Stevan Ridley to enter NFL draft

By Katherine Terrell

LSU junior running back Stevan Ridley will forego his senior season and declare for the 2011 NFL draft, Ridley announced on his Facebook page.

Ridley exploded onto the scene during his junior campaign after rushing for only 180 yards last season. The Natchez, Miss. native finished the season with 1,147 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Ridley, a team captain, was the workhorse back for LSU’s offense this past season, carrying the ball at least 17 times in 10 of LSU’s 12 games.

“I want to thank Chancellor Martin, athletic director Joe Alleva, Coach [Les] Miles, Coach Frank [Wilson], my running backs coach, for giving me a chance to come down here to pursue my dream of playing running back and also in the SEC, at the highest level,” Ridley said. “Last but not least, I want to thank you fans who have been behind me on this four year journey. “Y’all have been awesome. Bar none the greatest fans you could ask to play for.”

NFL draft analyst Mike Detillier said he projects Ridley as a fourth-round draft pick, but could see him sliding late into the third round or falling to the early part of the fifth round.

“He’s a tough inside runner, very physical,” Detillier said of Ridley. “He’s got good field vision. He’s not a fast back but he’s quick off the mark. He gets into that hole and jets up the field pretty well.”

Detillier said it was unlikely Ridley could have improved his draft stock had he chosen to return for his senior season. Ridley would be splitting time with rising sophomores Michael Ford, Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue and Jakhari Gore.

“He knows … he’s going to be in the rotation with a lot of backs again this year if he comes back another season,” Detillier said. “If you’re going to be part of a rotation, go to the NFL, where they’re going to pay you.”

Detillier said injuries are always a worry with running backs and Ridley has already had a knee injury while at LSU. A lot of junior running backs like Alabama’s Mark Ingram have already declared for the draft this year because of injury concerns.

Ridley appeals to NFL scouts because he has a relatively low amount of mileage compared to other running backs, Detillier said.

“A lot of times you see heavy duty backs that carried the football a lot in high school, a lot in college, and by the time they hit the pros, they have some treads on the tires,” Detillier said. “Stevan … doesn’t have a lot of that. He did carry the rushing load this year for LSU, but it was less than 250 carries.”

LSU history would indicate the unlikeliness of Ridley improving upon this season’s performance. Only three running backs in LSU history have had multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Charles Alexander strung two back-to-back seasons in 1977 and 1978, as did Dalton Hilliard in 1984 and 1985.

Kevin Faulk has been the only running back to date with three 1,000-yard seasons, which he did between 1996-’98.

One of the best examples might be Charles Scott, who went unselected in the 2010 draft. Scott rushed for 1,174 yards as a junior in 2008 but only rushed for 550 yards as a senior.

Ridley has a few things going for him that Scott didn’t, Detillier said.

“(Ridley) brings something to the table as a special teams guy and as an improved receiver out of the backfield,” Detillier said. “Charles wasn’t a special teams player and didn’t catch the ball well out of the backfield.”

Detillier said Ridley has really been impressive with his ability to average 4.6 yards per carry despite teams stacking the box against him.

“That’s impressive when you average 4.6 yards a carry and teams know you’re going to run the ball because Jordan and Jarrett were so erratic throwing the football,” he said. “His ability to get that much yardage on this football team, it jumps out at you.”

Detillier said he sees Ridley fitting well on a team with a speedy running back. Because so many NFL teams today have running backs by committee, Ridley could find a role as a between-the-tackles power running back.

“If Stevan can stay healthy I think he can have a real solid NFL career,” Detillier said.

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