LSU Football: Freshman Year Predictions for Tigers RB Leonard Fournette

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIFebruary 7, 2014

USA Today

Leonard Fournette was more than just a pivotal recruiting coup for the LSU Tigers.

The No. 1 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Fournette will fill a need at a position that was left desolate after offseason departures. But even more importantly, he could be the boost LSU needs to jump back to the top of the Southeastern Conference.

Fournette was the most touted running back prospect in the nation out of St. Augustine in New Orleans. At the end of his long recruiting process, he chose to stay home and become a Tiger rather than joining Nick Saban's squad at Alabama.

Not surprisingly, Les Miles and his staff were elated when they finally received the letter of intent from the Under Armour All-American.

Miles knows exactly what type of player the 6'1", 226-pound prospect can be at the next level. With the build of a linebacker, Fournette has an elite blend of size and speed that he could ride to becoming a legend in Baton Rouge, La.

Looking at Fournette's skill set, former USC and Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, who is regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football, made the comparison that many others have on signing day.

Orgeron compared Fournette to former Oklahoma Sooners back Adrian Peterson, now perhaps the NFL's best running back with the Minnesota Vikings.

Peterson was also the No. 1 overall recruit coming out of high school. Once he arrived in Norman, Okla., he made a gargantuan impact.

As a freshman, he ran for 1,925 yards, which still stands as the NCAA's all-time record for first-year players. His next two seasons were limited by injuries, but he still finished his career with 4,041 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns before heading to the next level.

If Fournette matches Peterson's first-year output, he'll break the SEC single-season record currently held by Georgia legend Herschel Walker.

Topping that mark doesn't seem likely considering just one LSU running back in history (Charles Alexander: 1,686 YDS) has even broken 1,500 yards on the ground. However, Fournette can look at his predecessor, Jeremy Hill, for some inspiration.

Hill ran for 1,401 yards last season, the No. 2 single-season output in school history, despite playing just 12 games. He can also look at Kevin Faulk, who is now right behind Hill on the program's single-season rushing leaderboard.

Leonard Fournette High School Stats
YearRush YardsRush TDs

Faulk holds the career record with 4,557 yards—a mark he believes Fournette is destined to break. He recently caught up with Ron Higgins of The Times-Picayune and praised LSU's next big thing: 

"I think Leonard is a way bigger prospect than I was coming out of high school," Faulk said. "With what I've seen so far from him, it (breaking Faulk's records) shouldn't be a problem, God willing."

It seems inevitable that Fournette will take the starting job in an offense that loves to lean on its running game. 

With Hill and Alfred Blue both gone, the Tigers will have openings in their backfield. Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard will be back after combining for 936 yards on the ground last year, but neither has the physical prowess or skill set of Fournette.

That trio will likely have even more responsibilities that last year's group did, as the Tigers will also be breaking in a new starting quarterback since Zach Mettenberger is also off to the NFL.

It won't be easy running into the teeth of some tough SEC defenses, but Fournette should still have a great freshman campaign.

The first goal for the nation's top prospect will be the 1,000-yard mark and double-digit touchdowns. Also, look for him to be a factor catching balls out of the backfield.

Fournette might not be the caliber of Peterson right away, but also don't be surprised if he comes close—because he is truly that talented.