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
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
”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
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
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
”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.”