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Insider

Fresh legs a selling point for LSU RBs

8/21/2012

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Alfred Blue is in a struggle among six talented tailbacks to be one of the two Les Miles wants to carry the load when LSU opens its season against North Texas on Sept. 1.

After featuring four backs, all of whom return, last season, Miles has said during August camp that he wants that pared to two primary backs to start the season. Adjustments will be made as the year goes on and backs get banged up and others offer fresh legs.

Being in that top two for the season opener guarantees nothing going forward. A bad game or a minor injury can put an LSU back on the sideline. A season ago, the Tigers had four running backs who accumulated at least 62 carries in 14 games in Miles' by-committee approach.

So, Blue was asked Monday, why are so many good backs willing to go to a program where playing time can be so fickle?

"It helps you out," Blue said, "because your body is not too much beat down. For example, Arian Foster, when he was at Tennessee, he carried that load for a long time, then he went to the NFL as a free agent because his body was so beat up."

Foster, now a star with the Houston Texans, had 245 carries as a junior for the Volunteers and had 650 career collegiate carries. In 2011, Spencer Ware's 177 carries were the most by any Tiger.

The sell is based, at least in part, on the bottom line. LSU recruits backs with pro aspirations and, to them, not being overused might be the difference between getting a bigger initial pro contract as a drafted back or being a free agent. Or, it could mean more years in the league.

"It really helps you out if you have an expectation of going to the league," Blue said.

What if Blue, who led LSU in rushing in its last scrimmage, doesn't get into the early two-back rotation?

"You just stay humble," said Blue, a junior who was third on the team with 539 yards on 77 carries last season. "You just do special teams and whatever they ask and do your best. You just wait for your opportunity to be called."

In LSU's running-back-by-committee, that chance will come sooner or later.

School Days: The fall semester started Monday at LSU and it was very different from last fall for quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

A year ago, he was able to go to classes relatively undisturbed. Not Monday.

"Nobody wants to talk to the third stringer," Mettenberger explained. "Now I'm the starter."

On Monday, he said he was greeted everywhere he went. He had no crazy encounters to report -- just a lot of "Go Tigers," he said -- but he said it did become redundant.

"I could have done without all the extra attention," Mettenberger said. "But it comes with it."

Reiding the defense: With freshmen competing at the cornerback spot left vacant by the departure of Tyrann Mathieu, junior free safety Eric Reid feels even more responsibility in "quarterbacking" the Tigers secondary.

"It's a little harder this year because we are so young in the secondary," said Reid, a returning starter who is on a lot of preseason All-Americans teams. "I'm trying to help out and teach those guys in more of a teaching role. I'm making sure they are in the right spot, in position and things like that.

"I was in that position when I was a freshman and Brandon Taylor was showing me the ropes."

Redshirt freshman Jalen Collins is competing with true freshman Jalen Mills at the cornerback spot previously manned by Mathieu. Sophomore Ronald Martin, who played sparingly as a true freshman, has been getting reps with the first team at strong safety while junior Craig Loston has been nursing an injury.

"They are coming along nicely," Reid said of the young DBs. "(Defensive back coach Corey Raymond) is doing an awesome job of getting them ahead of the curve for freshmen. I wasn't this far into the playbook when I got here, so they're going to be all right."