Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country
Former LSU running back Leonard Fournette

LSU football: 3 takeaways from Leonard Fournette’s SI cover story

Nick Suss

Welcome to the Bayou Bengal Briefing, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football, with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. Today, we discuss Leonard Fournette’s burden, the best class in LSU football history, fast food timing and much, much more. Enjoy!

Leonard Fournette is interesting

Two weeks away from the biggest day of his professional life, former LSU football player Leonard Fournette graces the cover of the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated. In a cover story profiling Fournette in advance of the NFL draft on April 27, SI’s Pete Thamel took a look at what makes Fournette such an interesting figure.

Naturally, I have some takeaways. Let’s break it down, 3 things style.

Thing 1: The expectations will never go away

Fournette has been the “next big thing” since he was in middle school. He’s been a true phenom since he was a freshman in high school. His future was always set in stone. But the state of the modern NFL makes his expectations go right back up.

Up until two years ago, running backs were massively devalued. But because of the quick success of recent top 10 picks Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, teams are looking for running backs of the future again. Where five years ago Fournette would’ve slid into the middle of the first round and been a piece on a contending team, now he’s going to be asked to be a savior on a struggling team.

Is this bad? Not necessarily. The man has been carrying teams — and defenses — on his back since he was a child. But the point is things will never be easy for Fournette. He’ll always shoulder the weight of the expectations of five men.

Thing 2: We need to stop comparing Fournette and Elliott

Thamel fell into the same trap that all of us have, comparing Fournette to Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys rookie sensation who led the NFL in rushing as a first-year player in 2016. But Fournette and Elliott are drastically different running backs from incredibly different college systems and should be evaluated as such.

Elliott was barely the focal point of his own offense at Ohio State, competing for touches with wide receivers Michael Thomas and Braxton Miller, tight end Nick Vannett and quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, four of whom were drafted within 3 rounds of Elliott himself. Whereas Fournette was LSU’s entire offense.

As such, Elliott is obviously a more well-rounded back. He performed in the pass game and the blocking game because Ohio State could afford to have him do so. But in LSU football games, Fournette was either touching the ball or LSU was on defense.

Beyond that, Fournette won’t be drafted by the Cowboys and their three All-Pro offensive linemen. So, don’t expect him to be Elliott as a rookie. Not that he needs to be.

Thing 3: I can’t believe people still care about the bowl game malarkey

If there are still NFL execs who think less of Fournette because his coach told him not to play in the Citrus Bowl, those execs are bad at their jobs. I don’t have much else to say about that.

Thamel said NFL front-office personnel have a “grudging understanding” of the situation. Is that all they can give the guy? He was hurt and he didn’t play. That’s just how football works. If you pass on a prodigious talent because he passed on a meaningless bowl game, you probably shouldn’t be building a football team.

Fournette isn’t all …

As ESPN’s David Ching pointed out Wednesday, Fournette isn’t going to be anywhere near the only former LSU football player drafted this year. In fact, this has a fighting chance of being the best draft in LSU football history.

The record for players drafted out of LSU in a single season is 9, set in both 2013 and ’14. In those two years, former LSU stars and future Pro Bowl players like Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Trai Turner all found homes. But this year could be more prolific.

If I had to guess now, I’d say LSU will tie the record of 9. I can guarantee the following 8 players will be drafted:

  1. Leonard Fournette
  2. Jamal Adams
  3. Tre’Davious White
  4. Ethan Pocic
  5. Malachi Dupre
  6. Kendell Beckwith
  7. Duke Riley
  8. Davon Godchaux

That leaves a group of 4 or 5 guys who needs to make up 2 spots to be the first-ever double-digit LSU class. Those players — cornerback Dwayne Thomas, safety Rickey Jefferson, defensive end Lewis Neal, tight end Colin Jeter and wide receiver Travin Dural — are no slouches. Were it up to me, Thomas would be a guarantee as much as any of his former teammates, and it’s hard to sleep on Jeter and Neal after their pro day showings.

But nevertheless, it is impressive to look at the amount of talent LSU had over the last 3 or 4 years. And slightly disappointing to see the way it was squandered.

