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LSU-Bama Preview: LSU's RB Riches
RB Spencer Ware
RB Spencer Ware
Posted Nov 2, 2011

Do you pick the team with one superstar running back who will feel the brunt of all those hits and carries in the fourth quarter, or the team that can rotate in a stable of 5 star tailbacks and continue with a fresh, proven ground-and-pound game plan?

By Evan Davis Jr.

The running game will be the main focal point when the LSU Tigers clash with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Bama’s own dynamo, Trent Richardson has been hogging the headlines, but LSU boasts a veritable stable of quality tailbacks.

Sophomores Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, and Alfred Blue, along with true freshmen Kenny Hilliard and Terrance McGee, form a formidable punch for the Tigers as they pound and finesse defenses to the tune of 189 rushing yards per game.

The Tigers are quite formidable as a straight-up, smash you in the mouth rushing attack, but where the really surprise teams is with their versatile personnel combinations and incredible depth. Three backs have 57 or more carries, and as a unit average 4.6 yards per carry (including the true freshman) with at least one touchdown each.

Ware is a violent runner built in the mold of Richardson (literally the exact same size/weight/speed), and leads this LSU backfield. He has the size to shoulder the majority of the load; this big, bruising back loves contact, as he regularly bowls over defenders. His tough inside running is utilized early and often, as he slowly pounds and weakens the interior defense. No matter how strong they may be, no Bama defender is looking forward to tackling him in the fourth quarter.

Ware is clearly the best athlete of the group. Extremely versatile, he’s able to catch out of the backfield, even from the fullback position, and his days as high school quarterback whispers Wildcat capabilities (remember that). Although he has not recorded a pass attempt this season, he already has one touchdown pass in the state of Alabama (Auburn 2010). The Wildcat formation may be yet another aspect of this RB unit that the LSU coaches will use to “surprise” the Crimson Tide.

Even given Ware’s penchant for trucking defenders, Ford might be stronger. Should Ware go down, the 5-10, 215 pound Ford comes equipped with big, thick legs that give him explosive agility to get in and out of cuts and acceleration to sprint off-tackle. Ford also has a great nose for the endzone, as he averages a touchdown every 12 carries.

Alfred Blue also gets notable carries (57); it’s his speed that is his not-so-secret weapon. Watch for Blue on misdirection plays and for a change of pace.

Pound-for-pound the Tigers’ strongest running back is true freshman Kenny Hilliard. The LSU legacy (he’s the nephew of LSU and New Orleans Saints great Dalton Hilliard) stands 5-11, 240 pounds and runs in the mold of Auburn’s Rudi Johnson – only 15 pounds heavier. He had his breakout game two weeks ago vs. those Auburn Tigers, and his pounding, between the tackles running turned many heads. He will likely see some action on Saturday.

Suffice to say LSU’s running game will be fresh come the fourth quarter.

Ware, Ford, Blue and company are not basking in all the media attention/glory because as a tandem, they have fewer flashy numbers that sportswriters and critics salivate over. The huge advantage is this: LSU will rotate in big, strong and fresh legs so often that the Bama defense will have be prepare to face great, rested talent on every down.

Oh yeah – nearly forgot. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson and wide receiver Russell Shepard fit into the rushing attack as well. Since returning to the team following a four game suspension, Jefferson has produced largely on the ground. He was second leading rusher in Knoxville behind Ware (73 vs. 80 yards), and has two touchdowns rushing (and two passing). Given the Tigers’ crowded backfield, Shepard has received less carries this year than his first two, but the speedster still averages ~6.5 yards per carry, as he has throughout his career in Red Stick.

The change of pace from boxer to sprinter and the myriad of combinations will have the Bama defense guessing…and one bad defensive call will mean a big play.

Too many linebackers on the field? Blue blazes by you on a toss. In a dime package? Ware pounds you up the gut.

Then comes the Tigers’ best weapon all season: the Play Action Pass.

This game will be the test of running back wills. Do you pick the team with one superstar running back who will feel the brunt of all those hits and carries in the fourth quarter, or the team that can rotate in a stable of 5 star tailbacks and continue with a fresh, proven ground-and-pound game plan?

Advantage: LSU.

Follow Evan on Twitter @edjsports

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