Leonard Fournette's Commitment Is Major Step Forward for LSU Tigers

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

Jul 2, 2013; Beaverton, OR, USA; Running back Leonard Fournette (5) runs with the ball during the Nike 7on7 pool play at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon on Tuesday July, 2, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Leonard Fournette is the hero that Baton Rouge both needs and deserves.

The No. 1 recruit in 247Sports' composite rankings announced his commitment to the LSU Tigers during the Under Armour All-America Game.

Fournette said that the idea of playing close to home was trumped everything, via Jerit Roser of The Times-Picayune:

The coaches, and overall, Louisiana, they kept pushing me to stay home...It wasn't too much pressure, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere that I was getting from the whole state, so I decided to stay home.

The process was still Alabama and LSU, so overall, I had to put in the odds and evens of which school I would go to was best, and I just think LSU is the best place for me.

Needless to say, it's a decision that's sent shock waves through the college football landscape.

Fournette is already being described as the next Adrian Peterson, which may be premature, but is a strong indicator of how highly he's regarded by recruiting experts.

For LSU, this commitment helped to boost what had previously been a lackluster recruiting class. Les Miles had watched as many of his targets signed elsewhere, which left the Tigers in the lurch and looking up at their biggest rivals.

It got to the point where you were wondering if Miles might have to answer for whatever problems he was having on the recruiting trail. Then Fournette came along and made everything better.

Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com put it best:

This will no doubt buy Miles a little more time and rebuild some of the faith he may have lost among Tigers fans who have been upset at the school's inability to match Alabama's success.

LSU laid down a major marker with Fournette. No longer will it be the bridesmaid of the SEC. It has national title aspirations and won't stop until it reaches the summit again. In addition, the Tigers showed that they can still lure the best prospects in the country.

The rest of the SEC is on notice.

From an on-field aspect, Fournette is the running threat LSU will need next year.

Getting a steady presence on the ground will be a huge boost to LSU's offense. There's no telling how the passing game will perform in Zach Mettenberger's absence, so it will be nice to have a running back take some of the pressure off the signal-caller next year.

Jeremy Hill looks like he's headed for the pros, and his departure would mean Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard were the best threats to take the starting job in 2014.

That was before Fournette announced his decision.

He should be able to come right into the team and start from Day 1. There's no doubt about his talent, and at 6'1" and 226 pounds, he's got the body to handle the rigors of college football.

Maybe Miles could bed him into the role in the first few nonconference games, but by the time the SEC games roll around, the soon-to-be freshman should get the lion's share of snaps in the backfield.

Fournette has everything you look for in a blue-chip running back. He's got enough speed to get out on the edge and break out for big runs, yet he's capable of going in between the tackles for positive yardage. There's very little not to like about his game.

It's a bridge too far to call LSU title contenders immediately off the basis of the Tigers signing one player. After all, the Oklahoma Sooners couldn't win a BCS bowl during Adrian Peterson's three seasons in Norman.

But Leonard Fournette is the kind of player the LSU Tigers will need if they want to climb back into national championship contention.