Derrius Guice nearly forgot about his helmet.
It popped off of his head and rolled about 5 yards down the field – the downside to a 25-yard run in which he broke six tackles.
So excited after that run, Guice popped off the turf and took two strides toward the sideline before realizing he’d lost his headgear.
For LSU fans, that electric, tackle-breaking run in a win over South Carolina was just that – a wild scamper from a talented freshman, a brief glimpse at an explosive tailback.
For Guice, it was a revelation – a play that completed his transition from high school to college, a confidence-boosting run where he finally felt comfortable.
“Probably right after that,” Guice said after LSU’s 11th practice of the spring. “I was like, ‘Let’s turn up now.’”
Guice, a former Catholic High star and the Tigers’ rising sophomore, spoke to reporters for the first time since August on Thursday.
A lot has happened since then. For one, Guice evolved, by the year’s end, to star running back Leonard Fournette’s immediate backup. He finished with 161 yards in that 45-24 win over Carolina, scored on a 50-yard run in the season finale against Texas A&M and ran for 39 yards – on just four carries – in the Texas Bowl.
In nearly every game, Guice found a way to squeeze in a tackle-breaking, highlight reel run, flashing a running style that Fournette refers to as “angry.”
What’s Guice say about that?
“I’ve never seen anybody run as angry as he does either,” the 5-11, 222-pounder responded. “It’s just a mirror reflection.”
That’s how Guice looks at things. He and Fournette aren’t so different, he says. They’re each fast. And he calls each “violent runners.”
Guice’s goal is to mimic a guy he refers to as a “big brother.” When he sees Fournette bulldoze two players during a 40-yard run, Guice wants to enter and do the same.
He doesn’t want defenses getting a break. He doesn’t want to be a “slouch” – a word he used three times during a 10-minute interview with reporters.
“I’m going to give them my all every time and show them that I’m not no slouch. They’re going to have to play hard against me as well as him,” Guice said, dressed in a school-issued LSU collared shirt and blue sweat pants tucked into blue Nike Air Jordans.
“Whenever he’s not in, I don’t want them to think I’m the slouch,” he said later. “I do what I have to do to make it hard for them.”
At one point during the interview, the talkative Baton Rouge native referred to himself as the “Leonard Replacement.”
Guice is just fine with that even though, yes, he’s motivated being behind a guy many believe to be the Heisman Trophy favorite entering the 2016 season.
“It is because, like I said, I look up (to) him. It’s great being behind somebody that you look up to,” he said. “You kind of flash the same ability he does when you get the opportunity, just like me at Catholic and Clyde (Edwards-Helaire) behind me. I’m basically that Leonard to him. He’s going to be here in a few years. It’s just the way it goes. You’ve got to respect who’s in front of you.”
And learn from them, too.
Guice began his career a lot like Fournette – barreling into his blockers, bouncing inside runs outside, missing whopping running lanes. He wasn’t patient enough, Guice admits. That’s something he’s learning from new running backs coach Jabbar Juluke and Fournette. The running backs have a slogan, Guice said: “Slow to and fast through.”
“As a hungry guy, I don’t want to get stopped in the backfield. I’m just ready to go through the hole and stuff,” Guice said. “I started noticing as I watch film that I’m missing the big holes. I was getting 2-3 yards when I could have been getting 5-6 yards. The biggest thing Leonard is teaching me is patience and how to read the blocks.”
Fournette has not spoken to local reporters since Dec. 29 in the post-game news conference of LSU’s Texas Bowl win.
Guice takes the “slow to and fast through” approach in returning kicks also – something he plans to do again this upcoming season. He’s still practicing as LSU’s No. 1 kick returner, backed up by Donte Jackson and D.J. Chark, he said.
Guice says he’s not only learning on the field.
“You’re in college, you’re basically a grownup,” he said. “You can’t act like a little kid in this game.”
During an interview last month, Juluke mentioned Guice’s academics – and his expectations for him.
“Right now, his grades are even outstanding,” Juluke said. “He’s just happy to be doing some good things and being able to play football and doing all of those great things.
“I think that the future is very bright for him.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.