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2014 position preview: Running backs

The lack of a running back in LSU's 2013 recruiting class signals two obvious situations. First, as has been repeated plenty, the Tigers are absolutely loaded at the position with five quality players, none of whom are seniors. Second, it creates a pretty big need for a ball carrier -- more likely two -- in the 2014 class, as three of those five scholarship backs are guaranteed to leave after the 2013 season, if not sooner.

The emergence of true freshman Jeremy Hill gives plenty of hope for the future of the position. But any of the trio of Alfred Blue, Michael Ford or Spencer Ware could depart at this season's end. And even if not, all three will graduate after next season. So the time is now to restock the stable, and 2014 looks like a good class to do so.

TARGETS

RB Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine): All conversations about the position start and stop with Fournette, and deservedly so. The 6-foot-1, 232-pound prospect is a member of the ESPN Watch List for 2014; he's slated to be one of Louisiana's best recruits for next year, if not one of the top players in the nation. Perhaps even more important is his ties to New Orleans, which is the expertise of LSU recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson. The focus on Fournette is already apparent, as LSU has been sure to get him up to Baton Rouge for recent recruiting camps, as well as this season's big games against South Carolina and Alabama.

RB Dalvin Cooke (Miami/Miami Central): Cooke committed to Clemson back during the summer, although that's obviously not set in stone at this early stage of the recruiting cycle. LSU is one of eight programs that has already offered the 5-foot-11 junior and ESPN Watch List member a scholarship. Out-of-state recruiting tends to take precedence in the early stages of recruiting, so the Tigers are bound to keep an eye on Cooke until later in the game.

RB Racean Thomas (Oxford, Ala./Oxford): Another highly regarded out-of-state recruit, though Thomas remains uncommitted to this point. It isn't for lack of interest, as LSU is just one of 10 or so offers, along with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Southern Cal. Thomas went to the same high school as current LSU freshman linebacker Kwon Alexander -- not that that says anything important. The Crimson Tide are the favorites here.

RB Devon Thomas (Broken Arrow, Okla./Broken Arrow): Thomas doesn't have an LSU offer as of yet, and he's based out of Oklahoma. But in what has become a familiar story for LSU fans, Thomas' family was displaced from Slidell, La., by Hurricane Katrina. So he's got Louisiana ties despite the far-off address. The junior holds offers from both home-state programs, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, if there was any question about his abilities. Thomas missed the first month of his junior season -- it will be interesting to see how that affects his recruitment.

RB Sione Palelei (Gonzales, La./East Ascension): A more under-the-radar name. Palelei's 5-foot-8 frame doesn't lend itself well to the LSU brand of football, but there's no denying the junior's ability. He only holds offers from BYU and Utah, but Palelei has worked out at LSU recruiting camps, and he took visits to the Tigers' games against South Carolina and Alabama. The change of pace back could work his way to an LSU offer, but that's still a way down the road.