Leonard Fournette Not A Top-5 SEC Back In '14
Even though he was the top player in the 2014 signing class, LSU's Leonard Fournette will not be a Top 5 running back in the Southeastern Conference this year.
There are multiple factors affecting this, but Fournette is at least a year away from making an impact worthy of a national stage.
The biggest reason Fournette won't be a Top 5 running back in the conference is the fact that LSU has a crowded backfield. It's also important to remember that the SEC is stocked full of top-flight backs set to see a chunk of playing time this year.
Talent In The LSU Backfield
Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard are both seniors in the LSU backfield, and both have been contributors throughout their careers.
Magee finished 2013 with 86 carries for 626 yards and eight touchdowns. His 7.3 yards per rush was the highest among the top four rushers on the Tigers. Hilliard had 68 carries for 310 yards and seven touchdowns.
There will be a little wiggle room for Fournette, but not much.
Unless Magee and Hilliard struggle through the first half of the season, expect Fournette to get the same treatment that Derrick Henry got last year at Alabama. Undoubtedly the top running back in the 2012 class, Henry was stuck behind T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. Then he had 100 yards rushing on eight carries in the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, opening everyone's eyes to what kind of talent the Crimson Tide had in the backfield.
This year, the same could be true for Fournette and LSU. He has the talent, but he's going to be stuck behind Magee and Hilliard. What hurts Fournette is the fact that he wasn't an early enrollee and didn't have spring practice to get acclimated to the way things are done in Baton Rouge. That could hurt him when it comes to playing time.
If an injury happens to Magee or Hilliard, it's a different story for Fournette. For now, the crowded backfield will be one of the reasons he's not in the Top 5 in rushing yards in the conference. But there's another reason as well.
SEC Loaded With Top Backs
Georgia's Todd Gurley and Yeldon are the top returning backs in the conference. Throw in Yeldon's teammates (Drake and Henry), Gurley's teammate Keith Marshall (although he might redshirt) and South Carolina's Mike Davis, and you have a good-looking bunch at the top.
Arkansas duo Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins also impressed in 2013, totaling 1,926 yards and eight touchdowns. The only knock on them is that they play for Arkansas, which has been at the bottom of the SEC since Bobby Petrino was let go.
Tre Mason became a household name at Auburn with the read-option attack. This year, Cameron Artis-Payne and/or Corey Grant could get a lot of name recognition assuming Auburn has another good year.
Fournette was a megastar recruit by most all accounts, but the SEC claims a few of those every year at running back. A lot of those players already have proven themselves at the college level.
There's no doubt that Fournette has the talent to compete in the SEC and be one of the conference's top running backs. However, this might not be the year for him due to the factors mentioned above.
It's nothing to fret about as LSU fans will have more than enough time to drool over this kid's skill set.
Before he heads to the NFL, Fournette will not only be one of the top running backs in the conference, but one of the nation's best.