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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Two backs better than one

BATON ROUGE - LSU has been using multiple tailbacks so far in this young season with outstanding results, yet some fans are unhappy. Some media members are miffed. They want one dominant back and most want talented sophomore Keiland Williams of Lafayette to be the guy.

And they have a point. Williams is very good. The way he hurdled over players on his way to a 67-yard touchdown against Virginia Tech, then switched directions made one think of O.J. Simpson and airports (as opposed to murders ... allegedly).

Williams is fluid and fast. He looked like one of the great runners on that one because his body motion seemed so effortless. That run seemed to make fans almost forget about Joe McKnight going to USC over LSU. Williams (5-11, 223 pounds) may not be as fast as McKnight (5-11, 200), but he is thicker and bigger than him. It would be nice to have McKnight, too, but LSU is in very good shape at tailback. Williams probably is LSU's most talented back and will likely eventually get more carries than any other back for the Tigers. (McKnight, by the way, gained 26 yards on six carries in his first game.)

But for right now, LSU coach Les Miles likes the way he has it and that's with senior Jacob Hester as the starter. Hester leads the Tigers with 149 yards rushing on 26 carries. Williams has gained 144 yards on 14 carries, while Trindon Holliday has gained 58 yards on 10 carries. Don't forget Charles Scott, either. He has 28 yards on seven carries and has caught two passes for 22 yards with a touchdown. And Richard Murphy has 37 yards on eight carries. The way new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton moves player groupings in and out, he may keep nearly all of these guys happy.

Hester is not as fast as Williams, not as fluid and not quite as athletic. Hester is fast. His legs just don't take as long a stride. Hester also doesn't look as scary to opponents running down the field as does Williams. Miles knows all this, but Miles knows Hester is very good, too. I used to be a bit of an anti-Hester, but he proved me wrong last season. Hester runs extremely hard. He'll get that extra yard. He doesn't fumble. He's dependable. He's like Walt Garrison, the former Dallas Cowboy, with more speed and minus the Cowboy hat. In fact, Hester looks a little like Garrison.

Hester is also very good at catching passes.

Williams has not had a fumbling problem in games, but Miles just feels better with Hester handling most of the responsibility right now. Williams is just a sophomore. Hester is one of the team's strongest leaders.

If this is a problem, it's a good problem to have. But it's not a problem. You need to look at it like this. Hester is the steady starting pitcher without a 90 mph fastball. He's Greg Maddux. He just beats you. After a few series as the defenders are getting used to Hester, you throw the faster, more dynamic Williams in there.

This combination, regardless of who gets the most carries, could continue to be deadly for opponents.


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