BATON ROUGE, La. — It wasn’t until LSU’s sixth game of the year when freshman running back Derrius Guice finally felt comfortable at the college level.
Guice led LSU in rushing that afternoon in Tigers Stadium, amassing 161 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
In doing so, Guice and Leonard Fournette became just the second LSU running back tandem to both rush for more than 150 yards in a game, and the first to do so since Kevin Faulk and Rondell Mealey did so in September of 1996.
But the bond goes much deeper than that.
Guice knows who he backs up on LSU’s depth chart. The running backs share a lot — both on the field and away from it — and the chance to work together toward common goals is something that Guice made apparent that he cherishes.
“I expected to learn a lot from him. He’s my role model, my big brother, and I expect him to do great things and I’ll give him a breather every now and then,” he said Thursday after LSU wrapped up its 11th spring practice.
“It was pretty much expected. We got to play big roles here and there, and it’s great to play behind someone that you can learn so much from and teach a lot to. It’s a great person to be behind.”
The humility is glaring, but it’s the admiration that sets Guice apart.
Fournette has set a host of records in two seasons at LSU and already ranks among the best to ever come through Death Valley.
Guice understands the company his backfield mate is in, and it’s been his objective to try and emulate Fournette when he takes his turn on the field.
“I’m just doing my part whenever he’s not in so everyone doesn’t think I’m a slouch,” Guice said. “I try to make it hard for them. We’re all still learning and trying to get better. You don’t want to get the (first-team reps) and the (second-team) is better. I try to be that Leonard replacement.
“We’re all getting each other better. I don’t want to be a slouch to anyone. I pick up his slack basically. It is (motivation). I look up to him. It’s great when you’re behind someone you look up to and you flash the same ability that he has when you get that opportunity … You’ve got to respect the one in front of you.”
Guice was a four-star prospect out of Catholic High School (Baton Rouge, La.) before coming to LSU, but was eager to play the role of student when he arrived.
Many of his early struggles last season were corrected by none other than Fournette, who made similar mistakes his freshman year with the Tigers.
Now Guice believes his running style is the mirror image of Fournette’s because, well, he’s trying to do everything that Fournette does.
That, plus a few adjustments Fournette has suggested.
“I ain’t seen anyone run as angry as he does. It’s a mirror reflection of both of us,” Guice explained. “A lot of people wouldn’t think that. People on defense wouldn’t think, but I’m hungry, I’m humble, and I want to get it like he gets it. I don’t want to feel like they’re getting a break.
“As a hungry guy, I don’t want to get stopped in the backfield. I started noticing as I watched him that I missed the big hole. I was getting two or three yards when I could’ve been getting five to 10 yards. The biggest thing Leonard is teaching me is patience, how to read blocks, slow down and go fast through it. It’s the biggest thing we’re doing this spring — being patient and letting everything set up.”