ICYMI

News doesn’t stop. Here are the links to prove it:

Arbitrary Analysis, part 4

The LSU football team is on spring break this week. The Bayou Bengal Briefing is not. But in order to make it seem like I am, I’ve used the Briefing this week to do the next best thing, count down my 5 favorite beach-themed sitcom episodes.

So far this week, we’ve seen entries from Psych, Arrested Development and The Office. But for the No. 2 pick today, I bring out the big guns. Perhaps the biggest gun of them all. It’s my oldest entry on the list, and probably the episode on the list I’ve seen the most times. But it’s still awesome.

No. 2: The One at the Beach (Friends)

I refuse to apologize for loving Friends. I’ve seen every episode between 10-15 times, and I’ve never watched the show in order. I’ve just watched the reruns so many times that I’ve figured out the show about as well as anyone can.

And there are very few reruns that make me happy than this one. Like its companion episode, Season 4’s The One with the Jellyfish, The One at the Beach took the stakes of Friends when it was at its peak and elevated them. The Season 3 finale added new depth to Phoebe’s family history, foreshadowed Chandler and Monica’s romance and, most importantly, tossed another wrinkle onto the fire that was Ross and Rachel’s history.

I don’t believe there’s such a thing as spoilers when it comes to Friends. Everyone has seen an episode here or there. But I’ll keep the courtesy of not describing every plot point just in case. That said, the series of clips in the video above makes me smile about as much as any Friends episode ever. The One at the Beach was Friends at its high point, where even its C plots could ripple for a generation.

It’s a darn near perfect episode. And it would take two episodes to beat it. Which is the case with No. 1 tomorrow.

Check back to the Bayou Bengal Briefing on Friday for my No. 1 pick.

Programming note

The LSU baseball team opens up a 3-game series versus Ole Miss on Thursday night. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast online through WatchESPN and the Watch ESPN app.

I’ll be there covering the game. Be sure to follow along on Twitter at @nicksuss and @SECCountryLSU for updates throughout the game, and series.

The field is set

The NBA regular season ended Wednesday night and the playoff rosters are set. Four former LSU basketball players have the opportunity to play in the postseason, though it’s likely that only 1 or 2 will. Here’s the group:

  • Forward Jordan Mickey qualified for the playoffs with the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed, the Boston Celtics. Mickey has only played in 1 of the Celtics’ 5 games this month.
  • Brandon Bass, a fellow forward, is a role player who sees quality minutes for the Los Angeles Clippers, the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. Bass has played in 51 games this season, averaging 11.1 minutes and 5.6 points per game.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies slid into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, setting up Jarell Martin to play in the postseason. The forward has played in a career-high 41 games this season, posting 3.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 13.5 minutes per game.
  • Rookie guard Tim Quarterman played more for the No. 8-seeded Portland Trail Blazers down the stretch than he had in the rest of 2017 combined, and that might be good for his playoff odds. Though Quarterman only played 4 minutes between Jan. 1 and April 8, he played 36 minutes in the Blazers’ last 2 games, posting 12 points and 8 rebounds in the process. His 10 points in the final game of the season doubled his previous career high.

LSU football players at the drive-thru

Baton Rouge’s own Raising Cane’s sought to answer an unanswerable question Thursday: What comes first — the chicken or the fries?

When you’re eating at Cane’s, there’s no bad order. But some people are very particular about what you do. Just ask Rickey Jefferson.

Cam Lewis also got in on the action, saying in a tweet that he later deleted that you should eat them at the same time. I tend to agree with Cam, though I have a very specific process of my own. It involves eating one fry, then a full tender, then a second fry, a second tender, a third fry, the third tender, then all the rest of the fries. Then the bread. Always save the bread for last. If you don’t, you’re an impatient monster.

Everyone’s particular about their Cane’s. As they should be. If you have a peculiar process, let us know in the comments below. Or, you know, just go buy some Cane’s. I don’t care if it’s 9 a.m. It’s never the wrong time for Cane’s.

Miss a previous edition of the Bayou Bengal Briefing? Find every one of SEC Country’s daily LSU football columns right here.

 

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