LAFAYETTE — When Elijah McGuire stepped onto the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus last season as a true freshman, he looked drastically different than the 205-pound sophomore who ran for 129 yards and a touchdown Saturday night against Southern.
Ragin’ Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said McGuire has added about 30 pounds to his frame, and McGuire said he noticed it Saturday.
“I took some big hits, and it didn’t really hurt,” McGuire said. “Last year, I was smaller. This year, I am bigger, stronger, faster — and it showed.”
McGuire is just one piece to perhaps the deepest position on the Cajuns roster — a roster that is identified by its depth.
“We are six or seven deep at running back, and all have different styles,” McGuire said. “Coach will use us in different ways to get the job done.”
McGuire’s main backfield mate, senior Alonzo Harris, is the thunder to McGuire’s lightning. Harris admitted he had a bit of a tough time adjusting to McGuire coming in and sharing carries last season.
“(We) had our one on one to set aside our differences,” Harris said. “We are both here to win and put the team first.”
Harris said the process brought him maturity, and he has risen above the pettiness that plagued the duo’s early relationship.
“At the time, I wasn’t seeing what was going on,” Harris said. “I was being selfish. I had to mature in order to move past it. As I got to know Elijah and coaches got on me about my attitude, I started looking at the bigger picture and realizing everything we are doing is the best for the team. We are both here to win.”
McGuire echoed Harris’ sentiments and said the relationship between the two is strong. Both players get plenty of reps with the first team, and McGuire said although Harris may be the thunder, don’t underestimate his wheels.
“Everyone talks about the 1-2 punch where he is the thunder, and I am the lightning,” McGuire said. “But if Alonzo gets in the open field, he can outrun some people.”
Both McGuire and Harris said the depth at running back is a key to them staying fresh. McGuire said every back has a different skill set, and any of the running backs could be called upon at any time.
“Torrey Pierce is very effective and had a great camp,” Hudspeth said. “He is not huge in stature, but he is a winner. Effrem Reed is great at pass protection and a good two-minute back. Those guys are going to play and have a good role on our team.”
McGuire, Harris, Pierce and Reed combined for 212 yards on the ground. Quarterback Terrance Broadway, who added 38 yards on six carries, said having such an effective running game helps the passing game tremendously.
“Our backs are very talented,” Broadway said. “There is no need to force anything. (Against Southern), I had one check down to Alonzo and one check down to (Pierce), and both were first downs. They are a big asset to have.”