The LSU Tigers' top two quarterbacks from last season, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, are gone, leaving junior Zach Mettenberger, freshman Stephen Rivers and recent junior transfer Rob Bolden to compete for the starting job. Regardless of who starts under center for the Tigers, he will have one of the best groups of running backs in the country lining up behind him.
A number of quality running backs will be ready to carry the ball this season, including: Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard, Terrance Magee and Jeremy Hill. Ford (756 yards) and Ware (707 yards) led the team last season, combining for 15 touchdowns on the ground. Blue added another 539 yards and seven scores, while Hilliard contributed 336 yards and eight touchdowns. Magee received 27 carries as a freshman. Hill is a true freshman who is expected to see playing time this year.
With six quality running backs who could each start for many teams throughout the NCAA, and no quarterbacks with significant experience as a Tiger, I am expecting head coach Les Miles to call for the run early and often. If LSU surpassed 2,500 rushing yards last year with Lee and Jefferson commanding the offense, it is possible that the Tigers could top that total in 2012.
Miles acknowledged his backfield talent after a recent practice, noting that Hill will need to lose weight before the season. With five others vying for carries, the motivation to do so should be there.
LSU plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and the running game will help as the Tigers battle each week. SEC West opponents include Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Furthermore, the team drew Florida and South Carolina from the SEC East and will face Washington in a non-conference meeting. Depth in the running attack may be the key to success when facing these teams each week.
Having an abundance of running backs is a great problem to have in the SEC. With the talent that LSU has assembled in the backfield, I believe the Tigers will battle for the SEC title and the National Championship again this season.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints' first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.
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