LSU Freshmen Running Backs Figure to Be Important Part of 2021 Offense

Corey Kiner, Armoni Goodwin will push John Emery, Tyrion Davis-Price for snaps this offseason
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LSU signed two fantastic running backs within the class of 2021. Will one or both of them work into the rotation this fall?

LSU’s rushing attack was truly inconsistent this past season. The Tigers averaged a mere 121.7 yards per game rushing. Even worse, the top running back was then sophomore running back Tyrion Davis-Price with only 446 yards and only three touchdowns for the year. What can LSU do to spice up the running game?

One possibility will be the two incoming freshmen making an impact. Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin are both tremendous prospects, albeit with different skill sets. Here’s a look at Kiner’s senior film.

A powerful runner that can make defenders miss or power through arm tackles, Kiner is not mentioned enough as a top LSU recruit. The Cincinnati (Ohio) Roger Bacon prospect is a compact 5-foot-10, 210-pounds.

With college size already in tow, Kiner possesses the potential to come in and earn carries from the coaching staff. It’s not his running that’s most important, however, as Kiner’s size also presents an additional situation for the Tigers.

The long standing issue with freshman running backs is the same today as it was thirty years ago. As a rule, freshman running backs are awful in pass protection. No way around it, college coaches cannot watch a running back, no matter how talented with the ball in his hands, whiff on blocks and watch the signal caller get smashed by 250-pound outside linebackers on a blitz. That’s a no-no.

From the get-go, Kiner has a stout, sturdy frame that will allow him to take on linebackers. Now, he’s not going to manhandle senior linebackers in the SEC. Let’s be honest; it’s just that Kiner can hold his own.

Will Kiner adapt to the pass protection scheme and the techniques taught to him by the LSU staff? Let’s sit tight on that for a moment and move to the other incoming running back.

If you want explosiveness in a running back, here’s a player to watch. This is not your average high school running back.

Explosive, exciting, and one of the most dynamic recruits in the land, that’s Armoni Goodwin. A complement to Kiner, he’s a darter and a sprinter. How LSU might use Goodwin will truly be different depending on the opponent.

For instance, instead of leaving Goodwin in the backfield, LSU could leave Davis-Price in to block and place Goodwin in the slot, or motion him out of the backfield. Either way, the objective is to place him in single coverage with a linebacker. That’s a complete mismatch.

Another possibility is using Goodwin in the backfield with another running back. The screen game comes into play, as well as read option and running wheel routes out of the backfield.

LSU is blessed with a truly dynamic set of running backs to add to the fold. Will each of them play? Here are some key questions to ask first, then the bigger picture can be decided.

  1. Which of the two running backs learns how to pick up blitzes? This is always a major concern. Until fall camp, nothing will really be known.
  2. Which player creates “chunk” plays during fall camp? These are 15-plus yard runs or receptions.
  3. Grasping the playbook. Some freshmen simply fail to understand the complexity of a college playbook. Let’s see how that goes.
  4. Who can go all the way through fall camp without completely hitting a wall? Especially with COVID-19, the running back that comes into fall camp in great shape will be the more likely freshman to play early.

For a prediction, Goodwin might seem like the more likely candidate to play early. He’s explosive, possesses great speed, and can be moved around. From a traditional standpoint, Kiner is the pure running back. He’s also more stout.

Look for Kiner to be in the backfield more than Goodwin, albeit Goodwin could be moved around quite a bit to create mismatches with linebackers. Bottom line, LSU should find a way to play both freshmen running backs.