Bob Levey/Getty Images
LSU running back Derrius Guice

Bayou Bengal Briefing: How good does Derrius Guice have to be in 2017 to win the Heisman Trophy?

Nick Suss

Welcome to SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football, with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. Today, we discuss Derrius Guice’s Heisman Trophy chances, plus recruiting, “Ed Orgeron Day” and more.

The Guice-man Trophy?

Derrius Guice is a good running back. OK, he’s really good. Depending on who you ask, the rising junior might be the best running back returning to college for 2017. And even the most adamant naysayers probably still have him in their top 5s.

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LSU RB Derrius Guice (5) (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

There are going to be a lot of expectations on Guice in 2017. Not only is he expected to be the anchor of LSU’s new-look offense under Matt Canada, but he might have to carry the SEC as well. Per Pro Football Focus, Guice is the SEC player most likely to contend for the Heisman Trophy next season, edging out guys such as Alabama’s Jalen Hurts and Bo Scarbrough and Georgia’s Nick Chubb.

Among FBS running backs, only Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is ranked higher than Guice. And there are some good reasons for that. Guice led the SEC in rushing yards and yards per carry in 2016 and, among running backs with 150 or more carries, only UTEP’s Aaron Jones averaged more yards per carry than Guice’s 7.58.

And, as crazy as it sounds, that success might be the exact reason why it’ll be hard for Guice to meet expectations and win the Heisman Trophy.

Oftentimes, winning the Heisman Trophy is about the story. Over the past decade, voters have favored out-of-nowhere success stories over sustained career stars. Don’t believe me? Ask Colt McCoy and Andrew Luck.

Five of the last 10 Heisman Trophy winners have seen an insane jump in production between their previous season and their trophy-winning season, and another three were freshmen or transfers who didn’t have previous seasons. Check it out.

Year Player Total Offense (Previous Season) Total Offense (Heisman Season) % Growth
2007 Tim Tebow 827 yards 4,181 yards 80.22%
2008 Sam Bradford 3,128 yards 4,767 yards 34.38%
2009 Mark Ingram 808 yards 1,992 yards 59.44%
2010 Cam Newton 0 yards 4,327 yards 100%
2011 Robert Griffin III 4,136 yards 4,992 yards 17.15%
2012 Johnny Manziel 0 yards 5,116 yards 100%
2013 Jameis Winston 0 yards 4,276 yards 100%
2014 Marcus Mariota 4,380 yards 5,224 yards 16.16%
2015 Derrick Henry 1,123 yards 2,310 yards 51.39%
2016 Lamar Jackson 2,800 yards 5,114 yards 45.25%

Even if you take out Newton, Manziel and Winston, the average rate of growth between the remaining seven Heisman winners still is 43.43 percent.

Guice accounted for 1,716 all-purpose yards in 2016. That means for Guice, a 43.43 percent improvement in all-purpose yardage would put him at 2,461 yards of total offense.

Only five players in college football history have accumulated more yards from scrimmage in a single season than that total. Three of them came within the last 10 years. None of those players won the Heisman Trophy. Kevin Smith lost to Tebow. Melvin Gordon lost to Mariota. And Christian McCaffrey lost to Henry.

The expectations on Guice are almost too high. Guice might need to have one of the greatest seasons in the history of college football to win the Heisman Trophy. And even that might not be enough.

LSU football poll results

In Bayou Bengal Briefing on Monday, I asked you which position group you felt the LSU football team should be targeting the hardest in recruiting. Just about 200 of you responded. Here are your answers:

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We asked LSU fans what the team’s biggest position of need is. They feel the answer is linebacker. (Nick Suss/SEC Country)

A resounding 68 percent of respondents voted that LSU needs to target linebackers. This makes quite a bit of sense, given that Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley are both moving to the NFL. Senior Donnie Alexander and sophomore Devin White are the only returning players who received significant playing time at the position in 2016.

Quarterback edged out offensive tackle in a close battle for second place. Fourteen percent of voters seem to think that Danny Etling, Brandon Harris, Justin McMillan and Lindsey Scott aren’t enough, and LSU needs to add to a class that already includes 4-star recruits Lowell Narcisse and Myles Brennan.

Thirteen percent of you voted for offensive tackle, a problem position in 2016. LSU football rotated K.J. Malone, Maea Teuhema and Toby Weathersby between left and right tackle last season to various levels of success.

The remaining 5 percent of voters singled out wide receiver, defensive end and running back as the biggest positions of need.

