LSU taking advantage of RB depth at fullback spot

BATON ROUGE -Connor Neighbors is a torn man these days.

On one hand, the LSU fullback is a team player and wants to win football games. So he supports the Tigers’ most recent revelation on offense of sticking a running back at fullback.

And on the other hand?

“I mean,” Neighbors said, “obviously I want to get in.”

LSU dusted off an old scheme Saturday in the win over Louisiana-Monroe, inserting another threat in its backfield by replacing the run-blocking Neighbors with freshman running back Darrel Williams or senior Kenny Hilliard.

Seven times on Saturday a running back lined up at fullback, and six times that fullback received a handoff: all dive plays up the middle. From the fullback spot, Hilliard and Williams netted 36 yards, scored three touchdowns and picked up six first downs.

So it worked — at least against a Sun Belt team from north Louisiana.

A stiffer test arrives this Saturday when No. 8 LSU (3-0) hosts Mississippi State (3-0) in its Southeastern Conference opener.

Mississippi State coaches, like other SEC staffs, now have another play to analyze while scouting the Tigers: the running back at fullback.

The move gives LSU three running threats in the backfield: tailback Leonard Fournette or Terrence Magee, fullback Williams or Hilliard, and quarterback Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris.

“It could be dangerous,” Neighbors said.

Hilliard and Williams are both listed at heavier weights than Neighbors. They’re all about 230 pounds.

“Anytime that you have a guy that can play both positions — run it and catch it and block it from that spot, and he’s a 230 (pound) tailback — there are some advantages,” LSU coach Les Miles said.

If Hilliard and Williams are LSU’s two short-yardage backs, why not move them closer to the yardage they’re attempting to gain? That’s exactly what LSU is doing.

All of the six handoffs to Hilliard and Magee from the fullback set Saturday came on second or third down.

Two of them came with 1 yard to reach for a first down. The other four came with 2 yards to reach for a first down.

“It’s hard, definitely,” LaCouture said. “You really got to get into your guy and get off. You’ve got to read it so quickly, that’s probably why it’s so effective.”

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