SEC Country is examining each LSU position group following the Tigers’ spring as we await the start of fall camp.
Thursday’s breakdown features LSU’s 2016 collection of running backs.
You should already know: Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice, Darrel Williams, Nick Brossette
Analysis: There has been plenty of talk surrounding the new look of the LSU offense this offseason, but one thing’s for certain: Fournette will still be the focal point.
Even in the more balanced system, the Heisman Trophy hopeful is going to get the lion’s share of the carries. The increased emphasis on passing should only open up more lanes as opposing defenses ideally won’t be able to stack the box against him.
That is quite the intriguing notion considering the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder has amassed some pretty notable accolades in two seasons at LSU.
Fournette was named to the All-SEC First Team and was a Doak Walker Award finalist as a sophomore, which followed a freshman campaign in which he cracked the All-SEC Freshman squad.
Two years into his LSU career, Fournette is already the school’s fourth-leading rusher (2,987 yards) and takes claim to both single-season rushing records. Fournette led the nation in rushing last year, averaging a blistering 162.8 yards per game, and currently shares a program record with 10 career 100-yard rushing games and a school-leading four 200-yard games.
Behind Fournette is a talented trio of backfield mates, including sophomores Guice and Brossette, as well as the junior, Williams.
Guice has proven to be an explosive No. 2 option behind Fournette, while Brossette ended the year on the sidelines with an injury. Both he and Williams should compete to be the Tigers’ third back.
Nonetheless, first-year running backs coach Jabbar Juluke has oft-discussed using all of the weapons at his disposal to maintain the dynamic rushing attack.
“He’s a talented player that will make everyone in the room better,” Juluke told SEC Country. “He doesn’t have time to take off because (the other running backs) are on his heels. They want to play, too. I’m blessed to have the young men in that room. It’s like Christmas; there’s a bunch of toys that you want to open up all together, and I’m excited for the opportunity to put them in positions to compete in the classroom, on the football field, in the community and compete to be the best service people.”
Key question: Can LSU sustain success through the end of the season to ensure Fournette remains a factor? This is an absolute necessity if the New Orleans native is going to vie for the Heisman. In 2015, Fournette averaged 193.14 yards per contest in LSU’s first seven games, before combining for for 122 in losses to Alabama and Arkansas. Overall, in the Tigers’ three losses, Fournette was limited to 76.67 yards per game. Clearly, when things were going well, Fournette was a major reason why. But if LSU falls short of the team’s lofty expectations, will that again force Fournette to taper off?
Bottom line: Despite the new wrinkles and philosophies being installed in the LSU offense, Fournette is still going to be the most important piece to the puzzle. It’s difficult to win games in the SEC and be a contender for a conference championship without a balanced attack, including a strong running game. Fournette gives LSU an edge over every other team in the SEC week in and week out, and based on the strides he’s made over his first two years, his junior season is shaping up to one of the most prolific in school history.