HOOVER, Ala. — There wasn’t much more Leonard Fournette could do for LSU last season.
He carried the Tigers to a 7-0 start, but his runaway Heisman Trophy campaign was met by an opposite — if not completely equal — force: defenses that became increasingly reckless in their attempts to stop the nation’s hottest running back.
Alabama’s elite front seven was the first team to bottle Fournette, and the ensuing loss at Bryant-Denny Stadium exposed LSU’s biggest weakness to the nation: Brandon Harris.
The quarterback was so inconsistent through the air (53.8 completion percentage in 2015) that opposing teams opted to simply leave receivers open, daring Harris to make them pay.
“You had like eight, nine guys in the box,” Fournette said Thursday morning at SEC Media Days. “So I did what I could do to open up the passing game for Brandon.”
It wasn’t enough. LSU lost three straight to fall out of the SEC West race.
Now, with many pundits selecting Fournette and the Tigers as the conference’s best team, there’s still a burning question that needs to be answered: Is Harris going to be able to pull his weight while Fournette churns toward another 2,000-yard season?
“Everybody’s asking me about Brandon,” Fournette said. “I think he’s gonna do a marvelous job this year, guys.”
Coach Les Miles was also high on his quarterback.
“I think Brandon Harris will have the right year,” Miles said. “I think all he needs to do is what he’s asked him to do. He’s so ready to do that, he’s champing at the bit.”
Fournette thinks Harris is a changed man.
He said the rising junior is now reading defensive fronts and diagnosing Cover 2 and Cover 3 defenses before the snap, basic tasks he struggled with as a sophomore.
“That’s something he wasn’t as good at,” Fournette said. “I think he’s perfect at it now.”
For his part, Fournette is trying to better himself in the following categories: Diet (nothing but peanuts and yogurt after 7 p.m.), route-running and his communication with teammates.
It sounds as if Harris is doing plenty of the latter, too.
“His confidence level is high,” Fournette said. “If you’re quarterback’s not confident, you’re not gonna follow him. I think he’s doing a tremendous job. I’m just ready to see the new Brandon Harris when Sept. 3 comes.”