Be sure to return to the Bayou Bengal Briefing on Monday mornings to participate in future LSU football poll questions.

Speaking of recruiting …

Over the weekend, the LSU football team hosted a gaggle of prized recruits. SEC Country’s Sam Spiegelman recapped those visits here, and I suggest every one of you reads that as soon as you’re finished with the Briefing.

But to keep with the theme from our poll question, LSU did a good job of hosting players at major areas of need over the weekend. Of the 11 players who visited, six of them were players at positions of need as established in our poll. They were:

  • Defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson
  • Wide receiver DeVonta Smith
  • Linebacker Christopher Allen
  • Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  • Defensive end Aaron Moffitt
  • Wide receiver Racey McMath

Two of those six recruits — Edwards-Helaire and Moffitt — are already committed. That leaves four major targets to watch as National Signing Day (Feb. 1) inches closer.

Keep those names in mind, folks.

ICYMI

It might be the offseason, but the news doesn’t take days off. Here are some LSU football stories you might’ve missed this week:

Arbitrary Analysis, part 2

The best way to talk about politics is to not really talk about politics.

This Friday is Donald J. Trump’s inauguration day, the day he’ll be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. So, in the last week of Barack Obama’s administration, we in the Bayou Bengal Briefing are counting down our picks for the top 5 LSU football wins of the Obama era.

On Monday, we kicked off the countdown with our No. 5 pick, an upset win against an undefeated rival. Tuesday, we reveal No. 4.

No. 4: ‘The Mad Hatter’ gambles, takes down Alabama (2010)

If anyone knew how to make dumb decisions look genius, it was Les Miles.

On a fourth-and-1 with his team trailing midway through the fourth quarter, Miles ordered an end-around reverse to DeAngelo Peterson. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw a mean block and Peterson went for 23 yards, getting LSU inside the Alabama 5-yard line.

From there, running back Stevan Ridley pounded in a score and LSU took the lead, eventually winning 24-21 and knocking off the sixth-ranked Tide.

Jefferson played about as efficiently as anyone could’ve asked, completing 10 of his 13 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. From there, the LSU defense did its job. The Tigers held a star-studded Alabama offense to 325 total yards, 191 of which belonged to superstars Mark Ingram and Julio Jones.

Say what you want about Miles. Scratch that, I already know you have said what you’ve wanted about Miles. But the man called a good game that day. And it supplied one of the most memorable victories against Alabama in school history.

Be sure to check back to the Bayou Bengal Briefing on Wedesday for our No. 3 pick on the countdown.

Tweet of the day

To return to recruiting for a moment, one of LSU’s priority targets at running back is Louisiana native Travis Etienne. Etienne is committed to Texas A&M, but he’s being sought after by schools across the country.

And now, the national champions have come a-knocking.

Mostly though, I want to talk about Etienne’s shirt. That’s a pretty sweet Metallica shirt he’s got there. I consulted with my friend who likes Metallica way too much and he told me that apparently it’s cool to wear Metallica shirts even if you’re not a fan, so this might just be a fashion statement. And even then, “… And Justice for All” is an album without bassist Cliff Burton, so it doesn’t count.

But I still think it’s a cool shirt. More running backs should embrace their inner metal head. If Etienne commits to LSU, all we have to do is get Guice a Quiet Riot shirt, an Iron Maiden shirt for Nick Brossette and an Anthrax shirt for Darrel Williams and we’d have ourselves a backfield we could call “thrash and dash.”

I think I just came up with a brilliant idea. Let’s make this happen.

Today in (real) made-up holidays

A couple times a week, I end the Bayou Bengal Briefing by highlighting one of those made-up holidays you see circulating around Twitter, like “National Jump In a Puddle And Splash Your Friends Day.” That was a real one.

Well, today, we have a real made-up holiday to highlight.

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LSU football coach Ed Orgeron (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

South Lafourche, Orgeron’s hometown, is dedicating Feb. 17 as “Ed Orgeron Day.” No, really. Coach O is getting a holiday. There’s going to be a banquet and his high school jersey is going to be retired and everything.

This is a real thing, guys. Get pumped.

You have exactly one month to prepare for coach O day. Get your Cajun accents ready. Learn everything you can about defensive line play. Rewatch The Blind Side a couple of times and ask over and over again why Ed didn’t win an Oscar for his cameo.

And, in one month, we’ll check back here in the Bayou Bengal Briefing and celebrate Ed Orgeron Day the right way. Until then, I’ll be waiting.

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