Will departures mean spotlight for Magee?

BATON ROUGE, La. -- When Michael Ford and Spencer Ware decided to leave LSU after their junior seasons, it left twice the opportunity for Terrence Magee to find his niche in the LSU backfield.

While neither Ford nor Ware was the Tigers' main back last season, both had niche roles based on specific skill sets that Magee also possesses.

For Ford, it was his speed to get to the edge, a role the speedy Magee would be a strong candidate to inherit.

"But Michael didn't really catch passes," Magee noted.

That duty was largely the responsibility of Ware, who led LSU running backs -- and was tied for fourth on the team -- with 18 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown.

It just so happens that Magee moved to wide receiver for much of last season, his sophomore year. So now, back at running back, he has to feel good about his chances at getting to play one, if not both, roles this season, thus earning the first significant playing time in his college career.

"I feel like I do a good job of getting out of the backfield and catching passes and being the check-down for the quarterback," he said. "I also feel that I can run it as well as [the other] guys too."

LSU's first scrimmage Saturday seemed to affirm his belief. He led the team with 60 rushing yards on 10 carries and also caught two passes out of the backfield, one for a touchdown.

"He looked really good running the football and made some nice catches," LSU coach Les Miles said. "I'm excited about his participation in the fall."

It wasn't always clear that there would be an area where Magee's participation would matter.

The former prep quarterback struggled to find a niche, getting passed up for playing time by true freshmen Kenny Hilliard (in 2011) and Jeremy Hill (2012) while also backing up veterans Ware, Ford and Alfred Blue. Last season at wide receiver he again struggled to get playing time.

But the offseason was kind to him. While Ware and Ford opted to leave, LSU didn't pursue a running back in recruiting. Only Hill, Hilliard and Blue returned from last season's stable, and Blue is coming off an injury that sidelined him for much of the season.

With only four scholarship running backs on the roster and LSU's recent history of using as many backs as possible, a chance to make an impact looks quite possible for Magee.

"You just have to wait your turn," said Magee, who claims he was never bitter about his lack of playing time, nor frustrated about finding a niche in the LSU offense. "The Lord has a plan for you."

It just took a while for LSU's plan for him to come into focus. In the meantime, Magee just kept working.

"And I prayed a lot," he said.

Now the prayers might have been answered. The road map to playing time seems clear. There are fewer obstacles than ever in the depth chart and Magee, as much as anybody else in the backfield, seems to be a fit to fill the voids that were left from last year's departures.

"It's been going good," he said. "I'm just trying to go out there and be consistent, improve each day."