BATON ROUGE, La. — Let’s call it like it is: after last season’s runner-up showing, Stanford multi-purpose star Christian McCaffrey goes into this year as the Heisman Trophy favorite with Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson not too far behind.
But despite their talent, it was an SEC running back, Alabama’s Derrick Henry, who took home the hardware in 2015, and LSU’s Leonard Fournette certainly will have a chance to give the league a repeat of the honor.
It helps to have assistance on the road to New York City, and Fournette may be getting it in 2016 with the return of his trusty sidekick, junior fullback J.D. Moore.
When Moore was healthy last season, Fournette was unstoppable, averaging 204.4 yards per game and almost 8.6 yards per carry. Moore even had a bit of a superhero sidekick nickname with Fournette calling him his “flashlight.”
But Moore injured his left knee against South Carolina in Week 5, and though Fournette was in classic form with 180 yards against Florida the following week, things were never quite the same after that until he shredded Texas Tech’s olé defense in the Texas Bowl.
Moore gamely attempted returning to face Alabama a month after getting hurt but only lasted two series before aggravating his knee injury and seeing his season end. The Crimson Tide bottled Fournette like no one else, limiting him to 31 yards on 19 carries. Arkansas effectively put the nail in his Heisman hopes a week later as he again was held to fewer than 100 yards.
There’s no guarantee things would have gone differently against the Tide or Hogs with Moore leading the path for Fournette at 100 percent health. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to have him back, and Les Miles is fully aware of the value he brings to the Tigers.
“J.D. Moore can step in and go, and it’s an advantage for us,” Miles said. “If you look back at some of the great plays that Leonard made, (Moore) was on the front side of those plays. And the back side as well. He was very significant.”
Significant enough, perhaps, for Fournette to bring the famous stiff-arm statue back to Baton Rouge for the first time since 1958.