Dating back to Kevin Faulk’s time in Baton Rouge, LSU has produced seven First-Team All-SEC running backs. That number does not include familiar names like Joe Addai, Justin Vincent, Jacob Hester and Spencer Ware. There have been 16 LSU running backs on NFL rosters in that same timeframe.
To put it simply, LSU has rarely had a problem finding a fast, athletic back – or several of them –to run the football.
Which is precisely why the challenge of finding a bell cow back in Baton Rouge this season is an unusual one. Still, that’s where Ed Orgeron finds himself heading into the 2018 season with Derrius Guice and Darrell Williams gone to the NFL and a returning group of backs that had 29 rushing attempts combined in 2017.
At 5-feet-8, 210-pounds, sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire may not look like Leonard Fournette or Guice, but he is likely to emerge as the pace car of the LSU offense. When he arrived on campus, Edwards-Helaire seemed destined for a redshirt year behind Guice and Williams, but his track star speed and make-you-miss ability earned him a spot as LSU’s kick returner as a true freshman.
Orgeron described him as the “surprise of camp” in 2017.
While he never established a consistent role within Matt Canada’s offense, he flashed his potential with a dazzling 27-yard catch-and-run in the regular season finale against Texas A&M and carried that momentum into spring. Despite battling injuries, Edwards-Helaire was the leading rusher during the spring game with 74 yards on 14 carries and is considered the favorite to win the starting job in the fall.
Orgeron and new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have insisted they want to implement a balanced attack. When he was introduced in his new role, Ensminger said plainly, “our strength is wide receivers.”
With a stable of pass catchers and Ohio State quarterback transfer Joe Burrow in tow, LSU’s pass game should be in capable hands. It’s the running game that will need a star to emerge.
Uncertainty in the backfield is something LSU has not faced in more than two decades. The first crack to carry on that legacy will likely fall upon the shoulders of Clyde “The Glide.”
(You can follow Matt Moscona on Twitter @MattMoscona)
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