This is part two of a multi-part series analyzing each of LSU Football’s position groups heading into the 2017 season. For this week’s edition, we will look at what should be the most exciting position group for next season, at least on the offensive end. Despite losing one of the best players to ever play this position at LSU, and perhaps in college football in general, this group should be primed to stand out nationally and carry the load for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s unit in 2017. Without further ado: the running backs.
Who’s gone: Leonard Fournette (declared for NFL Draft)
Who’s new: None.
Sadly, Tiger fans will never again get to watch the lovable, relentless hometown hero that is Leonard Fournette put on the number seven jersey and run right over a defender en route to a touchdown in Tiger stadium. For many, Fournette’s career at LSU ended in disappointment. After all, when a player hits the Heisman pose in his first career home game and has the sort of hype surrounding him that Fournette had for three years, it’s easy to see why. His achievements were tarnished by a junior season plagued by injury and lackluster performances with the exception of one game. Nevertheless, Fournette will go down as one of, if not the, greatest Tigers to ever receive a handoff.
While Fournette may never have won the Heisman, or won a championship in Baton Rouge – something he made clear was his highest priority – his predecessor showed fans last year why those achievements may not yet be out of reach of an LSU running back. Rising junior Derrius Guice burst into superstardom last season as Fournette’s replacement. Now, he is the undisputed number one at the position and has everyone around LSU optimistic again for 2017, and for good reason.
Last year, Guice appeared in 12 games for LSU, starting six of them – essentially only a starter for half of the season. In that limited time, however, Guice managed to lead the SEC in rushing yards with 1,387, was second in rushing yards per game at 115.6, and had the most rushing touchdowns of any SEC running back with 15 scores. In addition to this, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry – good for first in the SEC and fifth nationally – and set a new LSU rushing record for a game with 285 yards against Texas A&M in the regular season finale. Guice also became the fastest player in school history to reach 1,000 yards, needing only 113 career to do so.
Needless to say, Fournette is passing the torch to a worthy replacement, and with a full season (barring injury…yes I knocked on wood just now) of being the starter, there is no telling what Guice’s ceiling is. However, despite his status, he is not alone on the depth chart, and LSU has not only an elite starter, but elite depth behind him.
Following Guice on the LSU depth chart is rising senior Darrel Williams. At 6-1, 233 pounds, Williams is a bonafide tank of a running back, but has only seen spurts of time in the rotation. Now the clear-cut number two back, Williams has a chance to truly shine in his relief of Guice, and he offers the Tigers a different type of style to work with. There is no doubt that Guice possesses the power to bowl over defenders, but Williams has the sheer size to line up in goal-to-go situations and just bulldoze his way through the line. As a senior in high school (he was a four-star recruit the same year that the Tigers brought in Fournette), Williams set a school record in yards (2,201) and touchdowns (32). He has shown promise, and should be set for a breakout performance in his last year of eligibility.
After Williams, LSU has yet another former four-star running back in rising junior Nick Brosette. Brosette came to LSU in the same class as Guice, yet due to the talent ahead of him and injury, he has not had as much of a chance to display his talents on the collegiate level. However, he was a highly regarded prospect coming in to Baton Rouge and as long as he stays healthy, he should be able to show it either in a rotational role this season under Canada, or as a potential starter next season.
If there is one negative about this position group for the Tigers it is that they have failed to bring in a running back in either of the past two recruiting cycles – something that the staff has already hit hard for 2018 and tried to correct. With Williams exhausting his eligibility and Guice more than likely jumping to the NFL, LSU will need to continue the trend of bringing in elite running back talent if they are to continue to have as productive backfields as they have had the past few seasons.