Many are seasoned veterans and a select few are new to the roster, but all 50 Tigers figure to make an impact on the gridiron in 2015.
So we hope you enjoy this list, updated once each weekday and compiled by the TSD staff of Ben Love and Hunter Paniagua (who, naturally, had disagreements of their own along the way).
Today the countdown hits an exciting freshman from Baton Rouge, running back Derrius Guice.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
There’s such a thing as a change-of-pace back. And then there’s Guice, who at 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds is constantly at that accelerated pace, able to leave defenders crossed with his trademark spin move and then in the dust with prolific speed. With two every-down, between-the-tackles types returning in Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams, Guice represents the ideal game-breaker that can come in and test tired defenses during his first season in the SEC.
He has quite a pedigree coming off two straight 1,000-yard seasons in Class 5A of Louisiana. Guice was a producer at Catholic High, totaling 1,341 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground as a senior after going over 1,100 yards in his junior campaign. The sum total of his work earned Guice an appearance in the US Army All-American Game, which he honored by submitting an MVP performance against some of the nation’s top defenders.
Finally, there’s the versatility in his game – a big feather in the cap of any freshman trying to earn playing time right away at LSU. Guice amassed 617 yards and eight touchdowns receiving as a senior, showing he has the goods to play on third downs, in the Shotgun formation and dotting the “I” in some of the Tigers’ pro sets. It also doesn’t hurt that there are only four scholarship backs on campus, given how much Frank Wilson prefers to spread the wealth and keep fresh legs. He’ll get his opportunities in 2015.
STILL LEFT TO PROVE
Guice is the sixth true freshman already to make our list, and they all have the same thing in common: they haven’t done it yet on the college level. The Baton Rouge native will have to show he can be as elusive going up against SEC defenses as he was in the highest classification of Louisiana prep football. He may also have to deal with something Fournette did in 2014, namely, not feeling as if he has to take every carry the distance. Sometimes these transitions can take time.
Then there’s the competition factor for Guice. Other true freshmen, like receiver Tyron Johnson (No. 40 on the countdown), are contending with a lot of players at their position. Guice has only three other running backs to worry about – maybe four, if you count dual-purpose back David Ducre. But the quality is awfully good in the backs on campus. Fournette is arguably the top back in the SEC in Williams was no slouch in his debut season last fall.
And so Guice will have to make the adjustment to college life while trying to get his neck out in front of at least one, if not two, of the other tailbacks to log significant time in 2015. All the backs will play, if we’ve learned anything from Wilson’s time leading the stable, but the drop-off between two and three or maybe three and four could be severe if Fournette becomes any sort of bell cow.