With the hype following Leonard Fournette coming into his freshman season in 2014, there was little chance that he would live up to it.
Leonard Fournette was the top recruit in the entire country in the 2014 recruiting class. Coming out of New Orleans, he put up huge numbers in high school and he earned his place as the top rated high school Running Back in the country. When he elected to stay home and attend LSU, the Tigers recruiting class went through the roof especially since they also had the number one rated Wide Receiver in the country in Malachi Dupre, plus the number three guy as well with Trey Quinn.
They also had the second and fourth rated Safeties in the country in Jamal Adams and Ed Paris Jr. Plus they signed the number one Offensive Guard in Garrett Brumfield, the number two Inside Linebacker in Clifton Garrett, and the second rated dual threat Quarterback in Brandon Harris.
This was a fantastic recruiting class for the LSU Tigers, but their bell cow was Leonard Fournette.
There was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the arrival of Leonard Fournette on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and even some of it was brought on by Fournette himself.
In the opening game against Wisconsin played in Houston, Texas, Fournette ran for a very unimpressive 18 yards on 8 carries. That pretty much halted any further talk of Heisman Trophies for the true freshman.
Regardless of what anyone says, Wisconsin was a nice test for the Tigers and they were fortunate to come away with a 28-24 win over the Badgers.
The following week, LSU like all SEC teams, started playing against weaker opponents. Fournette was able to run for 92 yards in a really easy win over Sam Houston State. Against Louisiana- Monroe in the next game, Fournette was able to run for 52 yards on 10 carries.
They opened with their first SEC test with Mississippi State in their fourth game and Fournette had little chance for a big game because the Bulldogs came out and stuck it to the Tigers really early. LSU fought their way back and finally fell to Mississippi State, 34-29. Fournette ran for only 38 yards, but in all fairness he did average 5.43 yards per carry in the game which is really good.
It was back to the standard SEC non conference easy match up with New Mexico State coming to town. The LSU Tigers put a beat down on them with a 63-7 slaughter and Leonard Fournette had his best game so far for the Bayou Bengals with 122 yards rushing at 6.78 yards per carry.
The Tigers had Quarterback problems, but they were sitting at 4-1 on the year after the New Mexico State game. Sophomore Anthony Jennings had been the starter coming in, but he was struggling. True freshman Quarterback Brandon Harris replaced Jennings late in the Mississippi State game and nearly led them from behind for the win. Harris played more against New Mexico State and was named the starter for the Tigers’ next game which was the highly ranked Auburn Tigers.
Auburn looked good early in the year and they carved up LSU and true freshman Quarterback
Brandon Harris. He was awful and Fournette didn’t have much of a shot and rushed for only 42 yards. Auburn beat LSU 41-7.
But, the following week, the LSU Tigers traveled to Florida and Fournette put up 140 yards against a very good defense as the Tigers bounced back in the SEC standings with a 30-27 win in the Swamp.
The Tigers blew out Kentucky next, but Fournette was held in check rushing for only 40 yards.
In a 10-7 win over Ole Miss the following week, Fournette ran for 113 yards.
LSU nemesis Alabama was next. Fournette had 657 yards going into the annual game versus the hated Crimson Tide. The 7-2 LSU Tigers put up a gallant fight, but finally fell to Alabama, 20-13 in Overtime.
Fournette ran for 79 yards.
The following week was the low point in the Tigers’ season when they played at Arkansas and were totally humiliated 17-0 by the resurgent Razorbacks. Fournette only managed to run for 9 yards on 5 carries.
The LSU Tigers were then 7- 4 on the season and heading into College Station to take on the Aggies. Fournette was the hero of the day running for 146 yards and leading the Tigers to a 23-17 win.
The Tigers and Fournette had one more game, the Music City Bowl and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Fournette ripped the Irish a new one with 143 yards on 11 carries, and he ran 2 Kickoffs back for 121 yards and a Touchdown. But, it was not enough as Notre Dame prevailed 31 – 28.
