LSU RBs comfortable sharing the load

HOOVER, Ala. -- Terrence Magee should have been upset. Or annoyed, at the very least. He wore a crisp, charcoal three-piece suit and a flannel bow tie to SEC media days last month, eager to introduce himself to the national media. He looked sharp. He looked ready. But when it came time to talk about his upcoming season at LSU, a large swath of reporters weren’t particularly interested. It was his backup that they wanted to talk about instead.

A lesser man might have taken offense. A lesser man might have wondered, Why don’t they want to talk about me? It was as if his 626 rushing yards last season hadn't happened. Never mind that he had the 10th-best yards-per-carry average in the country or that his touchdowns-per-rush ratio ranked in the top 15.

But Magee, all 5-foot-9 and 217 pounds of him, didn’t seem to mind. He wasn’t upset. He wasn’t the least bit annoyed. The senior looked at his rookie teammate and said, “I’m excited to see him play.”

Leonard Fournette dominated SEC media days without even being there. His head coach compared him to Michael Jordan, for goodness sakes. He was being hailed as a Heisman Trophy contender, if you can imagine that. Magee was asked about him and said he looked like Adrian Peterson. It was all a little surreal.

“I honestly don’t think I’m putting too much on him,” Magee said. “I truly feel that he can do it. He’s proven himself in high school, and in a few more weeks everyone will get to see what he can do on the college level.”

Magee lauded Fournette’s vision, speed and power. He watched him blow by players in practice he thought were fast and said, “Man!”

“He can go from zero to 100 just like that,” he said.

Fournette’s demeanor made him easy to like, Magee said. He spoke about Fournette’s humbleness, his eagerness to learn and how he asked veterans, “How do I get better?” According to Magee, “How can you not gravitate to a guy like that?”

Except that goes against our perception of what a competitor should be. You should want the ball to yourself. You shouldn’t want to praise your backup so much. Right?

“A lot of people are used to being the man and the biggest star at their high school,” Magee said. “I played with another SEC guy, Josh Robinson, and another receiver that went on to play college football. So I didn’t mind sharing the spotlight. Me coming here wasn’t like anyone stealing my thunder.”

Magee understood what awaited him in Baton Rouge.

“It’s always been running back-by-committee at LSU,” he said. “Everyone is going to get their fair share of carries. But at the same time, everyone in our backfield are team-oriented guys. Whatever is in the best interest of the team, that’s what I’m willing to do. If that means me taking 15 carries or taking five carries, then I’m for it.”

Said coach Les Miles: “I think that's an advantage. If you look at Terrence Magee, we've gotten them tired. There have been times when he just busted a big run, took significant contact. Kenny Hilliard had just played. In fact, we will need those guys that have fresh legs. I think you can always kind of count on that from us.”

In each of the last three seasons, the Tigers have had four running backs with 60 or more carries. And with no entrenched starter at quarterback this season, there could be even more carries to go around.

Magee, of course, smiled at the thought.

“We pride ourselves on running the ball at LSU,” he said. “If we don’t do anything else, people know we’re going to run the ball well.”