Before the 2021 season, did anyone believe that through five games that LSU would average a paltry 70.6 yards rushing per game? How about 2.6 yards per carry? Does being ranked No. 128 out of 130 teams at the FBS level further bewilder anyone?
This is LSU. Those numbers should not happen in Baton Rouge. Not this season, not ever. LSU is a proud program and one that’s been able to assemble some of the best talent in the SEC. What in the world is going on?
There’s something amiss about the LSU rushing game this season. Unlike last year when there was a revolving door at quarterback and teams could key the run with true freshman Max Johnson in the lineup for much of the season, this year’s team holds a totally different perspective on offense.
Johnson is back and he’s passing the football well despite being under duress more often than he should be. Then there’s Kayshon Boutte, the sophomore wide receiver that’s dominating against every wide receiver he plays against. Boutte recorded nine receiving touchdowns already in 2021, and that’s without the help of a rushing attack that would allow Johnson to better use play-action passing.
Still, with the passing game doing well the Tigers regressed with their running game. What gives?
Coaching Moves and Recruiting Rankings
Here are the facts. The running game moves through the offensive line. With that, now former LSU Offensive Line Coach James Cregg was let go during the early portion of June, and in came now LSU Offensive Line Coach Brad Davis. He was at Arkansas in 2020, Missouri in 2018-2019, and with Florida in 2017. He’s been around the SEC; been around all the talent and he apparently knows the game of football.
Then there’s the talent in LSU’s backfield itself. LSU’s running back depth chart is loaded with talent (as usual). Here’s the running back depth chart released at the beginning of the 2021 season. Look at the rankings from LSU’s current depth chart, as reported by 247 sports.
(the number represents 247’s national rank for that player)
Tyrion Davis-Price, Junior (139 - class of 2019)
*John Emery, Junior (13 - class of 2019)
Corey Kiner, Freshman (160 - class of 2021)
Armoni Goodwin, Freshman (95 - class of 2021)
*Currently sitting out due to academics
This list provides definitive evidence that talent does not hold LSU’s running game back. There’s also the obvious production from the passing game that currently averages 303 yards passing per game.
Despite all the talent and all the help from the passing game, something is really wrong in Baton Rouge. A look at the offensive line.
This is a massive unit, and it’s one that’s been a part of the LSU program. It’s not like there are several freshman and junior college starters all attempting to mesh together. LSU offensive tackle Austin Deculus continues to start for LSU in what has become his fifth season in Baton Rouge. The other four offensive line starters all started for the Tigers prior to the 2021 season.
There’s size, athleticism, and the aforementioned experience. How could players that helped LSU run the football well in 2019 and during a few games in 2020 suddenly just not be able to open running lanes?
Not having John Emery eligible for academic purposes has also really hurt this group, especially considering the buzz out of fall camp around his improved play.
The Tigers have been stonewalled for much of the 2021 season and it’s not even debatable. Here are the results for the Tigers’ rushing game after looking at the players and coaches:
2021 LSU Rushing Statistics
For starters, not a single LSU running back surpassed 100 yards during a game this season. Not one. Look at that list above again. How in the world is that possible? Here are the rushing statistics for the running backs.
Corey Kiner, 32 carries, 165 yards, 5.2 average, two touchdowns
Tyrion Davis-Price, 45 carries, 140 yards, 3.1 average, zero touchdowns
Armoni Goodwin, seven carries, 38 yards, 5.4 average, zero touchdowns
Josh Williams, eight carries, 36 yards, 4.5 average, zero touchdowns
A few more notes from the above statistics. In totality, the LSU running backs carried the football 92 times in five games. From those carries, only two ended up being touchdowns, both by Kiner.
From the LSU running backs, the highest single-game rushing total would be Kiner’s 12 carries for 74 yards and one touchdown against Central Michigan.
When the Tigers faced Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., the combination of Davis- Price (51 yards), Kiner (14 yards), and Goodwin (11 yards) generated just 76 rushing yards. Against Auburn, the rushing attack proved to be far worse.
Kiner (22 yards), Davis-Price (18), Goodwin (4) and Davis (2) combined for just 46 rushing yards. As one can see, the LSU rushing attack is just pitiful right now. But why?
This is not a matter of talent. The recruiting classes proved that fact by way of four really good running backs starting out the season, and even with Emery not available, LSU is one of the most talented running back groups in the country.
The offensive line brought in several massive and athletic players over the last five years. There’s plenty of talent there as well.
Yes, LSU played a challenging schedule to date, but that’s the case during every LSU Football season. The Tigers have always been known to play very tough out-of-conference schedules and of course go through the gauntlet of the SEC West. That leaves one area in question.
It is what it is. There’s something amiss here, and it starts with coaching. Sure, the LSU players need to be culpable as well, but this is a coaching issue. The Tigers are bringing in loads of talent, yet rank No. 128 in rushing in the country. Something must give, and it likely will after the conclusion of the 2021 season.