With numerous SEC running backs drawing respect and praise this season, the preseason favorite to be the league’s best back has seemed to take a, well, back seat in the conversation. And now with NFL draft coverage beginning, LSU’s Derrius Guice still is not getting the respect he deserves.
Guice burst onto the scene in 2016 as a sophomore, during Leonard Fournette’s injury-filled final season with LSU. With Fournette battling injuries, Guice became the starter and his play was fantastic — so much so that many hot-take artists proclaimed that he could, in fact, be better than Fournette. It is interesting to see where this opinion scurried off to the past few months.
With Georgia’s success, many fans and media members have lauded Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson garnered attention for his accolade-filled season. Bo Scarbrough of Alabama gained chatter due to winning the National Championship. Even Kentucky’s Benny Snell has generated talk as an underclassman.
But Guice has more ability than any back in the SEC.
Guice is a Baton Rouge native. In 2015, as a true freshman, he had 51 carries for 436 yards and three touchdowns. In 2016, he stepped in for Fournette and rushed 183 times for 1,387 yards and 15 scores. His past season, he gained 1,251 yards on 237 carries.
Guice was a production machine whenever he touched the football. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry for an offense that had no passing threat — and against some of the best run defenses in the country. Though college stats and production don’t automatically translate to NFL success, he’s still had a tremendous career at LSU.
Because of LSU’s ineffective passing offense, Guice was the centerpiece of the Tigers’ offense. The team used him in different ways, showing how versatile he can be at the next level.
Here, he’s used as a gadget guy, set to have a preset motion that results in a jet sweep. He shows his patience with attacking the edge, and his balance is perfect as he turns the corner to start his run downfield.
Guice was the lone back in several single-back sets. Here he shows his vision following what looks to be a simple zone-blocking scheme. All of his offensive linemen block left. He follows them and works to the left until he sees the hole and explodes through it.
The great backs do the little things well and they often go unnoticed. Guice has a willingness to pass-block. NFL teams will see this as a reason to keep him on the field for all three downs, an obvious boost to his draft value.
On this play, LSU keeps a tight end in to block on the left side. But he gets beaten off the edge, and Guice shows his strength and ability to pick up the block.
Guice also can catch out of the backfield and stretch defenses. Though he was not used a lot in the passing game — 31 career catches — he has the necessary skill set.
This is not a flashy play by any means, but watch the end of the play. Look how many Alabama defenders it takes to bring him down. Guice shows a level of strength that is rare in a shifty back.
Lastly, Guice shows his strength by consistently falling forward to capitalize his runs against tough competition when there is not a lot of space.
Guice shows more upside and ability than all but one back the in the 2018 NFL draft class, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. His speed, vision, strength and attention to detail are things NFL teams covet. While it is always tricky to predict when running backs will be drafted, Guice has the traits of a first-round back.
At 5 feet 11 and 218 pounds, Guice measures similarly with LeSean McCoy, who is listed at 5-11 and 210 pounds. Both are strong for their size and able to excel at multiple things.
(You can follow Zac Blackerby on Twitter @Zblackerby)
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