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LSU's Nick Brossette aims for bigger role after Leonard Fournette's exit

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Even Nick Brossette is unsure what his role will be this season, but the LSU running back knows it could be much bigger now that Leonard Fournette is out of the picture.

When healthy, the Tigers' star running back handled the vast majority of the carries during Brossette's first two college seasons. However, Fournette is now chasing his NFL dreams, while Brossette is chasing playing time -- under a new position coach whose track record indicates that he'll give touches to anyone who proves they deserve them.

"Just going into this year, I'm ready. I feel like I'm ready," Brossette said. "I got stronger and everything and faster. I feel like this is going to be a big year for me if I just keep doing little things, what my brother told me before, and everything will take care of itself and fall in place."

LSU running backs coach Tommie Robinson pointed to his first game working under Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron -- USC's 38-31 win over Arizona in the middle of the 2013 season, Orgeron's first game as interim coach -- as an example of his backfield philosophy. In that narrow win, Robinson made sure five different backs carried the ball: Silas Redd (19 carries for 80 yards, Justin Davis (9-38), Buck Allen (6-37, 2 TDs), Tre Madden (5-28 plus a 63-yard TD catch) and Ty Isaac (3-36).

"Coach Orgeron told me, 'Coach, you know your kids and who deserves to play and what it takes to win the game. Play the kids the way you want to play them,'" Robinson recalled. "I had five kids who deserved the right to play and I played all five of them. After the game, it was unheard of to play five backs in a game that came down to the last minute.

"I have been in a situation where I had a featured guy. I have been in situations where I rotated two or three. Every situation is different. It's according to who you have and what the kid shows in practice. If a kid shows that he deserves to play and I feel confident he will help this team win, then I will find a way to play him."

Derrius Guice will play the leading role in LSU's 2017 backfield after rushing for 1,387 yards last season while Fournette dealt with ankle issues. Senior Darrel Williams and junior Brossette have prime opportunities to figure into Robinson's plans this fall, although neither player has handled a big workload to date.

Williams has carried the ball more than 14 times in a college game just once: last season against Missouri, when he set career highs with 21 carries for 130 yards and three touchdowns. The Missouri game was also a high-water mark for Brossette, who ran five times for 73 yards, including a 60-yard burst in the fourth quarter that set up a Williams touchdown.

Robinson and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada were not around for any of that previous production. The Tigers' running backs are four spring practices into the process of showing their new coaches what they can do.

"Part of what I have done in the past is finding out what the kid is able to handle and what he is capable of doing. When I find that out and get a feel of that, then I will know how much to put on him," Robinson said. "That's a growing process for me as a coach. The kids know where they are. I need to know how much they can handle. One thing for sure that will happen is we will not have a guy out there that can't help us win."

Robinson is the third position coach in as many years for LSU's running backs, going from Frank Wilson in 2015 to Jabbar Juluke last season to Robinson now. While, yes, it has been a headache adapting to a new coach's personality and methods each year, Brossette also finds the silver lining in all of that turnover.

"It can get frustrating, but at the same time, you're just taking all the knowledge of what all the coaches have come in and given us and we've been putting it in our game," Brossette said.

As Guice points out, though, it's not like they had any choice but to adapt.

"I didn't expect this, but when life throws things at you, you've got to take it and run with it," Guice said. "You've got to go, because nobody's going to wait on you. It's just going to be the next man up. If you can't get it, somebody else is going to get it."

Guice was the next man up last season, and he excelled once given the opportunity. He won't do it all alone this year, so Brossette and Williams need to be ready. If they are, Robinson has proven that he will be willing to give them a shot on game day.