By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Through one week, LSU coach Ed Orgeron called freshman tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire the “surprise of camp” following a series of impressive showings.
Derrius Guice contends he would’ve been disappointed had his rookie understudy — and “Mini-Me,” as he’s been known to call Edwards-Helaire — showed up at LSU and done anything less.
It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before.
“He better come here doing what I know he can do, and that’s what he’s done,” Guice said. “So it’s no surprise for me. I expect him to do that.”
Edwards-Helaire is said to have broken three plays of 60-plus yards during the first fully-padded practice of fall camp.
According to Danny Etling, he broke two runs and took a short pass for a big gain. Orgeron said he rushed six times for 19 yards in LSU’s first preseason scrimmage Saturday.
“Clyde the Glide,” Etling smiled. “He’s a pretty smooth runner. He stays low, he has low pad level. He can really play and help us out.”
That nickname has stuck with the diminutive tailback since his days backing up Guice down the road at Catholic High School. In fact, Etling said it’s how the freshman introduced himself the day he stepped on campus.
Anybody who shows up on day one with a self-proclaimed nickname had better be prepared to back it up when it comes time to put the pads on, and by accounts, Edwards-Helaire has done exactly that.
Though listed as one of the smallest backs on the roster at 5-foot-8 and 208 pounds, he apparently packs a punch that LSU’s defense hasn’t yet figured out how to counter.
“The whole team hates him right now defensively because they still can’t find a way to stop him,” Guice said. “He’s one of the smaller guys. All of the defensive guys are over 6-foot and he’s over here like 5-foot-5 built like a tree stump. He’s thick, shifty and blends in well with the offensive line. It’s hard to stop a guy like that.”
On paper, that size was reason to believe Edwards-Helaire wouldn’t stand out early in a crowded backfield behind a proven feature back in Guice. Some even surmised he could be a candidate to take a redshirt this season while bulking up enough to play in the Southeastern Conference.
But to Guice, who says he’ll be more of a “team player” in an offense that’s going to spread the ball around more, that low center of gravity is precisely why Edwards-Helaire now seems poised to make an early impact.
“Clyde is going to show you all that he belongs here,” Guice said bluntly. “That was my job getting him prepared when he was behind me at Catholic. I kind of got here first and stepped up first. Now he’s just falling behind in the shadow and doing the same thing.
“When I first got here, I was impressing everybody. Now it’s the same with him.”
LSU would certainly sign up for such a career progression.