As the 2013 LSU football season approaches, many eyes seem to be focused on senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger and the passing game.
But if the Tigers are not careful, they could find themselves struggling in an area that they are normally quite successful: the running game.
Aside from an outstanding defense, LSU has always been able to rely on a deep corps of running backs under head coach Les Miles.
But the Tigers are treading a thin line as they open up the 2013 season with little room for injury or misconduct.
Senior running back Alfred Blue will more than likely top the depth chart, but he has not seen any action since suffering a season-ending ACL injury during LSU’s third game in 2012 against Idaho.
Before the injury, Blue appeared to be on his way to an outstanding 2012 season, running for 270 yards and two touchdowns in 40 attempts.
Sophomore Jeremy Hill would normally be the clear-cut favorite to back Blue up, or even be the No. 1 man. Hill proved to be LSU’s most consistent running option for most of the 2012 season, leading the Tigers with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns.
But his recent run-in with the law has led Miles to indefinitely suspend Hill pending the outcome of his case.
Hill was recently charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor, which has many optimistic that he will return. But fans are yet to see how Hill’s previous probation will affect the outcome of this case.
If Hill does not return, junior Kenny Hilliard will have to try to channel his former self, as he is the only returning halfback that saw more than one carry last season.
After an outstanding freshman year, Hilliard seemed on pace to continue his success when he opened last season carrying the ball for 303 yards and six touchdowns in his first three games.
But that was as much success as Hilliard saw in 2012. In his next nine appearances, he only accumulated 161 yards on 45 carries and failed to see the end zone again.
The only two running backs remaining on the roster are junior Terrence Magee, who spent most of his time on the field in the slot in 2012, and red-shirt freshman Jonathan Juneau.
For LSU to continue its tradition of success running the ball under Miles, its running backs must avoid injury, stay out of trouble and avoid falling into slumps like Hilliard’s.