|Gerald Herbert/Associated Press|
|LSU's Kenny Hilliard could find himself in backup duty again next season.|
Running back Kenny Hilliard will return to LSU next season rather than declare eligibility for the NFL draft. And while Hilliard might not have been the running back Tigers fans hoped would stay, the program's backup running back served notice that he doesn't mind competing with incoming freshman Leonard Fournette, the nation's consensus No. 1 running back recruit.
Hilliard took to Twitter with his decision:
To close to graduating NFL can waitâ kenny hilliard (@noceilings27) January 13, 2014
LSU's Sports Information Department confirmed to nola.com on Monday that running back Alfred Blue will not return to LSU, either.
Hilliard, the nephew of former LSU and New Orleans Saints running back Dalton Hilliard, was mired in backup duty behind starter Jeremy Hill last season along with Terrence Magee and Blue. He rushed for 310 yards and seven touchdowns on 68 carries. Hilliard lost weight in the offseason in hopes of earning more playing time, but it wasn't meant to be as Hill took over the majority of carries, and Magee made a surprising move to garner a few carries per game as well.
Hilliard (6-foot, 230 pounds) is the first of LSU's underclassmen considering an early jump to the NFL to decide against it. Hill declared his intentions to enter the draft earlier Monday, as did offensive guard Trai Turner. Along with Blue, defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson have announced they will enter the draft, while wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry will reportedly do so as well. That makes a whopping 17 LSU underclassmen to declare for early draft entry over the last two seasons, including seven following the 2013 campaign, and Tigers left tackle La'El Collins might soon make it eight.
With the exits of Blue and Hill, Hilliard and Magee are the only running backs with any experience left to compete against Fournette, whom many expect to take over the position. Although Hilliard has yet to run for more than 500 yards in a season as a career backup, he has shown a nose for the end zone with 20 career touchdowns and has excelled as a short-yardage option.
If he wants a bigger role than that in his senior season, however, he'll have to beat out the nation's top prep rusher to do so.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.