Much of the attention today surrounding LSU football revolved around Jeremy Hill and his legal proceedings and possible return to the team.
But the guy who stood atop the depth chart at running back for the Tigers’ first practice of Fall Camp, senior Alfred Blue (6-foot-2, 220 pounds), reminded everybody Monday that there is no clear-cut starter in the backfield yet. The Hahnville product told reporters that his recuperated knee, which limited him in the fall, feels “110 percent” and that competition, especially in the event of a Hill return, will fuel LSU’s stable of backs this August.
“I think the competition with me being a full-go again and no-holding-back is going to push us even harder,” Blue said of himself and Hill, a sophomore. “He probably knows I’m a great back. I know he’s a great back. I know he wants that starting job, but I want that starting job too.
“It’s the same with Kenny [Hilliard] and Terrence [Magee]. We all want that starting job, so we’re all going to push each other. I think with that competition in the room, it’s going to bring Jeremy right up to speed.”
Blue made it no secret that he and his LSU teammates would love to have Hill back, saying the Tigers “would welcome Jeremy back with open arms.” And although he did acknowledge it’s ultimately head coach Les Miles’ call, Blue went as far as to say that he needed Hill back in the mix this fall just to make it through the SEC grind.
“I hope we see him here tomorrow,” Blue replied when told of Hill’s legal development this morning. “We want him back. I kinda need him back.”
LSU’s No. 4 knows a thing or two about bouncing back. After starting the first three games of the 2012 season at running back, Blue suffered a season-ending knee injury against Idaho. Through three games he had rushed for 270 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
Getting back to that point is something that drove Blue, who said he “was motivated from the start,” in rehabilitation. According to the running back, so too did fellow injured teammate Chris Faulk, who also hurt his knee in the beginning of the 2012 campaign.
As a result Blue fought to make it back in time for spring practice, but the decision was passed down from position coach Frank Wilson that Blue was not to have contact during the spring. That wasn’t always an easy thing for Blue, but he said he understood the reasoning and adjusted.
“I was ready to go in the spring,” admitted Blue. “Even though I didn’t have contact, the speed, the cuts and the mental toughness I think was all there. Physically I think was there. I think the coaches just wanted to hold me out, didn’t want to rush things with me. They just wanted me to build my confidence up running in between the tackles, cutting and just getting a feel for the game again.”
One of the advantages Blue was afforded in the contract-free spring was the ability to stand back and watch at a distance what was going on with others at his position. It’s something the player referred to as “taking mental reps.”
“You see things different when you’re watching and spectating the game,” explained Blue. “When you’re not in there, and you watch Jeremy and Kenny, you learn from their mistakes. As I was sitting back watching them, I was kinda coaching them. So I got a chance to coach them and sit back with Coach Frank [Wilson] and just learn the game as like a coach.
“I feel like by me doing that, the game comes that much easier. When I get in and we have a blitz coming, I just know it like that from seeing it, sitting there and Coach Frank saying ‘Who you got? Who you got?’ I’ll know who to point to. When you get in the game, you recognize it and it becomes like second nature.”
Along with the physical side of rehabilitation, Blue assured he’s mentally all the way back too. He said there’s absolutely no hesitation in how he moves with his knee – be it cutting, planting, jumping or whatever is required.
“I don’t think anymore. I just do it,” Blue said. “There’s no fear. No fear, man. I just go all-out. What happens, happens. If it happens again, it happens. I just go all-out again and don’t even think about it. Just play football.”
Blue, who did ding his hand after hitting on a helmet today in practice, also spent some time talking about the newest member of LSU’s starting offensive line, Jerald Hawkins. The redshirt freshman is currently running with the first team at right tackle, and Blue shared his perspective on the up-and-coming lineman.
“Hawkins is a young guy, but he’s a great player. I think he’s going to hold that spot down, but he’s just got to keep pushing,” Blue continued. “It’s just the first day, and he’s a young guy. There isn’t any room for mistakes out here. This is the big leagues, so as long as he does that and he pushes hard, I think he’ll keep that spot.
“He’s a hard worker. From the first time he came in here, he was a hard worker and a great listener. He’s a student of the game. He picks up stuff real fast, so I think by him filling that spot it helps the O-Line out and helps the team out overall.”
Just who and how many backs Hawkins is opening up holes for this fall is yet to be determined, but, no matter what the outcome is with Hill, it would be foolish to bet against Blue making a major impact in his final go-round on campus in 2013.
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