A half-step might be all that separates Nick Brossette and Derrius Guice.
The freshman running backs have long been compared to each other, and with good reason. Their illustrious prep careers placed them on an identical trajectory, each a highly touted local prospect destined to stay at home and become LSU’s next back.
A glance at the team’s roster reveals more similarities.
The pair nearly measures up in the tale of the tape — Brossette is listed as an inch taller (6-foot), Guice two pounds heavier (216 pounds). They wear No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, just another sign of their close proximity to one another.
But now that they finally get to share the field and compete for playing time as a backup in LSU’s crowded backfield, it’s even harder to tell the two apart.
“One has a little quicker step than the other, but when it all boils down, they’re the same,” assistant director of player personnel Justin Vincent said. “They catch the ball well, they read the ball well. They’re not just great running backs, they’re great football players.”
Brossette blossomed into a four-star recruit on LSU’s main campus as a five-year player at University High, where he notched 141 rushing touchdowns to shatter former LSU running back Kenny Hilliard’s state record of 118.
Guice achieved similar acclaim a mere four miles away at Catholic High. Recruiting services ranked him as high as the No. 2 running back in the class of 2015 after he amassed 1,958 total yards and 29 total touchdowns as a senior.
Both runners had several suitors contending for their services, but location ultimately gave the Tigers a leg up in the recruiting race.
“We feel as though we raised them,” said running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson. “They’ve been here around us their entire lives. One lives a mile and a half away, and the other lives three miles away. We’ve watched them since they were playing ball as eighth-graders my first year here. The evolution of those two young men has been tremendous. They’ll be counted on to contribute this year.”
But how much the freshman duo will contribute remains a mystery. Coach Les Miles is well known for digging deep into his stable of running backs, and he has indicated several times that trend will continue despite the hype surrounding sophomore running back Leonard Fournette.
So Brossette and Guice have been preparing for whatever workload may come their way, drawing praise from coaches and teammates throughout preseason camp.
Brossette said he has been working on his all-around game while adjusting to the playbook and speed of the college level.
“Everything is starting to slow down for me now,” he said.
That makes for a rare difference between Brossette and his running mate.
“At first, it was a slow, rough start because you’re new and you don’t know what’s going on,” Guice said. “You’re so tense in the meetings and eager to know what’s going on next. It went by slow, but now it’s going by smoothly and a lot quicker. It’s actually a lot funner now since we know what we’re doing.”
The tandem is presumably competing for the No. 3 running back spot behind Fournette and sophomore Darrel Williams, two rushers who saw significant playing time as rookies last season. Vincent, who held the program’s single-season rushing record for a true freshman until Fournette broke it in 2014, praised the freshmen for their vision and pass-catching ability.
Brossette and Guice are progressing quickly, and their competition is a big reason why.
“It has been great. I’m pushing him and he’s pushing me,” Brossette said. “It’s a friendly competition. We’re just two brothers trying to make plays and do big things for the offense.”
Brossette and Guice aren’t roommates, but the Baton Rouge natives are bridging the four-mile gap that separated them in high school as their paths finally converge.
“We’re building a bond with each other that we never had,” Brossette said. “Being around him is a great thing. I’m learning all of his traits, and he’s learning all of mine.”
Brossette and Guice are discovering more about each other every day, but the Tigers are just happy to have the pair of native sons around.
“Everything we thought they were, they are from an intellect, work ethic and production standpoint,” Wilson said “We got the two that we wanted. We could have chosen backs throughout the country, and the two we took were in the city of Baton Rouge. We wouldn’t trade them for anyone.”