LSU Football: Will Tigers RB Kenny Hilliard Finally Live Up to the Hype?

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LSU Football: Will Tigers RB Kenny Hilliard Finally Live Up to the Hype?
John Bazemore/Associated Press

Before Jeremy Hill and Leonard Fournette, LSU head coach Les Miles' most beloved running back was the bruising Kenny Hilliard.

Hilliard was supposed to be the next great LSU running back after an emphatic end to his freshman season in 2011. There is still time for him to live up to his potential, but things are looking bleak.

Hilliard will enter his senior season with little buzz and little fanfare. Three years ago, some would have expected him to be in an NFL training camp right now.

Can Hilliard regain top form? 

 

Career

Hilliard bursted onto the scene midway through LSU's run to the national championship game. He only registered five carries in the first seven games of the season, but he got his chance to shine against Auburn after running back Spencer Ware was suspended for the game, according to Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune.

Dave Martin/Associated Press

Auburn struggled stopping Hilliard's pace and power, and the then-true freshman ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns on only 10 carries. He became LSU's most feared back for the rest of the season, finishing the season with 336 yards and eight touchdowns. He even popularized his "No Ceilings" celebration.

Hilliard had a fantastic start to the 2012 season, rushing for 303 yards and six touchdowns in three games.

Miles called him one of the most physical backs in college football, per The Associated Press: "That is probably as devastating to a would-be tackler as there is," Miles said. "A would-be tackler gets down low and Kenny has the ability to lower his pads into that guy and still bounce off. That's a great way to break a tackle."

But then things went stale.

The level of competition was subpar in those three games, and Hilliard would not score another touchdown for the rest of the season. He, along with Michael Ford, Spencer Ware and an injured Alfred Blue, eventually gave way to the surging Jeremy Hill. After Hill's spectacular performance against South Carolina, Hilliard would only register 14 carries for 47 yards in the final six games.

Hilliard was a non-factor last season despite an average of 4.6 yards per carry. He never rushed for more than 60 yards in a single game and rarely made defenders miss in the open field. Some expected him to be Hill's backup, but he was surpassed as the No. 2 back by Terrence Magee

LSU RB Kenny Hilliard Career Statistics
Attempts Yards YPC TD's
2011 62 336 5.4 8
2012 82 464 5.7 6
2013 68 310 4.6 7
Total 212 1,110 5.2 21

ESPN

 

Role Next Season 

Hilliard will get carries in 2014. Questions remain about whether he will make the most of them. 

Magee was the No. 1 back during the spring, but he is not the rusher Hilliard should be worried about. The player expected to phase him out of the offense has yet to play a down of college football. 

The previously mentioned Fournette is the best recruit Miles has ever had. Fournette is expected to make plays right away and eventually become the workhorse in the Tigers backfield. 

Hilliard was used primarily as a goal-line back last season. Look for him to do the same thing in 2014.

 

Conclusion

Hilliard will post an impressive yards-per-carry number in 2014 thanks to runs against worn-down defenses or inferior opposition. LSU will also trust him in short-yardage situations, particularly in the red zone. 

Hilliard has proved to be a vicious runner who can burst through arm tackles. It is not out of the question for him to regain that form, especially with the NFL draft around the corner. He is champing at the bit to get back on the field. 

But after two seasons of pedestrian play, expect more of the same from Hilliard. He will finish, barring injury to Fournette or Magee, the third-leading rusher for the Tigers.   

Final Stat Projection: 65 carries, 330 yards and five touchdowns 

 

Recruiting rankings, stats and additional information provided by 247SportsCFBStats.com and LSU Sports Information. 

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