Why LSU's Jeremy Hill Could Be the Next Great SEC Running Back

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 30, 2013

LSU RB Jeremy Hill
LSU RB Jeremy HillRonald Martinez/Getty Images

It's safe to say that LSU running back Jeremy Hill's freshman season with the Tigers was a rousing success.

The Baton Rouge native led the team in rushing in 2012, amassing 755 yards and 12 touchdowns on 142 carries.

Not a bad debut, especially considering the logjam of running backs in the LSU backfield. What's more, the best may be yet to come for Hill.

Spencer Ware and Michael Ford moved on, which means that Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue will be the other running backs pushing Hill for playing time.

After gaining just 71 yards on the ground in LSU's first six games of the season, Hill erupted on the South Carolina defense, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-21 win over the Gamecocks.

From that point, Hill took off. He topped the 100-yard mark in four of LSU's final seven games of the season—including 107 yards against an Alabama team that finished the season with the nation's best rush defense (76.36 YPG).

It wasn't just the total output that was so impressive, either. It was Hill's ability to shut the door.

He rushed for 490 yards and 10 touchdowns in the second halves of games, 65 percent of his total rushing output and 83 percent of his touchdowns.

Talk about becoming the ultimate closer.

LSU always seems to mix various running backs into the rotation, and that's a big reason why the Tigers have been so successful under head coach Les Miles.

With that being said, Hill will not only enter the 2013 season as the unquestioned feature-back, he will enter as the player that the coaching staff knows it can count on late in games when opposing defenses are worn down.

That could translate to huge numbers in his sophomore season.

Starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger came on strong down the stretch, passing for more than 215 yards in four of his last five games.

However, his first season as LSU's starting quarterback still left a lot to be desired. He didn't provide as much of a downfield threat as was initially envisioned, finishing tied for ninth in the SEC with 7.4 yards per attempt. Until he proves that he can be a weapon, the game plan will still fall in the lap of LSU's running backs.

Is Hill going to lead the SEC in rushing? Probably not.

There's too much talent in his own backfield for Hill to do that. Even so, with a full offseason of work, and presumably a full season worth of carries, Hill not only will be a closer, he could become the next great SEC running back.