There are a bevy of events that LSU fans mull over during the regular season.
Player production? Always.
While seasons pass and new names fill out old numbers, there comes a time where Tiger fans – some of the most demanding college football followers out there – reflect and grade out a career that has come to an end.
Next year, Keiland Williams will be one of those names.
And, more than likely, the senior running back will be as lost as the rest of us when he begins his search for answers to the question that has loomed like a dark cloud over his four years in Baton Rouge.
Why has Keiland Williams, the nation’s top ranked prep school talent coming out of Hargrave Military Academy, not gotten more touches during his run under head coach Les Miles?
“I don’t know,” said Williams on Monday. “Your guess is as good as mine.”
A graduate of Northside High School in Lafayette, Williams made his way to Hargrave in 2006 where he made his prep school debut with 160 carries for 1,325 yards and 12 touchdowns – making him the first back in school history to go over the 1,000 yard mark.
When Miles signed Williams into his 2006 class, the five-star prospect was tabbed as the No. 3 running back in the country.
Two more Louisiana backs signed in the class: Rayville’s Richard Murphy and Jonesboro’s Charles Scott. Murphy, a three-star prospect, was ranked as the No. 37 running back in the country. Scott, a four-star, was the nation’s No. 10 ranked back.
In their rookie campaign, Williams broke free of the pack and finished behind Jacob Hester as the Tigers’ second leading rusher, carrying the ball 76 times for 436 yards and five touchdowns.
The following year, the fast-rising back finished second on the team in rushing again, this time carrying the ball 70 times for 478 yards and six touchdowns.
In a career night against Virginia Tech, Williams sliced, diced and hurdled the vaunted Hokie defense for 126 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries.
That January, LSU locked up their second Bowl Championship Series title in four years.
So far, all was well.
By his junior season, with Hester gone from the lineup, most expected Williams to move into the role of offensive pacesetter.
Instead, in a downward spiral season that sent LSU to five conference losses, those duties were relegated to Scott, who broke out as a first-team All-SEC performer behind 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns.
On 134 less touches, Williams finished with 417 yards and two touchdowns, the lowest rushing total in his three seasons.
In his senior campaign, with one shot left at the dominant college season he had longed dreamed about, the song remains the same.
Nine games in, Williams is on pace for his lowest production as a Tiger. On 44 carries, the 6-foot-1, 221-pound back has totaled just 212 yards and two touchdowns, good enough for third-best on the team behind Scott and freshman Russell Shepard.
Certainly, this isn’t the situation that Williams dreamed up.
However, Saturday’s loss in Tuscaloosa brought a bittersweet shot at redemption.
When Scott, who Williams tabs as his closest friend, went down with a fractured clavicle that will sideline him for the rest of the season, the ball carrying duties became relegated to two running backs: Williams and sophomore Stevan Ridley.
After a 73-yard, one-touchdown showing in the final minutes of the Oct. 31 Tulane game, Ridley became the hot-topic around LSU circles, putting Williams on the back burner yet again.
Trailing 10-9 in the third quarter of Saturday’s Alabama game, running backs coach Larry Porter turned to Ridley, not Williams, in the red zone.
Ridley bounced off 354-pound nose guard Terrance Cody and turned outside for the 8-yard touchdown run and 15-10 LSU lead.
Williams, unable to buck the trend of playing second fiddle, was again an afterthought.
“I am not going to sit here and get frustrated,” Williams said. “If I am sitting on the sideline wondering why I am not touching the ball, then I get in there and miss the opportunity given to me, then that’s on me.”
While his spirits remain high during tough times, Williams was straightforward in discussing his confusion with Miles and his staff’s direction on the ground.
Communication, it seems, has reached a standstill.
“I think [coaching advice] was in the preseason, in fall camp,” he said. “We sat down and talked about things I needed to work on, and I felt I have done some good things and made strides in that area.”
As he takes to the practice field this week in preparation for Louisiana Tech, Williams said he does so with uncertainty as to who the go-to back will be headed forward.
Will Williams be part of a committee, or is Saturday’s non-conference bout an audition for the lead role?
“I really don’t know,” Williams said. “I guess we will see how everything goes throughout the week. We will see on Saturday how it comes.
“No spot is given to you. Everyone wants to be that guy to step up.”
At a press luncheon last month, Miles weighed in with his side.
“We expect Keiland to be a contributor in a variety of ways, and his plays may or may not be carries,” he said. “His plays may be a blocking back in a third down situation. It may be a flare pass out of the backfield. It may be a draw. It may be a run.
“The great thing about Keiland is he has a diverse set of talents, and we want to use him where it best suits our team. We’re trying to do that, and I think that Keiland, as late as he is in his career, is trying to improve and working hard at it. I kind of stand by the carries and the touches that he’s getting.”
This weekend, without Scott in the mix, Williams will find out if his final three games hold a different fate than the nine that preceded them.
If the touches don’t come, understand that Williams’ guess to why not is as good as yours.