How Realistic Are Leonard Fournette's Expectations for LSU?

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How Realistic Are Leonard Fournette's Expectations for LSU?
USA TODAY Sports

Sports Illustrated got right to it, probably because LSU running back commit Leonard Fournette came right out with it. 

In a 5:30 video feature on Fournette and his story, it took five seconds to get to the money quote. 

"My expectations: Heisman candidate, All-American, national title," Fournette said about the 2014 season. "That’s just my first year as a freshman, though."

Every player, from incoming freshmen to fifth-year seniors, has high expectations. It's also the heart of the offseason, when newsy items are spun around unfiltered comments. 

But, unlike every other prediction of a national championship or All-American selection, Fournette may actually be able to realize one, or several, of those goals.

 

Heisman Candidate

The last two Heisman winners, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, were freshmen. Redshirt freshmen, but freshmen all the same. 

Furthermore, the precedence for a true freshman running back as a Heisman finalist has been set. In 2004, Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson finished second in the voting behind USC quarterback Matt Leinart. 

Not surprisingly, Fournette has been drawing a lot of Peterson connections because of his size (6'1" and 226 pounds, per his 247Sports profile), speed and vision. 

Matt York/Associated Press

To be a Heisman finalist, though, a player's offense basically needs to run through him. (Defensive-only players, unfortunately, have taken a back seat in Heisman consideration.) That's why 12 out of the last 13 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks. When Alabama running back Mark Ingram won the trophy in 2009, he accounted for nearly 2,000 total yards and over half of the Tide's offensive touchdowns. 

Similarly, the two running back Heisman finalists last season—Auburn's Tre Mason and Boston College's Andre Williams—had more than 1,800 and 2,100 rushing yards, respectively.

By losing running back Jeremy Hill and quarterback Zach Mettenberger to the NFL draft, LSU could rely heavily on Fournette right away if he shows he can get up to speed in preseason practice. 

Presuming he can handle the load and stay healthy, Fournette does indeed have a shot to be a Heisman finalist as a freshman. 

 

All-American

Like the Heisman consideration, Fournette could be named an All-American as a freshman if his production is good enough. There are other questions that need to be answered, too. Can he be the bell cow running back for the Tigers? Can he make plays at crucial times and put the team on his back, a la the virtual Greg Jennings of "Madden" fame?

Again, it's been done before. According to his Minnesota Vikings profile, Peterson was a consensus All-American as a freshman, including an Associated Press first-team selection. 

Fournette seems like a rare talent, but it can still be difficult for anyone to successfully adjust to the college game in their first year. Oftentimes, that truth gets blurred behind high expectations. But the potential for Fournette is certainly there, and it wouldn't be surprising if he did earn All-America honors as a freshman. 

 

National Championship

Unlike the other two goals, this is purely a team effort. Yes, the other two cannot happen without the help from teammates, but a national championship is a collective accomplishment in its truest form. Thus, it is undoubtedly the hardest goal to achieve, since so much has to go right for it to happen. 

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Does LSU have a shot at a national title? Of course. It starts with the four-team playoff. The College Football Playoff selection committee vows for transparency, but problems with selecting the four best teams could arise,t according to B/R's Samuel Chi. 

In any case, the Tigers would probably either have to win the SEC or come awfully close with only one or two losses to be selected. From there, it's all about matchups

LSU won't be favored to win the West Division; that will belong to either Alabama or Auburn. If the Tigers can get through their division with double-digit wins, they'll at least be in the conversation for a playoff berth at year's end. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand (h/t CollegeSpun.com) 

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