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LSU running back Kenny Hilliard. (Associated Press)<br>

LSU running back Kenny Hilliard. (Associated Press)

No. 2 Tigers have healthy stable of running backs

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 7:28 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Last week LSU was missing three defensive starters due to minor injuries.

But safety Craig Loston, defensive end Barkevious “Keke” Mingo and defensive tackle Josh Downs were replaced by three interceptions, two touchdowns returns and two of the Tigers’ six tackles for losses.

“It speaks to our depth,” LSU head coach Les Miles said.

Saturday, when the Tigers travel to Auburn, LSU will have to make another backup statement from surely the loudest, ridiculously deep spot on the roster.

Alfred Blue is on the shelf for the week, probably a few more, after suffering an apparent knee injury last week against Idaho.

Losing your starting running back might be a concern for some schools.

At LSU?

More like … next!

The Tigers have the luxury of replacing their starter with a back who leads the team in rushing, is tied for the national lead with six touchdowns and, though known as a pure power runner, has LSU’s longest run of the season.

Even at that, Kenny Hilliard will be looking over his shoulder.

“Blue is down for a little while,” Hilliard said. “The next back just has to step up in the rotation. Whoever coach Miles calls, we’re not missing a beat at all. We’ve got a stable of backs to replace each other.”

In no particular order, LSU will also use Spencer Ware (back from his own nagging injury), Michael Ford and the latest foal, true freshman Jeremy Hill who debuted with a pair of scoring runs last week. Terrence Magee, who moved to wide receiver because of the glut in the backfield, is also still working at his original position and could play in a pinch.

Starting is a relative term in a backfield that leads the Southeastern Conference with 269.3 rushing yards per game.

Auburn will probably wonder why Hilliard wasn’t starting in the first place.

Last year, in LSU’s 45-10 victory, the then-true freshman had his breakout game with 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

It earned him more and more carries over the second half of the season, including a three-touchdown game in the SEC Championship game against Georgia.

“I’m just trying to pick up from what I did last year,” said Hilliard, who leads the team with 305 yards rushing, good enough for third in the SEC despite the wide distribution of carries in the LSU system.

“I think Kenny is a much more complete back now,” Miles said. “He’s really good in the pocket in pass protection, good in the pocket releasing out on a route. He’s certainly a very fine ball carrier (and) runs with great ball security.”

And sometimes, as Idaho can attest, running with elusiveness to go with the power from his 5-foot-11, 240-pound frame.

He emerged from an apparent short gain last week, barreling over a last defender in the pile, then sprinting for a 71-yard touchdown that included a nifty serpentine move late to ward off the Vandal pursuers.

“It was freakish,” quarterback Zach Mettenberger said from his view. “I saw him destroy that dude. I had a good (sight) angle on that one. He had it then.

“We’re definitely going to miss Blue, just the character he has” Mettenberger said. “But it’s a great thing we have five running backs. He’ll be missed, but I don’t think the productivity will fall off.”

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