLIARD IN HIGH SCHOOL
One of the most decorated prep players in Louisiana history, Hilliard, the nephew of former LSU Tiger and New Orleans Saint Dalton Hilliard, held the state record for most rushing yards in a high school career when he graduated from Patterson (La.) in spring 2011.
That record-setting total was 8,603 rushing yards, which Hilliard complemented with 106 touchdowns on the ground. For his exploits Hilliard was a four-star prospect, the No. 25 rated running back in the nation, per Scout, and a three-time member of the Class 3A All-State Team.
Hilliard was also a standout linebacker, playing both ways for the Lumberjacks. Had it not been for his backfield bloodlines and obvious ability with the ball in his hands, Hilliard could’ve easily suited up as a linebacker on the collegiate level. He showed as much in his high school days.
Here’s footage of Hilliard in his senior season of 2010 in a game versus Abbeville High School.
HILLIARD IN COLLEGE
It didn’t take long for Hilliard to make a name for himself at LSU.
Through six games in the purple and gold he was largely a platoon running back and fullback. In game seven, at Tennessee, Hilliard took a quick-hitting handoff from the fullback position and trucked a defender while running for a physical first down.
From that point the light went on, and it wouldn’t go back off for the rest of the season.
He ended up scoring two rushing touchdowns apiece in three of LSU’s next five games, including a three-touchdown performance in the SEC Championship Game. Hilliard was named Freshman All-SEC by the league’s coaches.
2011: 62 rushes for 336 yards, 8 TDs
2012: 82 rushes for 464 yards, 6 TDs
2013: 68 rushes for 310 yards, 7 TDs
2014: 90 rushes for 447 yards, 6 TDs
Sustaining the level of play he exhibited the second half of his freshman season would prove impossible over the remaining three years for Hilliard, partly because of injury but mainly due to an overload of talent at the position.
Current Cincinnati Bengal Jeremy Hill, a longtime friend of Hilliard’s, was the man for much of 2012 and 2013, and freshman phenom Leonard Fournette garnered the bulk of the carries in 2014. Also in tow during that stretch: NFLers Alfred Blue, Michael Ford and Spencer Ware, as well as another 2015 NFL Draft hopeful, Terrence Magee.
Despite the crowded stable, Hilliard remained the preferred option in short-yardage and goal-line situation, which helped him reach the end zone at least six times in four straight seasons.
His senior season ended prematurely, with Hilliard missing the team’s final three ballgames, because of a shoulder injury.
Check out a video interview with Hilliard following the ULM game in his senior campaign.
NEXT LEVEL PROJECTION
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Hilliard stood 6-foot and 226 pounds. Several weeks later at LSU’s Pro Day he was down to 223 pounds and posted better running and jumping numbers.
His 40-yard-dash time went from 4.83 to 4.60 and his vertical jump improved from 27 to 29 inches. Hilliard also bench-pressed 225 pounds 16 times at Pro Day.
Other measurables: Arm – 31.25 inches; Hand – 9.25 inches; Wingspan – 75.8 inches (6-3.8).
For a complete player evaluation click on the link below, which will take you to a write-up done by Dave-Te’ Thomas, a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League.