The unexpected emergence of Terrance Magee has made it clear that LSU's running game can be productive even if Jeremy Hill's disciplinary benching lasts several games.
What remains to be seen is how the ever-patient Magee's playing time sorts out once Hill, the Tigers' 2012 leading rusher, is back on the field for ninth-ranked LSU.
"I am fortunate because I have an opportunity to play now," said Magee, whose 95 yards and two touchdowns led the Tigers to a season-opening victory over TCU. "It felt good to be out there. I hadn't played a full game in two years. I was just thankful for the opportunity. No matter when you get in there, you have to make every snap count."
Miles has refused to say if Hill, punished in connection with his offseason arrest for throwing a punch outside a bar, will return for Saturday night's home opener against UAB.
With Hill benched last Saturday, Magee entered LSU's opener against TCU in Dallas as the third-string running back behind Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard.
Blue, who was coming back from torn knee ligaments that sidelined him most of last season, picked up a hard-earned 89 yards rushing. Hilliard wound up carrying only four times for 8 yards.
The surprise was Magee, a former high school quarterback who has bounced back and forth between the roles of reserve running back and receiver since arriving at LSU in 2011. He led LSU last Saturday with 95 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, one of which went for 52 yards, in LSU's 37-27 victory over the Horned Frogs.
Before the game, Magee had rushed for a total of 133 yards in the first two years of his college career.
"Terrence Magee is a talented guy," LSU coach Les Miles said. "Those inside this program root for Terrence Magee because he's just a great kid, who works hard and has ability. Given the opportunity, he'll make that kind of contribution throughout the year."
Magee had just two first-half carries against TCU, but he showed promise by picking up 6 yards on each attempt. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron called Magee's number more in the second half, when he carried 11 times for 83 yards.
For the first time since his days as an All-State quarterback at Franklinton (La.) High School, Magee was in the spotlight.
Being a playmaker is nothing strange for Magee, who led Franklinton to the Louisiana Class 4A title in 2010. In the state title game, Magee accounted for 329 yards — 203 passing and 126 rushing — and two touchdowns. He was responsible for more than 4,000 yards and 51 touchdowns as a high school senior.
It was known throughout Magee's recruiting that he would be shifted to running back in college. Magee carried the ball 27 times as a freshman with the Tigers.
"It was a big adjustment moving from quarterback to running back," Magee said. "As the quarterback, you are the leader of the team. You are responsible for what everybody is doing. As a running back, your role goes down. You are not in control. But, I knew I was going to play running back at LSU."
Last season, Magee was shifted to receiver — a move which bothered him, but seemed necessary because there were five running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. Magee caught one pass last year — a 7-yarder against Idaho. Coaches decided late in the regular season that Magee would return to running back.
"The toughest part of the last two years was when I was moved to receiver," Magee said. "I viewed (the change) as a negative. I wasn't used to playing there. I knew I was not going to get to the next level as a receiver.
"When I went back to running back, I had to stay confident and motivated," Magee said, adding that running backs coach Frank Wilson assured him he would receive an opportunity to play.
"It has been hard, but I knew my time would come," Magee said.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is glad it did.
"Terrence has been lost in the mix the last couple of years," Mettenberger said. "You saw his role last week. He showed the wheels to make a big run on the touchdown. He is also a great receiver."