LSU’s RB depth means ball carriers must be patient

Alfred Blue sometimes wonders whether he’d be breaking off more

runs like the 45-yard touchdown he had last weekend if had he

chosen to play somewhere other than LSU.

”I’m glad I’m here, though,” said Blue, who is third on LSU’s

depth chart but is tied for the team lead in touchdowns rushing

with six. ”I don’t want to play to lose or just to play to have

good stats. … I never won a championship, so I came to LSU to do

that.”

The No. 1 Tigers average 195.1 yards rushing, which ranks second

in the Southeastern Conference behind Alabama.

However, playing running back at LSU requires patience. Coach

Les Miles has shown he’s willing to play five different tailbacks

at any given time, and no LSU rusher averages as many as 65 yards

per game.

”We expect that whoever’s number we call, that he go to the

field and give us some advantages,” said Miles, whose team is 10-0

as it prepares to play at struggling Mississippi this Saturday

night. ”It is one of the strengths of our football team that we

can get into a game where a key drive late in the game can be

manned by a guy that is talented, has fresh legs, can carry the

ball and make you miss and plays a physical brand of

football.”

Spencer Ware, a bruising back who punishes anyone who tackles

him, leads the Tigers with 150 carries for 580 yards and six

touchdowns. Next is Michael Ford, who has the speed to get to the

outside and is the preferred running back when LSU runs the

quarterback option with Jordan Jefferson. He has 101 carries for

575 yards and six touchdowns.

Blue, who like Ware and Ford is a sophomore, has carried 66

times for 375 yards. Then there are freshman backs Kenny Hilliard

and Terrence Magee. Hilliard, who is 5-foot-11, 240 pounds, has

become a regular in short-yardage situations and has four TDs.

Magee, a former high school quarterback who one day could emerge as

a wildcat threat, has played the least of LSU’s top five tailbacks,

but also has found the end zone this season.

”We’ve got a stable of backs,” LSU offensive guard Will

Blackwell said. ”It’s got to be tough not being able to play every

play, but … guys come here knowing that’s probably going to

happen. We recruit the best.”

Blue said he has learned that the strengths and weaknesses of an

opponent’s defense – and not so much LSU’s depth chart at running

back – often has more to do with who gets the most carries in a

particular game.

In LSU’s 9-6 overtime win at Alabama, Ware was struggling to

gain significant yardage against a Crimson Tide defense that is

stout through the middle. And with Jefferson in the game at

quarterback for most of the second half, LSU decided to attack the

perimeter, and Ford wound up as LSU’s leading rusher with 73 yards

on 11 carries.

Last week against Western Kentucky, LSU got off to a sluggish

start and led only 14-7 at halftime. Blue, who did not play in the

first half, carried nine times for team-leading 119 yards in the

last two quarters.

Blue said it can be ”a little” frustrating watching an entire

half from the sideline as he did last week, but added, ”You can’t

be greedy. You’ve just got to wait your turn and be humble, and

when your time comes, you just seize the moment.”

In practice, meanwhile, competition among the running backs is

intense as each one makes his case for as much playing time as

possible.

”It’s a lot of motivation,” Blue said. ”We’re all good backs

and to win a championship you need depth in the backfield in case

somebody gets hurt. Then you know you’ve got another one that can

go in and get the job done, or two more or three more that can get

the job done.

”We push each other every day to do great because we know we’re

trying to win a national championship,” Blue added, ”and we know

we’ve got to improve every week to get there.”