LSU has a running back problem. That much was clear in 2020. After losing Clyde Edwards-Helaire to the NFL, along with starters at QB, WR1 & 2, TE, LT, LC, OC, and RG, most assumed the Tigers’ offense would have growing pains. The rushing offense was even worse than most predicted. The Tigers averaged 121 yards per game at 3.3 per carry. Both of those figures ranked below 100 in all of FCS last season.
LSU’s problem is not a lack of recruiting pedigree at the position. Former 5-star recruit John Emery Jr. was expected to take over last season, but he never really did. Same for Tyrion Davis-Price (mid-4-star) and Chris Curry (low 4-star). The best back on the roster may have been true freshman Tre Bradford, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry on only 10 rushes.
It’s not clear how long Ed Oregeron will allow this problem to persist, but I’d imagine that he is aware of the issue. LSU brings in two 4 star running backs in this class, hoping that one of them can provide the answer to their rushing woes. For my money, the guy to restore some prestige to that LSU backfield is Corey Kiner.
Kiner hails from Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a senior, Kiner dominated with 1869 rush yards at 11.1 a clip and 32 touchdowns. Although the season did not end with a state championship game appearance, Kiner earned Ohio’s Mr. Football award for 2020, joining prestigious company that includes Charles Woodson, Maurice Clarett, and Joe Burrow.
On my first watch-through, I did not care for Kiner’s skill set. I saw a smaller back with limited athletic ability. However, once more senior year clips were uploaded to his Hudl page, I found myself falling in love with another undersized LSU running back. Coach O seems to agree with that assessment, as he recently compared Kiner to Edwards-Helaire.
Ed Orgeron says incoming RB Corey Kiner reminds him of Clyde Edwards-Helaire. #LSU— Brooks Kubena (@BKubena) March 16, 2021
Corey Kiner is not the biggest back. Corey Kiner is not the fastest back. But there are plenty of running backs that make do without those gifts, and Kiner falls within that class of back. Physically, his most impressive attribute is his burst. The way he accelerates out of cuts is reminiscent of CEH, along with other top NFL running backs. Kiner has that level of pro prospect within his range of outcomes
Part of what makes Kiner so dangerous is his footwork in conjunction with those physical gifts. You can see how efficient he is in-and-out of cuts in the clip above. If he continues to perfect those tools, Kiner has an NFL future.
Slippery Running Style
The first word that comes to mind when watching Kiner run is “slippery.” Beyond the physical, technical, and mental gifts that Kiner possesses, he simply has a knack for evading tacklers, both in traffic and in space. Most great running backs possess that trait. Kiner does as well. He regularly breaks tackles and runs through creases he has no business making it through.
A large part of his success in crowded areas is attributable to his vision and ability to set up blockers beyond his immediate rushing lane. Kiner might be the best back in this class in this regard. He makes up for his lack of truly elite physical ability with these skills.
Pass Catching Ability
No back can realistically be comped to CEH without some pass-catching chops. Luckily for Kiner, that is not an issue. Although he was not tasked with catching a ton of balls in high school, he has shown that he is capable in those limited opportunities.
Look how quickly he collects himself on a poorly thrown pass here. His ability to shift from pass-catcher to ball-carrier quickly and efficiently suggests that he should be dangerous as a receiving weapon in college and beyond.
WHAT FORMATS AM I BUYING IN?
Hearing about the pros and cons of a player is nice, but most of the top guys in a recruiting class are good athletes that have tons of good offers and potential through the roof. So the big question becomes, in which formats should I be targeting this player? And where should I draft him?
LSU has produced several fantasy-relevant running backs in recent history. Fantasy managers are aware of the school and the talent that it produces, much like they are with Alabama receivers or Clemson quarterbacks. However, Kiner has the benefit of entering college with another 4-star RB (Armoni Goodwin) and is entering a crowded backfield. As such, I find it unlikely that you need to draft Kiner in anything but the deepest leagues this offseason. Devy Verdict: Anything outside 6+ rounds would be a reach.
Kiner has quickly gained some traction in social media circles. He is a 4-star entering a major college program, at a position that often comes with a premium. Kiner will likely be a top-36 pick in drafts. C2C Verdict: Prepare to spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick on a potential starting RB at LSU.
While he will likely redshirt, Kiner has a chance to be “the guy” at a big school, which is worth a lot in both Devy and C2C formats. Hopefully, Kiner spends 2021 refining his footwork and enjoying the benefits of a collegiate strength and conditioning program. If he can capitalize, we may be talking about Kiner as a top back in the 2024 NFL Draft.