From Billy Cannon to Kevin Faulk, Leonard Fournette and Jacob Hester, LSU's history at the running back position is fruitful. Gone are the days of handing the ball off 30 times and pounding opposing defenses to the ground.
Instead, college football in the SEC and particularly at LSU is all about the pass which means you need versatile running backs. With two veteran pieces and a pair of freshmen talent, LSU has a wide enough skillset between its main four running backs to be extremely exciting in 2021. Here's a look at what the Tigers have to work with at the running back spot.
Projected Starter: John Emery
This is a monumental offseason for Emery and his counter part Tyrion Davis-Price. Nothing is likely to change in terms of giving multiple carries to both veterans as neither has really established himself as a lead back like Clyde Edwards-Helaire did in 2019.
But for argument's sake, we'll go with Emery as being the guy who trots out for the opening series week one against UCLA. He's the former five-star recruit who came in with extremely high expectations. He had moments of brilliance during the 2020 season where he'd put a good game together.
Emery rushed for 103 yards against Vanderbilt, 88 yards against South Carolina and 79 yards against Alabama but outside of those three games, he couldn't put together consistent enough performances to earn that full time starting job.
“That’s the John Emery we recruited,” coach Ed Orgeron said after his performance against Vanderbilt. “It took a little while. It’s just like any other freshman. Everyone grows at their own pace. John is a terrific young man, a confident young man, hard-working. He’s gotten bigger and stronger in the weight room. He knows his plays. He hangs onto the football, and he’s very eager.”
This offseason will be extremely important for him and Davis-Price to prove they can lead this offense and with a new staff in place, being able to catch out of the backfield will prove to be an added bonus in Emery's favor. Improving his decision making at the line of scrimmage will go a long way to him breaking out as a junior for the Tigers this season.
Depth Chart: Tyrion Davis-Price (junior), Corey Kiner (freshman), Armoni Goodwin (freshman), Kevontre Bradford (sophomore)
As we've said, this will be an open competition as four running backs should be given opportunities to thrive in this offense during spring ball and the offseason. Like Emery, Davis-Price had some big moments during his sophomore season but didn't do enough to earn every snap kind of duties.
South Carolina, Arkansas and Florida were his big games during the 2020 campaign but Davis-Price also proved to be a viable complementary piece as a true freshman during the 2019 national championship season.
The real interesting dilemma that will be presented is what happens when the two freshmen running backs arrive on campus. Both Corey Kiner and Armoni Goodwin are electric athletes in their own rights and could very well push the two veterans for playing time.
A powerful runner that can make defenders miss or power through arm tackles, Kiner is not mentioned enough as a top LSU recruit. Kiner has a stout, sturdy frame that will allow him to take on linebackers as well as be an asset in the pass blocking game. Just watching his film, it's eerily similar to what Edwards-Helaire looked like while in Baton Rouge and was one of the premier players in the entire state of Ohio.
After getting off to an historic start to his senior season that included 781 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns through only three games, Kiner told LSUCountry that he didn't think he was off to that great a start.
"I feel like I'm playing alright," Kiner said. "I got to game one and two and started feeling a little sluggish and then last night, I still wasn't making my cuts at full speed like I need to so it just takes a little time."
An SI99 prospect, Goodwin's explosive, possesses great speed, and can be moved around to the slot and would be great in the screen game as well because of his electric speed. A late addition to the 2021 class, Goodwin is the kind of difference maker that out in space, could really be a game changer for the Tigers.
This is a versatile group that the coaching staff won't really know what it has until the two freshmen get on campus this summer. It's a prime opportunity for Emery and Davis-Price to be in good standing with the staff during spring ball, which is important for the two veterans.