LSU football: Should Leonard Fournette have to compete for his starting job?
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, LSU’s ascendent softball team, the bizarre world of recruiting and more. Enjoy!
A weird proclamation
Former LSU football player and recent Jacksonville Jaguars top pick Leonard Fournette was brought to North Florida to be the team’s offensive savior. Or, if you ask the Jaguars’ coaches, he was brought in to compete to be the team’s offensive savior.
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said over the weekend that Fournette will need to compete for a starting job just like everyone else on the offense. That’s a perfectly fine thing to say. But, I mean, c’mon. Is that really what you want to be projecting about your team one week into camp?
This isn’t about Fournette’s talent level. He’s got plenty and he’s the odds-on favorite to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year because of it. But I’m just talking about perception.
You didn’t just use a first-round pick on a running back. You used the No. 4 pick on a running back one year after scoring the fewest rushing touchdowns in the AFC. And you didn’t sign any free agent running backs in the offseason to compete with Fournette. So, essentially, you’re saying that you used the fourth pick in the draft on a running back who may or may not be better than the worst tandem of running backs in the NFL.
I get it. You’re a head coach and you can’t come out and say that a rookie will start Day 1. But fans are smart. They know the running game was a disaster last season. And you went out and made the steps to make it better. Don’t tease them with coachspeak.
If Fournette is the best running back on roster, say it. And if he’s not, the Jaguars might have bigger problems than we thought.
Your weekly LSU football poll question
Let’s stay on the topic of Fournette for the poll this week.
As I mentioned previously, Fournette is the favorite to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award with 7:2 odds. So, I’ll put it bluntly: Will Fournette win Rookie of the Year?
Answer in the poll below. We’ll discuss your votes and I’ll give my opinion in Bayou Bengal Briefing on Tuesday.
Let’s talk about softball
Coming into last weekend, the LSU softball team was considered to be on the outside looking in when it came to hosting an NCAA regional. But, after an impressive week at the SEC Tournament, where the Tigers knocked off Missouri, Tennessee and Auburn, LSU finds itself exactly where it wasn’t supposed to be.
LSU storms into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 13 seed, hosting a regional versus Louisiana-Lafayette, McNeese State and Fairfield. Action will begin Friday, with LSU’s first game coming against Fairfield at 5:30 p.m. CT. If LSU wins its regional, it’ll likely face off against No. 4 Florida State in Tallahassee for a shot at a Women’s College World Series berth.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 15, 2017
Impressively, all 13 SEC schools with a softball program qualified for the NCAA Tournament, the first time that has ever happened. Eight of those 13 teams are regional hosts, giving the SEC half of the nation’s top 16 teams.
In other words, making it to the SEC Championship game was no short task for LSU. In fact, it might’ve been more impressive than it even looked.
Elsewhere in non-revenue LSU sports
Softball’s SEC championship chase wasn’t the only LSU sports happening of the weekend. Here’s a wrap-up of a busy three days for LSU sports:
- LSU baseball swept Auburn in a three-game series Thursday through Saturday, giving LSU its third SEC series sweep of the season. For a full recap of the weekend, be sure to check out my weekly LSU baseball column, Out of The Box, on SEC Country at noon CT.
- The LSU women’s track and field team finished second and the men’s team placed seventh at the 2017 SEC Outdoor Championships on Saturday.
- LSU’s women’s tennis team defeated Tulsa, 4-3, Saturday in the NCAA Championships before losing to Cal, 4-0, Sunday afternoon.
- FYI, the men’s golf team began NCAA regional action right here in Baton Rouge on Monday morning at 8. Regionals will extend through Wednesday. We at SEC Country will update you throughout the week as developments occur.
Indulge me in a rant
We all know recruiting is something of a silly affair. It’s fun to follow and it’s critical to understand if you care about the future of your favorite football team. But National Signing Day is almost a full pregnancy away and it’s already getting exhausting.
Take LSU, for example. Over the weekend, the LSU football team snagged a commitment from wide receiver Kenan Jones. Again. He’s already committed and de-committed once. In the world of college football recruiting, the No. 1 fan complaint is that commitments are meaningless when kids can change their minds any day they want. So, where’s the joy in celebrating a commitment from a guy who’s already flipped before and could again?
This isn’t to rag on kids. I think the teams are just as much the problem, if not more. Take the whole hullabaloo going on at Wisconsin.
If you haven’t been following along, 3-star quarterback Ben Bryant was a Wisconsin commit. Had been since December. Last week, he received a scholarship offer from UGA. So, as recruits often do, he tweeted about it. But he also spoke to the press and said he was still committed to Wisconsin. Nevertheless, Wisconsin pulled his offer, and Bryant said he thinks it’s because of the tweet.
When teams can plainly pull offers from commits whenever they want, we shouldn’t shame a kid for pulling a commit when he feels fit. The real shame is that the stakes have become so high with recruiting. Even the most casual fan can name two or three committed recruits nowadays. It’s just part of the game.
But the increased scrutiny is also increasing the volatility. Picking where you’re going to go to school already is hard enough for a kid. Now, every reporter and fan in America is tracking your decision-making process.
Which leads me back to my original thesis: Recruiting is a little bit silly. I’m not proposing a change. Just pointing out the obvious.
Speaking of recruits …
LSU cornerback signee Kary Vincent Jr. is fast. Really fast. Like, one of the best high school track stars in the country fast.
Don’t believe me? Check this out:
Port Arthur's Boys with a
**NATIONAL RECORD** in the 4×200 with a time of 1:23.52👀👀👀🔥🔥🔥💨💨 pic.twitter.com/bN1sMYc1R0
— 806/ SUPER TX HSSC (@806hssc) May 13, 2017
— Texas MileSplit (@TXMileSplit) May 13, 2017
That’s right. Vincent might be the fastest high school runner in Texas and is a part of one of the most successful relay teams in American high school history. As someone who had the pleasure of watching Vincent run in person this season, he really is just about as incredible of a high school athlete as you’ll see.
But these numbers are startling even beyond an experiential level. High school students have been running track in this country for a long while. And these guys are putting up blazing splits. No wonder he’ll be running track for LSU in addition to playing football when he gets to Baton Rouge.
Good, old-fashioned ‘re2pect’
Former LSU shortstop and Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman is a Derek Jeter fan. Always has been, since he was a child. In fact, he wears No. 2 to honor Jeter.
So, when Bregman’s Astros showed up at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night to face the Yankees on the night they were retiring Jeter’s No. 2, of course Bregman had to do something of note.
— MLB (@MLB) May 15, 2017
Bregman hit a first-inning grand slam off Yankees’ ace Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday night, his first home run of the season and the first grand slam of his career. The Astros went on to win the game, 10-7, as Bregman went 1 for 4 with the home run and 4 RBI.
This week in made-up holidays
According to the folks at NationalDayCalendar.com, this week in “National Police Week.” Starting Monday and extending through Friday, there’ll be vigils and memorial services nationally to honor police officers who were wounded or killed in the line of duty, sacrificing themselves for the greater good.
Baton Rouge has been no stranger to police tragedy and controversy in the last year, so this issue might hit close to home to more than a couple of readers. Because of this, I’ll refrain from the jokes I usually make in this section of the Briefing.
Everyone should be afforded the right to celebrate (or protest) a holiday such as this to their own accord. So, for that, I say happy Police Week. For more information, follow the link here.
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