LSU Football: Weighing Pros and Cons of Les Miles Using Several RBs in 2012
Which team has the best backfield in the country heading into the 2012 college football season?
That's right, you guessed it.
The LSU Tigers have not one, not two, not even three, but four dominant running backs that could start for just about any other team in the nation. This backfield is loaded with talent and gives LSU head coach Les Miles plenty of options to choose from.
But is it possible that might not be such a good thing? How does Miles go about sharing the love with four starter-worthy running backs on this year's roster?
Let's go ahead and break down the pros and cons of Les Miles using several running backs in 2012.
Bleacher Report Style!
Pro: Well Rested
The problem with having just one reliable running back on a team is that he will often get worn down throughout a game.
In this day and age, it seems like every team in both college and professional football seem to be implementing two-back systems into their offense. It is extremely rare to see a guy carry the ball 30-plus times in a game now.
LSU has the luxury of using a four-back rotation, which allows all of these backs to remain rested and ready to go when their name is called on to enter the game.
If you take a look back to last season, Spencer Ware was the only back to reach more than 130 carries, but all four of the tailbacks carried the ball at least 60-plus times as well.
This is great balance and something that will allow Les Miles to have a pair of fresh legs in his backfield at all times throughout the game.
Con: No Game Flow
It is always nice to get some rest for your running backs, but the issue with that is that it is really hard to get any type of game flow if you are sending running backs in and out of the game all the time.
Spencer Ware had 177 carries last season, which was by far the most of any back on this LSU roster. But still, he only had one game last season (the opener against Oregon) where he recorded more than 25 carries. He also had six games where he recorded single-digit carries.
The idea of bringing in a running back for one or two carries and then immediately taking him out is not settling. It doesn't allow that player to get a feel for the game or become comfortable carrying the ball.
It's tough to imagine having four great backs ever being an issue, but this could be one right here.
Pro: Different Styles
Having four running backs that all deserve playing time could be an issue if they all had similar characteristics and style of play. But the beauty of this LSU backfield is that each running back has their own individual specialty.
Spencer Ware, who led the Tigers in carries in 2011, is the lead back of this group. He is the guy who is going to carry the load for this team while starting and most likely finishing the game. Ware is tough runner who uses his strength and speed combination to run between the tackles and pick up extra yardage after contact.
Michael Ford was the leading rusher on this team last season, totaling 756 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. He is the "do it all" back for this club who can run both inside and outside, as well as be a reliable receiver out of the backfield.
Alfred Blue is the home run hitter of this group. He has exceptional speed and big-play ability, averaging 6.9 yards-per-carry last season. Blue is also the best pass-catching halfback on this roster. When the Tigers need a big play out of the backfield, look for Miles to call on Blue to get the job done.
Kenny Hilliard is the big bulldozer in the backfield. At 5'11" 240 pounds, Hilliard is often called upon in short-yardage and goal line situations. He had a team-leading eight touchdowns last season, which is a number that should rise in 2012 now that he has a true feel for the game at the college level.
It can be tough with four worthy backs, but when they all have their own unique styles, this makes it a perfect situation for Les Miles and his LSU coaching staff heading into the 2012 season.
Con: Big Egos
Fortunately for Les Miles and his coaching staff, this has not become an issue at this point in time, at least not that we know of.
But with four talented running backs all vying for playing time, the "big ego" issue could turn into a big-time con.
Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard could all start for just about any other team in the nation. But all four have chosen to play together in Baton Rouge, and because of that, they are obviously not going to get as many carries as they would playing for another program.
This could have a negative effect on the team if one or several of the backs begin to complain about playing time. The hope here is that each back understands their given role on the team. If not, we could see some backlash on this decision to use all four in 2012.
Let's hope, for LSU's sake, that these backs are all able to keep their egos in check this season.
Pro: Avoid Injury
Heading into the 2011 season, Trent Richardson (Alabama), Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina), LaMichael James (Oregon) and Knile Davis (Arkansas) were expected to be the four top running backs in college football.
While Richardson finished the season as a Heisman finalist, Lattimore, James and Davis were all slowed by injuries throughout the year. In fact, Davis missed the entire season and Lattimore missed the entire second half of the season with a knee injury.
The point here is that "lead backs" who are looked upon to carry the ball 25-35 times per game are much more likely to get injured because of the constant grind they go through on a game-by-game basis.
With four capable running backs in LSU's backfield, the team won't have to worry about working their lead back so much that they could jeopardize his health. This is an ideal system to keep backs fresh, healthy and ready to go at all times.
Con: NFL Draft Stock
Most, if not every college football running back dreams of one day making it to the NFL.
In this case, it isn't rare to see an LSU running back make it at the next level. Former running backs Joseph Addai, Stevan Ridley and Jacob Hester are all recent examples of former LSU backs who have or look to be carving out a career in the NFL.
But those guys also didn't share their running duties with three other backs on a yearly basis. This four-back system was implemented last season when Hilliard was a freshman and the other three were all sophomores. With that said, this system could be in place for two more years, which means that Hilliard is the only guy who has a chance at having this backfield all to himself in his senior season.
The deal with that is that none of these talented backs really have the chance to stand out among the rest and get noticed by NFL scouts. They will have their chance in the NFL Combine and other events following graduation, but up until then, it is hard to judge just how good of an NFL future these backs might have because they are all sharing carries in this crowded backfield.
This isn't a major issue right now, but it certainly could be in the future.