After not seeing any time in LSU’s 28-24 win against Wisconsin, freshman running back Darrel Williams has made a mark at an unnatural position.
Lined up as a fullback, Williams has run for 102 yards on 21 attempts and taken the ball in for three touchdowns. Williams broke free for a 22-yard touchdown run against the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He has started to turn heads, and senior fullback Connor Neighbors has seen a variety of good things from the young back.
“When he comes in, it could be a critical situation,” Neighbors said. “When you have to get the first down, he knows how critical his reps are and that how he plays determines how the drives go. That has really impressed me.”
Although Williams is tied with senior running back Kenny Hilliard with three rushing touchdowns, Neighbors says Williams isn’t letting the success get to his head.
“He’s a really humble guy, and he hasn’t said one word to us about how many touchdowns he’s had,” Neighbors said. “He’s already got three, and I have zero, and he hasn’t rubbed it in my face yet. He’s just an all around great guy and great athlete.”
Offensive line looks to get past first-half struggles
LSU’s offensive line, said to be one of the most experienced and talented front lines in the Southeastern Conference, has struggled during the first half of games so far this season.
“We go in and make adjustments,” said junior offensive tackle Vadal Alexander. “We make different changes, and we want to improve off of the first half — that’s the biggest thing. Just do it better.”
In both the Wisconsin and ULM games, the offensive line got off to slow starts, making early mistakes and incorrect blocks. After halftime in each game, however, LSU’s offensive line improved.
“I think the biggest halftime change was just focusing in on our technique,” Alexander said. “And focusing in on our combination blocks, and I think that we did that well.”
In the first quarter of the ULM game, the Tigers only managed to pick up 35 yards on the ground on 14 attempts. Other than Darrell Williams’ 22-yard touchdown dash in the second quarter, LSU’s running game remained relatively quiet. After the offensive line went in the locker room at halftime and retooled, their performance turned around quickly.
With their first SEC game against Mississippi State on Saturday, the offensive line hopes to be prepared right out of the gate instead of turning on in the second half.
“We all have things to improve on,” Alexander said. “As veterans, we know what we need to get better at. Me, [senior] La’el [Collins], [junior] Hoko [Fanaika], [senior] Evan [Washington], we all know that we need to improve this week coming into a divisional opponent.“
Duke Riley shines in his first start
Sophomore linebacker Duke Riley made the most of the first start of his LSU career. Riley led the stingy Tigers defense with eight tackles and looked comfortable in the 31-0 shutout.
“It was a blessing to get out there and show everybody what I’m made of,” Riley said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life. As a kid, all I wanted to do was play for the Tigers and start for the Tigers.”
As a freshman, Riley played in all 13 games but registered only seven tackles throughout the season. So far this season, Riley has racked up 10 total tackles and is an example of the depth LSU coach Les Miles is looking for at the linebacker position.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Miles said. “He’s comfortable in the position, and he’s talented. I think you could see him taking more snaps.”
You can reach Michael Haarala on Twitter @haarala_TDR.