October 12, 2006
Baton Rouge, LA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- The popular MTV show "NEXT" makes a good comparison to LSU's method of solving the rushing attack riddle.
The show features a single guy or gal who goes on mini-dates, deciding the duration of the date which can last anywhere from just a first impression to a memorable performance.
LSU has adopted similar practices, giving four different running backs a chance to prove themselves by making an impact on the Tigers' running game.
But while LSU coach Les Miles seems to have "nexted" senior Justin Vincent and true freshman Charles Scott, Miles might have found an effective running combination in juniors Jacob Hester and Alley Broussard.
Although the duo rushed for only 58 yards on a combined 17 carries, LSU picked up eight first downs rushing, four in short-yardage situations.
"We spread out the carries between me and Alley, and it worked better than in past weeks," Hester said. "Rhythm and timing with the offensive line is better. The holes were opening up just as we were making our cuts. We tried to go to [the run] when we had to."
Hester finished with 43 yards on nine carries and five catches for 25 yards. Broussard gained 15 yards on eight carries in short-yardage duties, including a two-yard gain on fourth and one to sustain a second-quarter drive. The drive ended at LSU's goal line with a fumbled snap.
Hester has been the starting fullback the past two seasons, and he said being familiar with the fullback position helps him as a runner.
"When I am at running back, I know what the fullback is going to do," Hester said. "It's an advantage because I know exactly where the fullback is, so I can make my cuts. Playing multiple positions definitely helps me out."
LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said the ground game was more consistent against the No. 5 rush defense in the nation.
"Our offensive line was getting a push inside and putting a hat on a hat," Fisher said. "Our backs were hitting the hole hard, but they weren't big gains because Florida defends the run well. We were getting four- and five-yard gains."
Hester has been the one constant in the rushing equation this season, rushing for 183 yards on 40 attempts with four touchdowns.
The Shreveport native said he gained confidence from his 70-yard, one touchdown performance in LSU's 40-3 win over the University of Miami in last season's Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
"I knew I was a good high school running back and a college fullback, but I didn't really know if I was a good college running back," Hester said. "If I can run against Miami, I figure I can run on anybody. If you aren't confident you can hit your holes, you won't have too good of a day."
The LSU rushing dilemma began last season after both Vincent and Broussard tore an ACL.
The Tigers started Vincent for the first four games this season, but opposing defenses also received a heavy dose of Hester, Broussard and Scott in those games.
Scott got the start against Mississippi State University after rushing for 101 yards and two touchdowns against Tulane in mop-up duty, but exited the line-up after a 27-yard performance against the Bulldogs.
"[Scott] was a little nicked during practice, and it cost him some playing time," Miles said. "We kinda felt like Hester and Broussard give us the best opportunity to win the game."
Vincent said he is not disappointed that he has been removed from the starting role and said using multiple backs is an advantage.
"Having a good variety of different backs that can do different things can always help the team out," Vincent said. "Hester might be the answer, but we aren't quite sure yet. He is doing a great job when his number has been called. If it's not me getting the carries, so be it. I am not going to be the one to complain. You always want the best for yourself, but at the same time I want the best for my team."
Hester said knowing who was going to carry the ball in certain situations helped the consistency of the running game.
"In past weeks, we were subbing guys in and out," Hester said. "Alley would pick up short yardage, and I had other carries. You can never tell what's going to happen down the road, but if it keeps working I hope we stick with it. It seems like this has given a new life to the running game. But it's also hard to keep guys like Charles and Justin off the field because they have proven themselves in games."
(C) 2006 The Daily Reveille via CSTV U-WIRE