Maybe college football fans should tone down Leonard Fournette's expectations in 2014. The freshman running back made his long-awaited debut for LSU, running for 18 yards on eight carries in the Tigers' 28-24 win. He also returned five kicks for 117 yards.
Fournette is arguably the most eagerly anticipated recruit in the Class of 2014. He's the No. 1-ranked player in the country, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.
The hype train wasted no time in running off the rails.
In his list of bold predictions for the 2014 season, Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman argued that the freshman phenom will win the Heisman Trophy.
"We will be talking about how LSU's freshman crop may be the best class in the past decade and the gem of it all, RB Leonard Fournette, will become the first true freshman to win the Heisman," wrote Feldman.
"That's kind of like having Tiger Woods on a golf course with a putter," said Miles. "You just want to see him tee off, don't you? Well, we have to put pads on before we can see him tee off."
Fournette's already being spoken of in the same breath as Adrian Peterson, which is the highest praise a running back can receive today.
How quickly is everyone gonna jump off the bandwagon now?
CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish made light of Fournette's sky-high expectations:
I guess that freshman running back at LSU is gonna wait till next week to prove he’s the best running back in the history of running backs.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) August 31, 2014
Bleacher Report's Jeff Risdon walked away less than impressed:
Everyone told me Fournette was Adrian Peterson crossed with Barry Sanders. He looks like Shonn Greene crossed with Peyton Hillis.— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) August 31, 2014
ESPN's Bomani Jones also felt that in Fournette's little time on the field, he looked nothing like a game-breaking running back:
it’s not simply that fournette hasn’t played well. he looked kinda…regular. that seemed impossible.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) August 31, 2014
i’m not comparing stats when talking about fournette’s first game and a.d.’s (vs. bowling green). just look, man. just look.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) August 31, 2014
Miles is under no obligation to put Fournette on the field, and that showed in the first half. NOLA.com's Jeff Duncan tracked five plays that featured the prized recruit:
By my unofficial count, Leonard Fournette played on 5 snaps from scrimmage in 1st half. His stats: 2 carries, 7 yards. #HeismanOnHold— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) August 31, 2014
Chris Singleton of BayouPreps.com thinks that riding Kenny Hilliard gives the Tigers the best option right now. The freshman's time will come later:
Fournette is going to be great, but it's Hilliard time right now. If Les Miles was smart, he would keep feeding No. 27 until No. 7 is ready.— Chris Singleton (@courierchris) August 31, 2014
Obviously, Fournette shouldn't be judged by one bad game, especially his first game at the collegiate level. He didn't become the best running back recruit in the country by accident. His combination of speed, power, agility and elusiveness can't be ignored.
Over the course of the season, Fournette should see his role in the LSU offense grow.
With that said, fans likely won't see him fulfill his potential until at least next season, by which time Hilliard and Terrence Magee will have graduated.
Saturday night will merely be a bump in the road.