Can Fournette Live Up To The Hype?
The man, the myth, the legend … Leonard Fournette is the No. 1 recruit in the 2014 class and is taking his talents to LSU next fall with hopes of bringing a national title to Baton Rouge.
As if you did not already know, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound monster that is Fournette is a running back at St. Augustine High School and is awfully good at playing football. He runs a 4.35 40-yard dash and benches 315 pounds. No wonder he has been labeled “the next Adrian Peterson.” The only question is, can he live up to the expectations?
I believe without hesitation that Fournette will rush for more than 1,000 yards next season. Why am I so confident? The offensive line. The fact that LSU managed to keep La’el Collins was huge for its offense. With him and three other starting linemen returning next season the LSU offense will still be able to pound the ball. Trai Turner will indeed be missed, but LSU has three current players fighting for that position (Fehoko Fanaika, Andy Dodd, Ethan Pocic) and a four-star commit in Garrett Brumfield to battle it out during the offseason.
Reason No. 2 that Fournette will be successful is the immediate playing time he will receive. He should be coming in as the starter. The depth chart (I believe) will be 1. Fournette, 2. Terrence Magee and 3. Darrel Williams/Kenny Hilliard. I expect Fournette and Magee to get the majority of the carries with Hilliard coming in for short yard pick-ups. I think Williams is an underrated back who could give Hilliard a run for his money and spell the two lead backs. Regardless, LSU will have a loaded backfield again this year.
The biggest factor to Fournette’s success is going to be the passing game. Yes, I said the passing game. The way Cam Cameron was able to run the offense last year was astounding, but can he repeat the success with all the talent he lost? That starts at quarterback. Anthony Jennings is the guy most think will be the starter, but you can’t forget about the young gun named Brandon Harris. The four-star commit coming out of Bossier City will give Jennings some competition during the spring. Harris has an absolute cannon and Jennings showed a taste of his skill with late-game heroics against Arkansas and an Outback Bowl win against Iowa. Hayden Rettig also has an outside chance, but I do not believe he will win the job. Hopefully the spring game can tell us who Les Miles believes will take the snaps come next season.
Regardless of whom the starter is, he'll have to play the role of game manager. Now I hate to use that phrase because I believe every quarterback acts as a game manager in some capacity, but LSU needs a quarterback that doesn't make mistakes and moves the ball forward. They do not need a big playmaker; they need consistency. Turnovers kill the Tigers (look at the Ole Miss tape for proof) and if they are able to keep the opposing defenses on their heels, the LSU offense will be a nightmare for opponents.
How does having a consistent quarterback help Fournette? SEC defenses will load the box and swallow Fournette if LSU doesn't consistently move the ball with a balance of passing and running. Everyone and their momma will know Fournette is the biggest weapon on LSU’s offense. The best way to stop him is to get a bunch of bodies on him. If LSU can give off the threat of a decent passing attack, it will open gaping holes for the run game and allow Fournette and the rest of that Tigers backfield to rack up yardage.
Peterson finished second for the Heisman in his first season. If Fournette gets the help he needs, he could be this year's freshman to get Heisman consideration. Fournette is going to go down as one of the best Tigers ever to put on the purple and gold. With a stacked offensive line and consistent quarterback play he could go down as the greatest running back ever to play in Tiger Stadium.