Leonard Fournette ran for 1,034 yards and 10 Touchdowns.
Fournette came into a situation at LSU with 2 senior Running Backs returning, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard. LSU head coach Les Miles loves to run a stable of Running Backs and last season he added not only Fournette but Darrel Williams who is a 6-0, 230 talent from Marrero, Louisiana. Magee ran for 571 yards, Hilliard ran for 447 yards and Williams had 302 yards.
Les Miles has an eye for talent at Running Back and I would not be surprised if both Magee and Hilliard make it in the NFL.
The Tigers signed excellent high school Running Back recruits in Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette.
Leonard Fournette is 6-0, 230. Terrence Magee is 5-9, 217 and Kenny Hilliard is 6-0, 232. Darrel Williams is 6-0, 230. The 2 incoming freshmen Guice is 5-11, 215 and Brossette is 6- 0, 211. Notice a pattern here?
Les Miles likes big Running Backs and he apparently likes to switch them out and keep them fresh and he loves to pound the rock.
For the LSU Tigers to return to elite status instead of another 8-5 season, they really need to get the Quarterback position fixed.
Anthony Jennings will be a junior, but he had more than his share of struggles in 2014. The Tigers lost Zach Mettenberger from 2013 and he threw for over 3,000 yards while their top Running Back Jeremy Hill ran for over 1,400 yards.
Jennings threw for only 1,611 yards this past season.
Their other Quarterback is sophomore Brandon Harris. They tried going with Harris last season, but he was just not ready. The Tigers need a Quarterback right away if they are going to get the full benefit of Leonard Fournette.
The Tigers did lose their top Offensive Lineman in La’el Collins, but return Vadal Alexander, Ethan Pocic, and Jerald Hawkins up front.
Remember above that I talked about LSU’s recruiting class and they signed the top Offensive Guard prospect in the nation? Garrette Brumfield, the nation’s top Guard prospect a year ago, should step up into one of the Guard positions.
If one of the Quarterbacks do step up, they have plenty of talent at Wide Receiver. Travin Dural, Malachi Dupre, John Diarse and Trey Quinn are exceptional talents and keep an eye on true freshmen Tyron Johnson and Brandon Martin.
Most of all, never underestimate the football talent coming out of the state of Louisiana.
The states of Florida, California and Texas have more players in the NFL, but per capita nobody puts out top talent more than Louisiana.
Should it surprise anyone that some of Alabama’s best players are from Louisiana? Super Left Tackle Cam Robinson is from West Monroe and outstanding Safety and 2015 1st round draft pick Landon Collins is from New Orleans. Other SEC schools raid Louisiana constantly. Pac 12 schools are doing their best every season to steal a few out of Louisiana and so are Big 12 schools. The state is continuously loaded with top talent and particularly the New Orleans area.
Hurricane Katrina brought a lot of that talent to the Central Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth area.
2013 LSU back up Running Back Alfred Blue ran for more yards for the Houston Texans in 2014 than he had the previous season with the Tigers. What other college program has back up players succeeding in the NFL.
The starter in 2013, Jeremy Hill, ran for 1,124 in 2014 for the Cincinnati Bengals.
LSU consistently has talent at Running Back and Leonard Fournette could be the best of them all when all is said and done.
In 2015, if the Tigers can get their Quarterback situation improved, look for Fournette to have around 1,500 yards rushing. The Tigers are always going to play plenty of Running Backs and look for Darrel Williams to run for around 500 and the 2 new freshman to run for at least 300 yards each. The Tigers could redshirt one of the 2 freshmen to space them out a bit.
Even if Jennings or Harris do not improve at Quarterback look for Leonard Fournette to still have a pretty strong season going well over a thousand yards.
Across the nation, the Georgia Bulldogs’ Nick Chubb, Oregon’s Royce Freeman and Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine may have gotten a little more publicity than Leonard Fournette, but when the smoke clears Fournette will be as good as anyone in 2015 and beyond.
I enjoyed watching Leonard Fournette in high school and I continue to enjoy watching Fournette at LSU.