Meet the Prospect: Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire
With 497 rushing yards on the young season, McGuire ranks in the top 10 in college football
Throughout the season, the "Meet the Prospect" series will highlight an underrated senior NFL prospect with a scouting report, interview and glimpse at what NFL scouts think of the player.
Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette, SR. (5-10, 208, 4.50, #15)
The Scouting Report
Many of the same scouting terms used to describe former Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens in April, will be used in McGuire's scouting report. Productive? He has 3,185 career rushing yards to his name entering his senior season and currently ranks seventh in the FBS, averaging 136.0 rushing yards per game in 2016. Reliable? McGuire had double-digit carries in every game last season. Strong hands? He has 100 receptions over his career for 1,145 yards.
The McGuire-Dixon comparisons make a lot of sense.
McGuire is a square runner with low pad level, using forward lean and run toughness to be productive between the tackles. He uses a good mix of balance and power to do his damage inside, but the athleticism and speed are also present to bounce runs outside, including secondary quickness once he clears the initial level of the defense. Considered one of the best athletes in the program, McGuire even joined the Ragin' Cajuns basketball team this past January once the football season ended, playing in 16 games off the bench.
McGuire has shown the ability to break a long run and be a home run threat, but he has room to improve his run tempo and decisiveness to better string together runs. He can be too patient at times, allowing the defense to swallow him up while he is waiting for a hole to open.
While his athleticism and toughness stand out on film, McGuire's most impressive trait might be his receiving ability, with strong hand-eye coordination to pluck the ball out of the air and quickly create. And he doesn't just run screens or take advantage of dump-offs; McGuire will run routes and occasionally line up in the slot as a receiver -- evidenced by his 11.5 yards per catch career average. He isn't immune to the occasional drop, but he does some of his best work with defenders draped all over him downfield, getting his head turned to find, locate and secure the catch.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, McGuire is currently ranked as the No. 3 senior running back prospect and a potential mid-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
What NFL scouts are saying
"When I was in Lafayette two years ago, I was there to watch a senior running back, but it was his backup No. 15 who kept drawing my eye. Eli can make the first guy miss and instinctively sorts through the weeds. I think he can be as good as his volume." -- NFC North scout
Q: How long have you been playing football and how did you end up at Lafayette?
A: I've been playing football since I was eight years old. I started getting into it when I was little and then in junior high and through high school. Lafayette was the only school who knew my situation. I was a late qualifier and was supposed to graduate in 2014 and UL was the only school who knew that. By the time I graduated, bigger schools didn't realize it and I was already at UL.
Q: Do you think you missed the chance to be at a larger program?
A: I'm very happy with the way things worked out. I was talking about the situation with another player the other day and how the situation worked out just fine. I probably couldn't see myself anywhere else. I would have redshirted or whatever and who knows what would have happened somewhere else. I'm glad I'm here at U of L.
Q: What would you consider your best strength as a running back? What do you do best?
A: Great vision. I think the best thing I do is make people miss in tight areas. A lot of running backs can do that but special ones can win one-on-one. A running back needs to win the one-on-ones, that's key in football. And I think that's my strength.
Q: What's an area that you still need improvement?
A: My pass protection. I understand it, but I need time with the defense moving around. I know how to use my eyes, but I can get distracted by other things going on. At times my eyes are in the wrong place, but I got it, I understand it and just have to get it right.
Q: Looks like you have worked hard to gain weight over the years. You're listed at 209 pounds right now. What do you think is the ideal weight for you?
A: Any weight for me is acceptable whether I weight more or less, I don't lose anything. I still have my ability to move lateral. My quickness. I'm trying to keep it at 209 or 210. I got to 215 once, but feel better at 210. No change at all.
Q: You were the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2013 and have been productive the last three years. What's the biggest difference between Elijah McGuire as a freshman and Elijah McGuire now as a senior?
A: The difference is I understand what is going on. Coming in as a freshman, I shared carries with Alonzo Harris. I didn't take time to understand the game of football. Coaches made me understand it. (Running backs) Coach (Marquase) Lovings wanted to put me in position to be successful. And I thought that's a great idea, I'm good with that. All credit goes to him. As the years went on, I learned to take it further and understand the game of football. Now being a senior, the game is a lot easier as a senior. I can honestly say I understand everything.
Q: Your production dipped slightly last year compared to your sophomore season. Why do you think that was?
A: A part of it was the offensive line, a young offensive line. Some of them weren't experienced like the first two years. It's no knock to them because they haven't played. They have to get better at knowing assignments. I'm not knocking them because they'll get me right. My job as a senior is to get on them to know how to be productive.
Q: You have 100 catches on your resume. How would you describe your impact in the passing game?
A: Growing up, I always had great hands. Catching the ball is something I take pride in. Not too many backs can do it. And it's something I can do out of the backfield, turning a swing route into a 20-yard gain or 40 or 50 yards. I have that ability.
Q: If you had to narrow it down to one trait, what do you think is the most important aspect of being an effective running back? Is it vision, quickness, something else?
A: Knowing pass protection. A lot of guys in the league, that's what they get paid for, protecting Tom Brady and all those good quarterbacks out there. Coaches have to trust you and know that you have that ability and know the pass protection.
Q: You considered going to the NFL early after last year. What went into your decision to return to school? (Did you receive a grade?)
A: I thought about it, it was a long, long, long process -- more than a month. I made my decision the night before we reported. My choice was based on my senior year. I finish up in December and graduate, I won't have to worry about school anymore. I tested the waters and received a "go back to school" grade, which I knew it was going to be.
Q: Has the NFL always been a dream of yours?
A: Not at all. My dream is not to go to the NFL. It's something I haven't dreamed of. Most kids do, but growing up I didn't know about the NFL. I just want to make a difference in people's lives and in the community. Give back to the community and make a difference in someone's life. If the NFL works out, then great. I'm going to take the opportunity. If it doesn't, I won't hang my head.
Q: Fast-forward five years from now. Where do you see yourself?
A: I can see myself having a wife, having kids and living happily. Having fun. I lost my dad at 12 years old so I want to be in my kid's lives. Give them the opportunity to be in their life because I didn't have that.
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