The general consensus heading into spring practice was that Keiland Williams, Charles Scott and Richard Murphy would be the top three backs followed by Stevan Ridley. Trindon Holliday missed all of spring but he will also factor into the equation so LSU has plenty of size and speed in the backfield.
Williams entered the spring as the No. 1 tailback but after Murphy’s performance in the spring game it looks like things are far from settled on the depth chart.
When we watched the running backs in practice the majority of the time they were working on individual drills with their footwork and ball security, along with working on picking up the pass rush.
It’s hard to tell much from watching those types of drills but from looking at the backs one thing was obvious and that is they all passed the eye test with flying colors, particularly fullback Quinn Johnson.
All spring we heard that Murphy was really looking good in practice and we caught a glimpse of what the future may hold and boy does it look bright.
Williams is the leading returning rusher with 478 yards and six scores on 70 carries. He averaged 6.8 yards a pop during 2007 but he also put the ball on the ground a few times too many for Larry Porter’s liking.
Scott went down with an ankle injury the week before the spring game and he missed the final week of spring practices.
We did see the junior from Jonesboro (La.) working out some at fullback in passing drills and don’t be surprised to see him there some this season in Gary Crowton’s diversified offense in an effort to get him matched up on an inside linebacker in the passing game.
We didn’t see as much of Ridley as we would have liked to see but he is another one that is well put together and will provide the Tigers with some good, tough inside running.
Spring Game Performance
Keiland Williams got the start with the No. 1 offense and reeled off a couple of nice runs where he showed some good vision and hitting the right hole.
Last season, he had a tendency of taking the ball where it was designed to go rather than using his vision and if he improves in that area then we may see the former 5-star running back live up to the high expectations he had coming out of Hargrave Military Academy.
After making a couple of nice runs, though, Williams coughed up the ball inside the red zone and his day was pretty much done after that with the exception of one more carry later in the day.
When Larry Porter went to his second back, Richard Murphy’s number was called and he made big play after big play all day long.
Murphy finished with 145 yards and two scores on 11 carries, and he also added a couple of receptions for 53 yards.
The biggest difference in Murphy from the spring to last season was he ran stronger and more patiently, and he looked quicker than last season.
His first big run of the day was a 24-yard scamper where he went to the left side of the line but when the hole was plugged he bounced it out and got to the corner. He scored two plays later when he took it around the right side and laid a hard lick on Stefoin Francois that drew a loud reaction from the fans.
Murphy scored again with 2:40 left in the first half when he broke a 70-yard run and then again in the third quarter on a 53-yard pass from Jarrett Lee.
Stevan Ridley had to run against the first team defense and he had some success with 42 yards on 8 carries. He is a bruising runner between the tackles and he has enough speed to get to the outside and get to the corner.
Fullbacks rarely get much praise because they don’t get many carries but Quinn Johnson is someone who deserves it because of the way he picks up blocks and creates holes for the tailbacks.
This guy is built like a Greek God and he is going to deliver some bone-crushing blocks in 2008.
It’s going to be interesting to see how things shake down in fall camp when Charles Scott is healthy but I could easily see Larry Porter and Les Miles having the same philosophy they had last year with playing the hot hand.
In Scott and Keiland Williams, Porter has guys who are the big, physical type but are also threats to take it the distance.
Murphy is not as big or physical but he can run between the tackles.
What the Rayville native gives you is the quick feet that makes defenders miss and a little more of a big-play threat when he gets the ball in a little open space.
Whether or not Holliday runs in the Summer Olympics remains to be seen but if he does then the plan is for him to be back in time for the Auburn game.
LSU shouldn’t need the speedster before SEC play but he has the ability to change the complexion of a game every time he touches the ball and having him at Auburn could be the difference in the game.
LSU is stocked at fullback with Quinn Johnson, Stevan Ridley and Kellen Theriot but barring injury to Johnson he is the man that will line up in the backfield.
The running back corps is going to be the strength of the offense in 2008 and don’t be surprised to see LSU’s play selection 60-40 or even 65-35 in favor of the run.
LSU’s headman has always been accused of having a Big 12 mentality where his focus is on the run and if the Tigers are going to get back to Atlanta in December it will likely be due to a rushing attack that is as good as it gets in the SEC.
TSD.com Projected Depth Chart Heading Into Fall Camp