Back in February of this year on national signing day I got a call from my guy in Baton Rouge. (author’s note: “my guy” will have to suffice – can’t burn sources, ya know). He asked me what I thought about LSU’s running back situation. “Michael Ford was great for that down-the-line option package y’all seemed to run once Jefferson took over, and it’s hard to imagine anyone being a tougher runner than Ware, but for my money your best back is Hilliard.”
Michael Ford, Spencer Ware and Kenny Hilliard. I had just run through three running backs good enough to start, and be the feature back, at probably 10 SEC schools. Mind you, I hadn’t even mentioned Alfred Blue, who ran for more than 500 yards and seven scores last season while averaging nearly 7 yards-per-carry. With Hilliard a rising sophomore and the other three only juniors, the Tigers looked to have as much depth and talent at the position as any team in the country. A scary-fast, track star sort of running back with decent size would be a nice toy for the offensive staff to play with (think “Trindon Holiday meets Justin Vincent at Charles Scott’s house”), but that’s just me being greedy. LSU was stacked at running back and everybody knew it. Why would my guy even ask that question?
“Jeremy Hill is going to take some carries from those four. Wait and see.” I’ll be honest with you: college football is all I do. All day. Every day. I had never heard of Jeremy Hill. After hanging up with my guy I started to research Hill and my initial findings didn’t impress me. Hill was a member of LSU’s signing class from earlier that day, he ran a 4.6 40 and the scholarship offer he received from Les Miles was the only one he got. I saw Hill was a Baton Rouge kid and thought maybe there was a family connection of some sort that led to the him getting an offer from LSU, but quickly found out there was a much bigger story.
As a high school sophomore Hill rushed for 1,048 yards and 13 touchdowns, putting him on the radar of huge programs all over the country. As his junior year began Hill sifted through offers from Colorado, Florida State, Nebraska, Tennessee and Houston, among others, before announcing on September 28, 2009 that he would attend LSU. This was a full year-and-a-half before signing day, and like most recruits Hill wavered a bit, taking official visits and playing footsy with Alabama, Auburn and others. His production, however, never missed a beat. His SR year finished with Hill tallying 2,260 yards rushing and 36 touchdowns. Then came a five-day period with the greatest of extremes:
January 7, 2011: Hill re-commits to LSU, planning to sign a Letter of Intent four weeks later.
January 12, 2011: Hill is charged with Felony Sexual Battery of a Minor.
Hill didn’t play football at LSU or anywhere else during the 2011 season. He went through the legal process, did 12 months of running and lifting on his own, and became an LSU signee a couple of hours before my guy in Baton Rouge called me – and only after the charges had been reduced to a misdemeanor and Hill was sentenced to two years probation.
That’s the history side of the story and the legal side of the story. The football side of the story is Hill is now a freshman at LSU and looks every bit the next great Tiger running back. As has been the case for the past 10 seasons, it will be difficult for any one player to put up great numbers there because of the way LSU rotates its backs. Given the offensive approach in Baton Rouge (slam whichever running back happens to be on the field into the line of scrimmage a few times and then substitute), there are normally a few carries for everyone on a particular Saturday, unless one of them is the hot hand that day. That was Hill this past weekend vs. South Carolina and he finished with 17 carries for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns. I’m not sure when he’ll get that many carries in one game again, but Hill has shown he’s more than ready.
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