By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Ever since his 2021 flip from Auburn to LSU, second year Tiger running back Armoni Goodwin continues to fly under the radar, delivering a couple stunning in-game carries...only to see his on-field opportunities cut down by injuries & the presence of numerous top running backs, clouding his path forward.
Behind TDP's constant starting appearances and 1,004 yards on the ground, alongside fellow freshman Corey Kiner receiving 79 total rushing opportunities, as John Emery Jr remained ineligible for the entire 2021 season, last year's competition seemed stiff, however, during an early season stretch where the Tigers were completely lost at running back, Armoni could've challenged for LSU's starting or 2nd string running back job, had he been healthy.
The former Hewitt-Trusville star grabbed just 16 rushing attempts through 6 injury-abbreviated appearances for a total of 65 yards, mostly due to a recurring ankle problem.....all but closing the door on what could've been a marvelous debut campaign.
As we approached 2022, with Emery returning for a do-over, Kiner continuing to improve, Tre Bradford beginning to rise and former walk-on Josh Williams being awarded a well deserved scholarship, Goodwin seemed to be a prime candidate to transfer from LSU, with some in the media saying he could be "looking to possibly leave his injury woes behind and start fresh" elsewhere;
Still, Armoni kept grinding and bruising his way through Spring, earning carries, tips & plaudits from RBs Coach Frank Wilson;
Suddenly, following injuries to John Emery Jr and Corey Kiner later in spring camp, Armoni seized control of his first extended, sustained sequences of LSU reps in nearly a year.
Goodwin responded in kind, impressing coaches with his natural running back's body, low to the ground, stout throughout, and of course, brutal in size or aggression while attacking defenders with pure pad violence.
Accordingly, during LSU's spring game, Armoni busted out in devastating fashion:
Backing up a heart-filled outing from John Emery Jr, the Alabama-born rusher topped his freshman season total after just 8 drives: Recording 71 yards from 9 carries & scoring the first touchdown of the afternoon, before also adding a brilliant 23 yard catch & move in the flat.
Armoni was built to play running back in the SEC, equipped with agility, vision, bursts of raw, untapped speed, while mixing in battering ram ferocity, but as we also witnessed, #22 could be a reliable pass-catcher out of the LSU backfield in 2022.
Once Goodwin's close friend & position competitor Corey Kiner became the first freshman back to hit the portal, Goodwin solidified his position as one of the more intriguing, exciting and purely talented rushers inside Frank Wilson's RBs room.
Maybe year two is a season where Goodwin could still get lost in the shuffle of what is a rather full deck for Frank Wilson, Mike Denbrock & Brian Kelly's backfield:
Rushing for over 210 combined yards without a healthy John Emery Jr or Corey Kiner, LSU's "fringe" running backs proved to be quite good themselves, Tre Bradford posting 86 yards headlined by some long, bursting runs, as Josh Williams scored 2 TDs and dropped 53 yards himself (also making a 30+ yard catch on a nice wheel route).
Goodwin faces plenty of competition for reps this fall, from Emery Jr's expected hold over the starting spot, Noah Cain's transfer portal arrival making him the most experienced and productive running back on LSU's roster, while both Bradford and Williams have improved markedly over the 2022 off-season.
Regardless of the dynamics, there's something special about Goodwin, a back with mutli-dimensional skills & an innate running back mentality who's production has only scratched the surface of his exciting potential.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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