BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If Baton Rouge radio sports talk hosts (especially LSU football postgame show hosts) had a dollar for every question or comment they fielded on Michael Ford last year, they could be retired now instead of sweating in the sun.
After what was perceived to be a very strong effort in the Tigers' 2010 Spring Game, many LSU fans were simply flabbergasted Ford wasn't getting any carries early in the season. Instead of where's Waldo, it was where's Ford?
"I don't buy in to all of that," the sophomore from Leesville says, "I just stay focused and cheer the other running backs on. You can't really get your head into that stuff."
In the past head coach Les Miles has often received criticism for not giving younger players action, but instead tipping the hat to veterans who aren't as talented. Such was the case last season, as Ford had a measly three carries total after LSU's first four games. All three of those attempts came in garbage time against Vanderbilt, as he didn't even play against North Carolina, Mississippi State or West Virginia.
Ford doesn't necessarily think he did anything wrong. "I can't really say. Stevan Ridley came out explosive, with some explosive plays. He was playing hard, had a big camp and was the leader."
Indeed, Ridley was almost a second coming of Jacob Hester. During Hester's senior season in 2007, many fans felt he was robbing more capable backs like Keiland Williams and Charles Scott of carries. Of course Hester became a folk hero that year by rushing for over 1,000 yards and making many huge plays during the Tigers' national championship run. Ridley also appeared to be nothing that special initially, but also soared to a huge 2010 campaign. He racked up 1,147 yards rushing and scored 15 rushing TDs. Apparently Miles did the right thing again. And now Ford has plenty of time to prove he can be LSU's leading rusher himself.
As a true freshman, Ford certainly had some nice moments as the season progressed. He gained 86 yards on just 10 carries, with two touchdowns during a 32-10 win over McNeese. Then later against a feisty Ole Miss Rebel squad, Ford rushed for 58 yards and was credited with a 27-yard touchdown reception on an option pitch from quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Thanks to those efforts LSU won a 43-36 shootout in Tiger Stadium against an arch-rival from the SEC.
Now Ford hopes to build on those efforts in this sweaty, grueling August camp.
"It's camp and you can't say it's more easy", says Ford, "You just go in more focused on what you have to do. When you're younger, you're just trying to get through practice. When you're a little older, you focus on getting better every day."
Blue chip running backs are a lot like the pretty girls that make their way onto the LSU campus. People fall in love with them right away. But before you know it, a new, fresh crop rolls in shortly after and the previous one isn't as relative.
With that in mind, meet Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard. Magee was a superstar quarterback at Franklinton High School, who was a highlight film in leading the Demons to their first ever state championship. He's been moved to running back at LSU and will wear #14.
Hilliard is Louisiana's all-time leading rusher from Patterson High School and certainly has the family name to be a star in Death Valley. Suddenly some folks have forgotten about all those 200, 300 yard rushing games Ford racked up at Leesville.
"They recruit the best guys. The best guys will come in and try to take your position. You have to fight them off every day."
But Ford insists the competition is positive, with no problems.
"We're all competitive, we're all great backs. We push each other every day. And that's what you want."