Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spring Practice Preview: Running Back & Fullback


LSU enters spring with a lot of uncertainty surrounding the running backs, and it will be one of the most watched positions at practice.   LSU must replace a lot of production with the loss of seniors Charles Scott, Keiland Williams, and Trindon Holliday.

New running backs coach Frank Wilson has indicated that he'd prefer to make a decision on his number one back and primarily use that guy.  However, it's imperative that multiple backs are used in the SEC.  Gone might be the days of baffling personnel decisions and rotations regarding the running backs that we saw under former assistant Larry Porter.  But without a clear #1 guy on LSU's team right now, it will be very interesting to see how the repetitions are distributed at spring practice. 

Junior Stevan Ridley seems the most likely to enter spring as the starting running back.  Ridley has shown a ton of promise in the limited playing time he has received thus far in his career.  In 2009, Ridley gained 180 yards on 45 carries for a 4.0 average.  His tough running style is well suited for the SEC.  Ridley has played some fullback during his LSU career and as a result, he's an accomplished blocker and therefore well suited to play in a one back set that LSU will likely employ in 2010.  He can also see the field as a fullback in certain situations. 

Senior Richard Murphy (pictured) returns after suffering a knee injury early in the 2009 season.  He'll be counted on as a team leader and has been given the #18 jersey that was passed down from Matt Mauck to Jacob Hester to Richard Dickson.  He's reportedly 100% and ready to go for spring practice.  Murphy is built more like a wide receiver, and it's hard to see him ever becoming a full-time back in the SEC.  You just don't see many SEC running backs built like Murphy.  I anticipate that Murphy will be used in certain situations as a change of pace guy and will be used a lot as a receiver out of the backfield.  Teaming with Russell Shepard, the two would make a great tandem in the Wildcat formation.  That's just my opinion though. 

Redshirt freshman Mike Ford is a guy that everyone's eager to see.  A highly regarded recruit a year ago, Ford is reportedly doing big things in the weight room.  If that translates onto the football field, then he'll be competing with Ridley for playing time.  Ford is one of the key guys to watch this spring.  He has an opportunity to really break out and make a name for himself. 

Another redshirt freshman, Drayton Calhoun, is the biggest question mark heading into the spring.  Calhoun was an electrifying athlete in high school.  After a brief stint at cornerback last spring, Calhoun has been working at running back.  He's on the smaller side at just 170 pounds but he's got blazing speed.  He may be able to partially fill the void left by Trindon Holliday, both out of the backfield and in the return game. 

Sophomore athlete Russell Shepard will also get some looks out of the backfield though he's going to primarily play receiver. 

In the fall, we'll see a lot more competition as freshmen Spencer Ware, Jahkari Gore, and Alfred Blue join the mix.  I expect to see one of the true freshmen see playing time next year with the other two redshirting.   

Depth Chart:
Stevan Ridley (Jr)
Richard Murphy (Sr)
Michael Ford (Fr)
Spencer Ware (Fr)
Jahkari Gore (Fr)
Alfred Blue (Fr)


LSU lacked an effective fullback in 2009, and the running game suffered as a result.  The staff tried several guys back there, but none seemed to get the job done.  Several of the same guys return in 2010 and will be in competition for the starting position: 

Dominique Allen had a great opportunity to win the job in 2009 as a true freshman, but he showed up to fall camp overweight.  He didn't play for the first six games of the season.  Prior to the Auburn game, the coaches decided to pull the redshirt off of Allen and give him a chance.  He played against Auburn but didn't play much afterwards.  I'm interested to see how Allen looks physically this spring.  Has he lost weight?  Is he moving quicker?  The coaches would probably prefer that Allen win the job since he can be more than just a blocker.  He's a good runner and a good receiver out of the backfield.     

Walk-on James Stampley started the 2009 season as LSU's primary fullback, and he performed fairly well.  Stampley is a guy that has the physical ability to block people, but he needs to continue to improve at making the right reads.  If he does, then he could be LSU's answer at fullback. 

Kellen Theriot is the most intriguing guy to watch this spring. Theriot was a hell of an athlete coming out of high school but has been hindered by injuries since he's been at LSU.  Heading into his redshirt sophomore season, he's reportedly healthy and has made the move from linebacker to fullback. At around 230 pounds, he's on the small side for a fullback, but he's easily the most athletic guy at the position.  If he can be effective as a blocker, then LSU may have a special player and another weapon on offense.  I have high hopes for Theriot. 

Thomas Parsons is a sophomore offensive lineman who pitched in to help at fullback last year.  He did a good job for a guy who is 290 pounds.  Are the coaches going to keep him at fullback?  Or is he going to practice with the offensive line so he can develop at his "real" position?  We should know the answer to this on the first day of practice. 

Richard Dugas was another walk-on who moved from offensive line to try fullback.  He played some early in the season, but eventually lost playing time to James Stampley.  It's unclear whether he'll continue to work at fullback this spring, but I'm guessing he will. 

In the fall, true freshman Brandon Worle will join the mix and he looks like a good one.  It's also a possibility that Stevan Ridley play fullback in certain situations. 

Depth Chart:
Dominique Allen (So)
James Stampley (Jr)
Kellen Theriot (So)
Brandon Worle (Fr)
Thomas Parsons (So)
Richard Dugas (Sr)


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