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Former LSU RBs, Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue, impressed in place of starters

11/20/2014

This weekend, two former LSU teammates will have to fade back into the background to some degree.

Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill were productive for their NFL teams in the absence of their starting running backs. In a way, they were uniquely suited for it.

"At LSU, the running back room, we were always competitive," Blue said. "We had a lot of great running backs there. ... Running back coach always told us, the hot hand will get the ball. We never really had a starter. If you were the hot hand that week, you were going to get the ball. ... He used to tell us the starter was just the person who starts the game. It doesn't matter who starts the game. It's about who's going to go out there and dominate."

For the Bengals, Hill rushed for 361 yards in the past three games without starter Giovanni Bernard.

For the Texans, Blue rushed for 156 yards on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns while starter Arian Foster nursed a groin injury.

The Texans' quick tempo on Sunday meant they ran a lot of plays with their first-time starter, most of them on the ground. Blue set a franchise record, rushing 36 times in the Texans' 23-7 victory. He also played punt team and kickoff return, which meant he was very, very sore after the game and the next morning. When he started at LSU, he also played on every special teams unit.

"I’m kind of used to it, knowing that the coaches believe that I’m a dominant player on special teams," Blue said. "I just know my role that I might become a starter one week and still have to play on special teams. I prepare myself for that load."

Blue showed a tremendous amount of patience, a nod to his growth since getting to Houston. His stats weren't padded by any huge runs. He had one 21-yard run and two 14-yarders, but the other 107 yards came methodically.

"It's still difficult because at times you just want to lick your chops and cut it and break loose," Blue said. "You just gotta keep telling yourself before the ball, 'Okay, look at the defense. He might do this, he might do this.' Just keep pressing, pressing. You've just gotta keep telling yourself, 'Patience, patience, patience.'"

Patience will be key for him on a bigger scale, too. Foster returned to practice on Wednesday, and if he returns to the field this weekend fully healthy, Blue's carries will drop.

In the story linked above by my colleague Coley Harvey, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says Hill has earned more carries even with Bernard's return. I asked the same question on the Texans side of Bill O'Brien.

Has Blue earned more carries even when Foster is healthy?

"Alfred will play," he said. "Alfred will be in there."