LSU Offense Will Be Fine with or Without RB Jeremy Hill in 2013

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJuly 9, 2013

Will he play or won't he play?

That's the question facing LSU following's report that star running back Jeremy Hill has been charged with misdemeanor simple battery for his involvement in an April 27 fight outside Reggie's bar in the Tigerland district.

Hill led the Tigers with 755 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns last year, emerging as a force midway through the season.

He made the biggest impact as the ultimate closer, rushing for 65 percent of his yardage (490) and scoring 83 percent of his touchdowns (10) in the second half.

Will he be out for part or all of the 2013 season? That remains to be seen. 

Former Tiger quarterback Jordan Jefferson sat out four games at the start of the 2011 season, but he was reinstated after his charge was dropped to misdemeanor simple battery—the same charge Hill is facing.

Hill could see a harsher penalty from both LSU and the justice system, since he is on probation after pleading guilty in January 2012 to carnal knowledge of a juvenile. 

Hill was suspended indefinitely following his arrest in April.

So what happens to the Tigers if Hill is forced to sit? Will the offense crumble?

Nope. Not a chance.

Rising senior Alfred Blue beat out Hill and a host of other running backs for the feature back role coming out of fall camp last season. He answered the bell early, rushing for 270 yards and two touchdowns in two-and-a-half games last season before a knee injury versus Idaho sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Durability, specifically his ability to come back from an ACL injury, is a question heading into the season. When healthy, he's a quality back who has the big-play ability to be a star in the SEC.

But there's depth, too.

Kenny Hilliard is back for his junior season. While Blue will likely see first-team carries, the 6'0", 230-pound Hilliard can be a short-yardage and second-half monster for this year's Tigers. In his first two seasons in Baton Rouge, 507 of Hilliard's 800 yards (63 percent) have come in the second half.

Sound familiar?

Hilliard proved he could be the workhorse late in games when he took over the 2011 SEC Championship Game by scoring three third-quarter touchdowns and rushing for 71 yards in LSU's 42-10 win over Georgia.

New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron likes to rely on his running backs and then go over the top to stretch the field. The combination of Blue and Hilliard in LSU's backfield is more than sufficient to accomplish that goal.

Hill's status may be up in the air, but LSU's running game is still stable.

If quarterback Zach Mettenberger can find a way to consistently stretch the field and keep opposing defenses honest, the duo of Blue and Hilliard should thrive in 2013.