For most of the 21st century, the LSU Tigers have been an SEC football powerhouse. Oddly enough, until Joe Burrow fell into their lap, the Bayou Bengals succeeded not because of a standout quarterback but in spite of a standout quarterback. Offensively, LSU has done most of its damage on the ground with a long list of great running backs, many of whom found some level of success. However, taking into account only what they accomplished in college, let’s take a look at the five best LSU running backs since the year 2000.
5. LaBrandon Toefield
Toefield was the first great LSU running back of the 2000’s and did a great job of setting the stage for the backs to come. Not every LSU fan is going to have vivid memories of him, but if you look up his old highlight reels, there’s no doubt that he belongs on this list. Remarkably, Toefield didn’t play his senior year of high school due to injury but was able to make an immediate impact with the Tigers, starting at running back in all three of his seasons in Baton Rouge.
In 2000, Toefield earned Freshman All-American honors while leading SEC freshmen in rushing yards. His breakout season came the following year when he made First-Team All-SEC while helping LSU win the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl during Nick Saban’s first year with the Tigers. That same year, he set the school record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season with 19 (later broken by Leonard Fournette). Toefield finished his three-year LSU career with over 2,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, putting him in the top-10 in school history in both categories, at least at the end of his career.
4. Joseph Addai
Before he helped the Colts win a Super Bowl in the NFL, Addai had a standout career at LSU and was a key contributor during the national championship season of 2003. He was such a strong and physical running back that the Tigers actually used Addai has a fullback early in his career as a way to get him on the field while he sat behind Toefield on the depth chart. At the same time, he was fast enough to run track while at LSU.
If not for injuries that slowed him down, Addai would have posted far more impressive numbers during his college career. However, in over 50 games and 19 starts, Addair rushed for over 2,500 yards, making him a fixture on the school’s all-time rushing list. He was also one of the better pass-catching running backs in LSU history, displaying both strength and finesse during his college days.
3. Jeremy Hill
Hill’s name isn’t anywhere close to the list of rushing leaders in LSU history. That’s in part because he only played two seasons but mostly because he had to share a backfield with half a dozen other running backs who all spent time in the NFL. It was insane how deep LSU’s backfield was during the early 2010’s. Yet, Hill found a way to stand out on a team full of NFL-caliber backs. In 2012, he became the first freshman to lead LSU in rushing despite a mere 142 carries and barely playing the first half of the season.
It was during his sophomore campaign in 2013 that Hill made his mark in the LSU record books. Even with three other future pros in the backfield with him, Hill was the feature back, rushing for 1,401 yards, which at the time was the second-most rushing yards in a single season in LSU history. He also earned first-team All-SEC honors that year. Across his two seasons at LSU, Hill amassed over 2,100 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns while averaging better than six yards per carry. His career was short but sweet and one of the best among LSU running backs in school history.
2. Derrius Guice
Unfortunately, injuries early in his pro career have overshadowed what an incredible college career Guice had at LSU. The Baton Rouge native spent his freshman season backing up Leonard Fournette but then made the most of his two years as LSU’s feature back. Guice’s powerful running style helped him to claim three of the top four single-game rushing totals in school history, including a record 285 yards against Texas A&M his sophomore season.
During his sophomore season in 2016, Guice ran for over 250 yards in three separate games, making him one of four running backs in SEC history to accomplish that feat, a list that includes all-time greats Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker. That season, Guice averaged over seven yards per carry and found the end zone 15 times. Over his career, Guice is one of just five LSU running backs to eclipse 3,000 rushing yards and one of only two to accomplish that this century.
1. Leonard Fournette
It’s a close call at the top, but Fournette is surely the best LSU running back since 2000 and arguably the best in school history. He came out of high school with the size and physicality of an NFL running back and at least came close to matching expectations that were outrageous and a little unfair before his college career even began. Despite starting less than half LSU’s games during his freshman season, Fournette still rushed for over 1,000 yards and capped the season with a kickoff return for a touchdown in the team’s bowl game.
As a sophomore in 2015, Fournette set the LSU single-season rushing record with 1,953 yards and the single-season rushing touchdown record with 22. It was arguably the best season by a running back in LSU history and perhaps even SEC history. Unfortunately for Fournette, injuries held him back during his junior year in 2016, limiting him to just seven games, including games when he played hurt. However, Fournette still finished his career with over 3,000 rushing yards and 40 rushing touchdowns, leaving little doubt that he’s the best LSU running back of the 21st century.