The 2017 NFL Draft class was one of the deepest classes for running backs in a long time. The 2018 class isn’t far off, and near the top of the class is LSU running back Derrius Guice.
Guice has been in the shadows of top ten pick Leonard Fournette the past two years, but he has already had his coming out party. He’s appeared in 23 games, put up 1,823 yards, averaged 7.8 yards per carry and crossed the goal line 19 times. As good as Fournette was the past few seasons, many believe that Guice could actually be the better running back. That’s a scary thought.
Their running styles and statures are very different. Fournette is 6’0″, 240 pounds and ran the forty yard dash in 4.51 seconds. He’s a bruising, downhill runner that strikes fears in the eyes of defensive backs. He doesn’t possess very good change of direction skills, but if given the lane, he can take it to the house.
Guice, on the other hand, is 5’11 and 212 pounds. He’s a squatty running back with the feet and change of direction abilities to create on his own. What stands out to me on film is the amount of power that he possesses in his lower body. He is able to convert power into suddenness, and it helps him make some of the most exhilarating jump cuts in the NCAA. These cuts, along with his vision, are the perfect match for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense.
Canada’s array of pre-snap shifts, motions and formations, along with his diverse run scheme, has many fans excited for Guice’s upcoming season. Some have even said he could make a run at the Heisman, but that’s neither here nor there. What Canada’s system will do is make Guice’s life easier. The pre snap movement will force the defense to be mentally sharp with their assignments, discipline, and ultimately their execution.
Canada’s scheme combined with Guice’s talent are why his stock in the 2018 NFL draft — astonishingly — may still be on the rise. He knows that his time is now and he is putting in the work!
The strength exhibited by Guice in that video is really the driving force behind his game. Let’s flashback to the 2016 season:
The Tigers send out 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE) and run a zone blocking concept to the weak side. Guice makes the defenders look silly. He presses the line of scrimmage, allows the fullback to pick up the inside backer (BOB), and cuts it back to the strength. He generates an insane amount of power to not only make one cut, but also to stack another one soon after. This forces two defenders to miss. He powers through the arm tackle before he is finally brought down after a 5-yard gain.
*If you have trouble viewing, open in Youtube*
Later in the game, LSU runs the very same play into the boundary. This time, the safety comes screaming down and thinks he has Guice dead to rights. But that’s where Guice wants to be: 1 on 1 with a defensive back. Even when defensive backs have the ball leveraged correctly, Guice is able to use his power and elusiveness to make them miss. The sudden cut by Guice forces the defender to lunge, and there is no way the defensive back is going to bring him down with just his arms.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has made a living running zone concepts out of two tight end sets, so Guice is going to feel right at home. On the following play, Louisiana State brings out 12 personnel and runs inside zone. Pre-snap, it doesn’t look good. There are eight guys within 7-8 yards of the line of scrimmage. Post-snap, the inside backer does a great job of getting downhill, which is the ultimate zone run killer.
Defenders need to dictate the play — don’t let the running back control the action. If the running back is given options, especially a guy as special as Guice, then he will make you pay. The backer has Guice in his sights — that is, until Guice plants his left foot and explodes to the right. What is so special and almost unteachable, besides the power needed to execute this move, is Guice’s balance. He sticks his left foot into the ground with his right foot still slightly ahead and proceeds to transfer his weight to his right foot.
That transfer helps him make the decisive cut while continuing his stride on an angle towards the line of scrimmage. Finally, he rotates his hips in the direction he wants to go and then accelerates out the back door. Tremendous exhibition of footwork and power that ultimately led to a big gain. Guice ended the night with 17 carries for 163 yard and three touchdowns.
On Thanksgiving night, Guice ate up the Texas A&M defense. He set LSU’s single game rushing record, amassing 285 yards and three touchdowns. On this play, the defense is in an over front and Guice puts on a clinic in yards after contact. The Tigers call a double trap, the tight end wham blocks the 3tech, and the guard does the same to the 2i technique.
The inside linebacker is keying the guard’s movement, so he fast flows to his right, taking him right out of the play. Guice receives the handoff and isn’t touched until he’s already at the second level. The defensive back attempts to corral Guice by grabbing his ball hand. This does not phase Guice; he doesn’t fight it. As the defender is draped on him, he peeks to the next threat. That defender is flowing fast outside, so he parlays it into a spin move away from that defensive back. That is next level play speed!
The Baton Rouge native has all of the traits you want in an NFL running back. He’s a creative runner, a guy that is an assignment buster. All of the gaps could be accounted for, and he would still manage to make a guy miss and take it to the house.
No returning FBS RB broke away from Power 5 teams more than LSU's Derrius Guice.
He has very good vision and makes defenses defend every blade of grass. But it’s his low center of gravity and his lower body strength that really separates him from other backs. He generates so much power so quickly, which allows him to make some of the most decisive cuts I have seen in a long time. When he makes those jump cuts he is able to keep his legs underneath him and maintain balance. The kind of balance and strength that forced 52 missed tackles and led to an average of 2.5 yards after contact per attempt in 2016 (according to CFB Film Room).
Guice is poised for a run at being the SEC’s leading rusher in back to back seasons, but he has me wondering if he really could make a run at the Heisman Trophy. With his skills and Canada’s scheme, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched.
Erik is an avid football junkie. He played running back and cornerback at Canisius High School in Buffalo, NY before going on to play in college at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. After college, Erik entered the United States Border Patrol and relocated to the southern states. It was there, in Southern California, that Turner began his coaching career before transferring to upstate New York in 2009. He became the offensive coordinator at a local high school in 2010, where he coached three seasons. Erik founded Cover 1 as an outlet to continue learning and pass on knowledge about the sport. Erik is an alumni of The Scouting Academy in addition to his efforts with Cover 1 sports. Turner also recently was signed on to assist in NFL Draft coverage at Inside the Pylon. He can be followed on Twitter at @Cover_1_.