Leonard Fournette Will Struggle Early in Season After Missing Spring Practices

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2014

Leonard Fournette
Leonard Fournettevia 247Sports.com

Leonard Fournette has been considered one of the best running back prospects to come out of high school in years. However, fans around the country should temper expectations for the young player.

Everyone who has seen the incoming LSU freshman compete has been blown away with the running back's ability. He was the prize of the 2014 class, listed as the No. 1 player in the nation at any position by 247 Sports' composite rankings.

Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports quotes a high school football coach who makes an interesting comparison:

Fournette himself discussed his lofty goals heading into his first year. According to Jim Halley of USA Today, the running back said after committing, "My plan my freshman year is to win the Heisman and the BCS National Championship with my teammates."

Matt Brown of Sports on Earth (via the Shreveport Times) explained why people are so excited:

It’s dangerous to get sucked into high school highlight videos, because the disparity between the best and the worst players only gets narrower as a great player progresses from high school to college to pro football. Still, Fournette undeniably flashes a complete skill set, with the size of a great college back already (6-feet, 227 pounds) and the speed to match it, turning his highlights — like many prospect highlights, but his even more so — into a game of “how on earth could he possibly score a touchdown on this play?”

Of course, one thing that will slow down this type of production is a lack of playing time. Despite his talent, it will be hard to get onto the field after getting a late start compared to his teammates.

Unlike other freshman on the team and across the country, Fournette did not enroll into LSU early and will not join the squad until the summer. This puts him behind the rest of his teammates when it comes to learning plays and protection schemes.

The closest he was able to get was watching the spring game:

While running backs have a relatively easy transition compared to other positions, head coach Les Miles is not going to throw a player on the field who does not know what he is doing.

On the other hand, LSU has an experienced group of running backs that are more than capable of producing right away at the start of the 2014 season.

Although, Jeremy Hill is gone, Terrence Magee finished with 626 rushing yards and eight touchdowns a year ago. He has the size and speed to be a featured running back in this system and have plenty of success behind a quality offensive line.

The junior also had a strong spring that saw him be named one of the team's top performers, according to Matt Dunaway of LSUSports.net.

Kenny Hilliard also showcased plenty of ability at the spring game, totaling 59 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He also added a 42-yard reception on a swing pass. 

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder broke down predictions for what each player will do next season, explaining that Magee, Hilliard and Fournette will share carries to start the year:

There is little doubt that Fournette will eventually get acclimated with the system and should earn plenty of touches over the course of the year. However, fans should not expect too many carries in the first month of the season.


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