Kenny Hilliard

Report: LSU loses RB Kenny Hilliard for rest of regular season

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Unfortunately for LSU they appear to have lost one of the most productive members of its backfield.  Fortunately for the Tigers, the loss comes at a position very deep in talent.

While the school has yet to confirm it, the Associated Press is reporting that Kenny Hilliard will not play again in the regular season due to injury.  The senior sustained a shoulder injury in the loss to Alabama last Saturday.

If the report comes to fruition, Hilliard would miss this weekend’s game against Arkansas and the regular-season finale against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving.

On his Twitter account, Hilliard seemed to indicate that he would indeed be sidelined for Saturday’s game.

In confirming the AP story, the New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting that Hilliard could return for the Tigers’ bowl game.  The back’s postseason availability won’t be determined for at least another couple of weeks.

Hilliard’s 431 yards are currently third on the team.  His six rushing touchdowns are second.

Florida using everything but Jeff Driskel’s arm to lead LSU 17-14 at the half

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Florida is attempting to beat LSU while using Jeff Driskel as a running back who sometimes throws and not the other way around, so far its working.

Driskel has completed six of his 10 passes for 44 yards with an interception, but has rushed 12 times for 59 yards and a nine-yard touchdown through one half as the Gators lead the Bayou Bengals 17-14 at the half.

Neither of these teams are known for their ability through the air and so far they’ve lived up to the, uh, hype. Sophomore Anthony Jennings has played the entire half and made Driskel look like Danny Wuerffel, hitting two of his seven passes for 13 yards.

Freshman Leonard Fournette has led the way for LSU with 14 carries for 85 yards and a 12-yard touchdown dash. The rest of the LSU offense has 55 yards combined.

For Florida, the combination of Driskel and Andre Debose have been the entirety of the offense. Debose opened the scoring with a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown to open the scoring with 8:52 to play in the first quarter.

Florida had a 17-7 lead until Kenny Hilliard punched in a one-yard score with 4:16 to go in the second quarter.

These clubs have posted 16 combined first downs and converted four of 14 third downs with 289 yards of total offense.

LSU will receive the ball to open the second half.

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 13 LSU

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2013 record: 10-3 overall, 5-3 in SEC (third in SEC West)
2013 postseason: Outback Bowl vs. Iowa (21-14 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 14/14
Head coach: Les Miles (123-45 overall; 95-24 in nine years at LSU)
Offensive coordinator: Cam Cameron (second season)
2013 offensive rankings: 29th rushing offense (202.3 ypg); 44th passing offense (251 ypg); 35th total offense (453.3 ypg); 23rd scoring offense (35.8 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: six
Defensive coordinator: John Chavis (sixth season)
2013 defensive rankings: 35th rushing defense (143.2 ypg); 13th passing defense (197.5 ypg);  15th total defense (340.7 ypg); 21st scoring defense (22 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: seven
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Stadium: Tiger Stadium (102,321; grass)
Last conference title: 2011

THE GOOD
The good when it comes to the LSU Tigers is usually the following: powerful running game and dominating defense.  2014 is not expected to be any different.  Sure, the Tigers lost their leading and No. 3 rushers, but Nos. 2 and 4 — Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard — return.  Oh, and there’s the addition of one of the most touted running back prospects in a decade or more, 2014 five-star signee Leonard Fournette — he could immediately make anyone and everyone say “Jeremy Hill who?” given the immense talent he possesses.  Among the returning starters are four offensive linemen, three of them seniors, which bodes well for both the revamped running game and whoever the new starter under center will be.  The defense returns seven starters from a group that finished inside the Top 20 in total defense and just outside the Top 20 in the most important statistical category: scoring defense.  LSU has won 10 or more games in seven of Miles’ nine years in Baton Rouge, including each of the last four seasons; given the amount of returning talent and the deep recruiting classes brought in year after year — all but two of those classes in the Top 10, none outside the Top 18 — don’t expect that win total to dip below double-digits in 2014.

THE BAD
As is ofttimes the case with the Tigers, it’s the departures, early and otherwise, that constitute a negative.  On offense, LSU lost its starting quarterback, top two wide receivers and nearly 1,800 rushing yards.  Defensively, the Tigers must replace its top two defensive tackles, although they grow athletic, dominant tackles on trees down on the bayou.  All of the departures, especially offensively, could make for choppy, uneven play early on; fortunately, after the opener against Wisconsin in Houston, LSU has a four-game stretch that consists of three games — Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State — that are essentially scrimmages that actually count.  The first conference tilt comes in the fourth game against Mississippi State (Sept.20); the first true conference test comes two weeks later against Auburn, which gives Les Miles and his coaching staff what they hope will be plenty of time to work out the kinks.

