During his time in the backfield in Baton Rouge, Charles Scott weighed in around 225 pounds. Keiland Williams typically carried the same amount of weight.
Those two have been the faces of the LSU ground attack these past couple of seasons, a pair of heavy hitters who could run between the tackles against any opponent.
“I am at 235 and Richard [Murphy] is 217,” said running back Stevan Ridley. “[Murphy] is lighter and a lot faster. If I can hold it down between the tackles and Richard can do the speed stuff then we can be great. I get excited about this one-two punch. We are trying to be the next two great LSU backs.”
The early idea is that Ridley will handle pounding the ball up the middle while Murphy takes care of the work off the edges.
“This is football, and you have to have differences,” Ridley said of the two-back approach. “We will benefit each other.”
Unlike Williams and Scott, Murphy is a natural runner when he finds himself in space. “Murphy is the guy who can hit the home run and really wow people,” Ridley explained.
With Ridley, you get a one-time fullback who has great speed and balance for his 235-pound frame. When Scott went down in the Alabama game, it was Ridley and not Williams that the staff turned to.
From then out Ridley carried the torch, finishing his sophomore campaign with 180 yards and three touchdowns on less than 50 attempts.
For the first time in their careers, neither runner has a stable of backs in front of them. While Murphy and Ridley said nothing has changed from a preparation standpoint, the anticipation that comes with knowing they are starters is something that neither back would deny.
“I am sitting on the edge of my seat getting ready,” Murphy said. “I want to be reliable. I want them to say, ‘Richard, we need you out here.’
“Ridley said we are going to be a real good one-two punch,” he added. “He can do some things on the outside, but I think I will get a lot of those types of carries. I am pretty excited.”
While the role of each back is clear, Ridley stressed that the plan of attack need not fall victim to consistency – and won’t if the coaching staff uses their veteran backs for what their worth.
“We don’t want to become too predictable, where I come in and they know we are running power football,” Ridley said. “We can both do it all, and the play calls that we are looking at really help keep the defense off balance.”
While their running style isn’t very similar, the parallels between the two when it comes to their injury history are strikingly similar.
Last season, both Murphy and Ridley suffered ACL injuries. Ridley’s came at this time last spring, while Murphy’s struck in the Vanderbilt game during the fall. Ridley made it back to full strength by midseason, but Murphy – who is still wearing a non-contact jersey and is expected to all spring – has not played in a game since.
“I started rehab two days after surgery, and I haven’t missed a day since,” Murphy said. “I feel really comfortable with it. I worked out during rehab, and I think that put me in a position to do better now that I am back.
“After the first day, the trainer said I look like I am out there doing what I usually do,” he added. “I am not favoring my knee or anything, so I am feeling good. We practiced, but I felt like I had a lot more to go in me.”
Murphy tore the ACL in his other knee during his high school playing days, so the rehab process is one that he wasn’t foreign to.
“I felt like I had already done all that, so it was more smooth this time around,” he said. “I have two new knees, that is how I look at it.”
With only a few scholarship backs on the roster and a slew of young names joining the team in May, Ridley and Murphy fielded questions from reporters left and right on what veteran leadership meant to the team.
As Ridley put it, “there is no mindset change.”
“You don’t change much,” he said. “It would be awkward if we came in and talked about being veterans. I lead by example. I practice hard. I stay in the linemen’s ear and in Jordan’s ear. I want people to look at me as a leader on the team. You see a guy busting his butt every time he is out, and people will naturally follow.”