BATON ROUGE, La. — Former LSU football player Jacob Hester knows what it takes to be a good running back. You don’t score 24 college touchdowns and play five full seasons in the NFL without being a little bit good at what you do.
But even Hester — who starred at LSU from 2004-07 — has difficulty explaining what makes current LSU star running back Derrius Guice so hard to stop.
“If you try to find guys that are that big and have that home run ability and make guys miss while running over them, to find guys like that you’d really have to get deep into some research because those guys are unique,” Hester said. “I’m drawing a blank even trying to figure it out.”
In his first season as a prominent fixture in LSU’s backfield, Guice rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns, leading the SEC with 7.6 yards per carry. And while there are many parts of Guice’s game that make this possible, Hester said two stand out to him: his “home run ability” and the way he makes people miss.
On LSU’s official athletics website, Guice is listed at 5-foot-11 and 212 pounds, but he runs with the power of a sturdier back and the agility of a scat back. He has the strength to go through defenders and the vision to contort his way around them.
And when you combine all this, he has the ability to turn any play into a touchdown, regardless of where the play began.
“Any time he breaks into the open field, he doesn’t get caught,” Hester said. “The way he’s able to break tackles and make people miss, it’s very unique. I’ve said that since he was a freshman. The guy can hit a home run on just about every play and it doesn’t have to be blocked real well for him to hit a home run.”
Hester described Guice as “probably a top-3 running back” in the nation heading into the 2017 season. That isn’t unfamiliar territory for LSU, given that the Tigers spent the past three years relying on all-world ball-carrier Leonard Fournette.
It’s easy to dismiss Guice as another step in LSU’s tradition of great backs, simply picking up where Fournette left off. But Hester is cautious to make that comparison. Fournette and Guice might achieve similar results, but they go about it in different ways.
“Leonard, he’s one of those guys who once he gets past the line of scrimmage he can take it all the way too. But it was almost in a different way,” Hester said. “Leonard uses jump cuts as well as almost anybody I’ve ever seen, while Derrius is more of a spin move or try to do different things. They’re two totally different runners. I know people might think that’s a little bit weird, but they are.”
Still, if you can’t compare Guice to Fournette, who can you compare him to? Well, if it’s up to Hester, you won’t be comparing Guice to anyone but Guice himself.
“He’s unique,” Hester said. “I’d hate to put anyone else in that category because I think it’d be unfair to him and the way he plays football.”