THE UNKNOWN
As is the case up and down the SEC, the quarterback position is a big unknown.  With Zach Mettenberger‘s departure, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris — not necessarily in that order — will battle to take over as the starter.  While Jennings has the edge in experience — he served as Mettenberger’s primary backup in 2013 —  Harris came out of spring practice looking as the slight leader in the eyes of some observers.  Regardless of which player wins the job, LSU will, as it always does, rely heavily on a force-of-nature running game and ask its quarterback to be a mistake-free(ish) game manager.  Can either, though, come up big in the passing game when the need inevitably arises?  That question can’t and won’t be answered for several weeks on down the road.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Auburn, Oct. 4
Given how the series has played out over the last few years — and how important it’s been in both the conference race and national chase — I was extremely tempted to go with the Alabama game Nov. 8.  Instead, I’ll go with the road trip to Jordan-Hare a month earlier.  After all, The Plains Tigers are the defending SEC champions and BCS runner-ups, making them the first measuring stick (sorry, Badgers) for just where the Bayou Bengals are as a team.  With the two Tiger teams and the Tide all coming off a season in which they won 10 or more games — and with Texas A&M expected to dip a bit given the offensive departures and defensive attrition — most expect the SEC West to come down to, essentially, a three-team round-robin tournament.  The first of the three all-important games is LSU-AU; how that game plays out could go a long way in determining the division’s rep in the SEC title game.  Then again, Auburn lost to LSU last year and still stood atop the league at season’s end, so…

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: running back Leonard Fournette
The past two Heismans were won by a redshirt freshman for the first two times in the history of the award.  Could a true freshman ever break through that stiff-armed ceiling?  It seems doubtful, but Fournette certainly looks the part.  Fournette is a highly-touted five-star member of LSU’s most recent recruiting class, rated as the top running back in that class; the No. 1 player in the state of Louisiana; and the No. 4 player at any position in the country.  He’s a mountain of a man-child already at 6-1, 230 pounds, yet he’s one of the fastest players on the Tigers team.  His ability is off the charts; whether that ability translates into immediate on-field results is unknown, but don’t be surprised if he’s not at least on the periphery of the Heisman discussion at some point this season.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Each LSU RB will get ‘fair share of carries’

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LSU running back Terrence Magee could be bitter. As a senior, this should be his season to shine as the feature runner in the Tigers’ offense. Yet, freshman Leonard Fournette is the running back generating all the buzz around the program.

Magee may not be the team’s starter this season, but he sees the value of having a strong stable of running backs.

“It’s always been running back-by-committee at LSU,” Magee told ESPN.com’s Alex Scarborough. “Everyone is going to get their fair share of carries. But at the same time, everyone in our backfield are team-oriented guys. Whatever is in the best interest of the team, that’s what I’m willing to do. If that means me taking 15 carries or taking five carries, then I’m for it.”

Magee actually fed the hype machine which surrounds Fournette by comparing the nation’s No. 1 running back recruit to former Oklahoma great Adrian Peterson.

“I honestly don’t think I’m putting too much on him,” Magee said. “I truly feel that he can do it. He’s proven himself in high school, and in a few more weeks everyone will get to see what he can do on the college level.”

While Fournette isn’t guaranteed to start this season, the freshman is expected to become the primary ball carrier. With that said — Magee and fellow senior Kenny Hilliard were able to rush for a combined 936 yards last season behind Jeremy Hill. Each back was given a handful of carries each game, and they can expect the same this season.

“I think that’s an advantage,” LSU head coach Les Miles said. “If you look at Terrence Magee, we’ve gotten them tired. There have been times when he just busted a big run, took significant contact. Kenny Hilliard had just played. In fact, we will need those guys that have fresh legs. I think you can always kind of count on that from us.”

Leonard Fournette isn’t guaranteed a starting spot with LSU

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LSU running back Leonard Fournette is supposed to be college football’s next big thing. Despite the hype that comes along with being the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation, Fournette isn’t even guaranteed to start for the Tigers this season.

Seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee aren’t simply going to hand Fournette the starting spot. And the two veterans are making it hard on LSU’s coaching staff.

The assumption is Fournette will be the opening-day starter at running back, but the decision has yet to be made.

“I don’t know that right now,” LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson said in an radio interview on ESPN 104.5 in Baton Rouge. “We’ll see. We’ll see.”

LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron doesn’t seem to have a preference which back eventually becomes the team’s starter. Cameron is happy with the depth he has at the position.

“This is how Cam calls it. He says, ‘We have our first starter, our second starter, our third starter, and our fourth starter. Just rotate them in.’”

Last season, Magee and Hilliard combine to rush for 936 yards, despite playing behind the ultra-productive Jeremy Hill.

It may actually take some time before Fournette earns the trust of the coaching staff and his teammates.

“He’s a freshman tailback for us who we see as a freshman tailback for us,” Wilson said. “He can’t control the media hype. He’s extremely humble and works extremely hard.”

Once Fournette gets on the field, he’s expected to make a major impact. LSU will benefit from the most talented stable of running backs in college football, whether Fournette becomes the starter or not.

(Hat tip: CoachingSearch.com)