2014 NFL Draft: With NFL beckoning, LSU's Jeremy Hill gashes Iowa

Peavy (USATSI)
Those close to the LSU program expect running back Jeremy Hill to declare for the draft. (USATSI)

For the first time in 50 years, the first round of an NFL draft came and went without a single running back getting selected in the first round.

If the 2014 draft class is going to reverse the new trend established last year it will be with an underclassmen.

Arizona's junior Ka'Deem Carey currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated running back potentially eligible for 2014. Washington's Bishop Sankey could also earn the highest grade for some scouts.

And while both PAC-12 stars are fine prospects with the all-around game to project very well to the next level, neither boasts unique traits like LSU's Jeremy Hill, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound semi-truck with sports car speed, whose 216 yards and two touchdowns powered the Tigers to a 21-14 victory over Iowa in Wednesday's Outback Bowl.

Eclipsing the 100-yard rushing mark against the Hawkeyes before his Tigers took a 14-0 lead into halftime, Hill showed off the combination of agility, power and surprising speed which has allowed him to overtake Alfred Blue, Kenny Hilliard and Terrence McGee - each talented enough to star elsewhere - as LSU's bell-cow back.

Hill's 14-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter perfectly encapsulates his obvious talent.

Hill took the handoff from quarterback Anthony Jennings and initially was heading to his left behind star junior left tackle La'el Collins. With a hole developing up the middle, however, Hill subtly shifted to his right, running through arm tackles by two Iowa defenders near the line of scrimmage, accelerating quickly through space and finally twisting through a fine effort by senior middle linebacker James Morris to carry the 6-foot-2, 240-pound All-American into the end zone.

With LSU looking to run out the clock, they turned to Hill again late in the game. He rewarded their faith, taking a pitch off the right side for a 37-yard score with just over two minutes remaining. Following a group of blockers to gain an initial advantage on the Hawkeyes, Hill accelerated past the line of scrimmage and into the open field where the big back simply shook Iowa's senior safety Tanner Miller and threw a wicked stiff-arm to knock off another defensive back (John Lowdermilk) on his way into the end zone.

Hill's impressive performance is all the more impressive considering the opponent. Iowa, while clearly not as athletic as LSU, remains one of college football's most fundamentally sound teams and entered the Outback ranked seventh in the country in Total Defense, including 17th against the run. Further, with the freshman Jennings taking over for injured star Zach Mettenberger as the Tigers' quarterback, Iowa could focus on LSU's running game. 

The Hawkeyes, however, were no match for Hill, who averaged 7.7 yards per carry, with Blue (3.7), Hilliard (3.0) and McGee (1.7) also enjoying success but not to the same degree as the gifted sophomore.    

Hill's eligibility for the 2014 draft was in question early as he's only played two seasons of college football. He is three years removed from his high school graduating class, however, as he sat out the 2011 season due to legal complications from an arrest.

Those close to the LSU program expect Hill and several others among the Tigers' underclassmen to declare for the draft.

Before considering investing any selection in Hill, NFL teams will want to thoroughly investigate his character as he's had multiple run-ins with police. Further, with teams increasingly shifting towards committees at running back and finding talented runners in the later rounds and even undrafted free agency, investing a first round pick in the position has lost momentum.

If there is a back potentially available in the 2014 draft class with the elite traits to challenge this thinking, however, it is Hill. 

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