Leonard Fournette has been a household name of college football fans since he was 18-years-old and announced his commitment to LSU in 2014. Fournette was such a star studded high school prospect, then-head coach Les Miles publicly said the future Tigers running back was talented enough to be taken in the first round of that year’s NFL draft. With the announcement a few days ago that Fournette will not be playing in the Citrus Bowl with his LSU teammates, let us look back on the three-year career of the superstar tailback.
Weight: 235 lbs
Team: Louisiana State University
Leonard Fournette College Stats
Ranked as the ESPN.com and Scout.com No. 1 overall high school recruit, high expectations were placed on Fournette from the get-go. He was given a tall order in his first collegiate game with the Wisconsin Badgers as the opposition. Fournette underwhelmed with a eight carries for just 18 yards. Miles quickly defended the young star by saying, “expectations are unrealistic.” Maybe so, but as the most highly recruited player ever to come out of the state of Louisiana, Baton Rouge fans wanted immediate impact. That impact would come on October 11 against Florida where Fournette rushed for 140 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 30-27 thrilling win over the Gators. It was a coming out party of sorts, and Fournette would add a huge game against Ole Miss before finishing the season against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl where he gained 143 yards on just 11 carries, finding the end zone twice and also returning a kickoff for a score. In total, Fournette tallied 1,034 yards in 184 attempts in his rookie campaign. That was good enough for 5.5 average per carry helping him score ten touchdowns overall.
After back-to-back freshmen took home the Heisman Trophy in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, young players were heralded preseason favorites and Fournette was no exception. The sophomore embraced the spotlight from the first game, toting the ball 28 times while gaining 128 yards on the ground against Dak Prescott and Mississippi State. This led to the running back scoring three times and helping the Tigers to a 21-19 victory. Fournette outdid his performance the following week with 228 rushing yards on a mere 19 carries and again scoring three touchdowns. His Tigers would rattle off another win against Auburn, and the 19-year-old would have his best collegiate season finishing with 22 rushing touchdowns on 1,953 yards to go along with 209 yards receiving and one additional touchdown through the air.
While Fournette didn’t take home the Heisman during the 2015 season, he was favored prior to the 2016 season along with fellow Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. A preseason ankle sprain slowed the junior running back, but he deemed himself ready to go in the season opener against Wisconsin. The Badgers shocked the Tigers in an upset at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Fournette reaggravated his ankle forcing him to miss the next week’s game. The injury would continue to linger throughout the season, forcing him to miss three more games with a surprise cameo against Florida after a pre game scuffle which included Fournette pushing one of the Gators’ assistant coaches. He would post pedestrian numbers with 40 yards and no touchdowns in a 16-10 loss. This ended up being the final game of Fournette’s college career as he did not travel to the season finale against Texas A&M due to continued trouble with his ankle. In just seven games the Tigers rusher posted 843 yards and a 6.5 average per carry with eight scores for the season.
On December 5 through his personal Twitter account, Fournette announced his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the 2017 NFL Draft. While expected to play in the team’s bowl game against West Virginia, 11 days later LSU and Fournette made the announcement he would sit out the game to fully heal in time for draft festivities in the coming months. While it came as a shock to no one, it certainly stirred up banter on whether it was right or wrong for Fournette to do. More news came yesterday as the rusher declared his signing with Jay-Z’s Rock Nation as his agency representation.
While debate will continue on his decision to skip the bowl game, his draft stock definitely will not. Fournette is a consensus first round pick much like Ezekiel Elliot was last spring, likely continuing to buck the trend of avoiding running backs in the initial round. Fournette will make one NFL franchise very happy come next April, bringing the perfect halfback frame and college numbers to prove it.