No game has continued to haunt Leonard Fournette more during the past year than the trip last season to Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Of course, Fournette was held to a season-low 31 yards on 19 attempts, finding the end zone once in then-No. 2 LSU’s 30-16 loss to then-No. 4 Alabama, which inevitably led to the Tigers’ tailspin to close out the 2015 season.
Fournette has started only four games this season. He is coming off a record-setting return to the field against Ole Miss. No. 7 has led by more than his play, though. Interim coach Ed Orgeron told reporters Wednesday that Fournette has relayed a clear message leading up to the game Saturday night against top-ranked Alabama.
“He’s the most motivated guy on the team,” Orgeron said of Fournette during the SEC Coaches Teleconference. “His want-to to have success against Alabama is as high as I’ve seen.”
Orgeron also noted that Fournette is “the best player in the country” but is only part of the reason LSU’s new-look offense has become a different unit to prepare for during the past month.
Interim offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger has been less predictable with his play-call selection, which in the team’s last three games — all victories — include 11 20-plus-yard completions compared with 5 through the first four games.
“They’ve made a lot of explosive plays,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They’ve got a very talented group of receivers. Their quarterback is very smart in the way he sort of implements their offense. Their play-action game and vertical game is something they’ve always had, but it’s more effective now relative to the skill guys and quarterback. They’ve made a lot more explosive plays.”
Part of the success can be attributed to the offensive line.
Like LSU’s backfield, the Tigers line has been limited by injuries to right tackle Toby Weathersby and, at times, Will Clapp. Depth has been a plus and helped the offense turn things around.
“They’ve got a very good offensive line,” Saban said. “They’ve got great size, very athletic guys, get moving in the running game. They’ve got a great understanding on the plays they run. They do a really effective job executing and playing together. This is a very good offensive line.”
LSU, which is ranked No. 15 in the AP Top 25 Poll and debuted at No. 13 in the initial College Football Playoff Ranking, has seen an offensive renaissance since Orgeron and Ensminger received promotions.
Despite a change at quarterback, injuries to Fournette and across the offensive line, the Tigers have produced 196.5 more yards per game with Orgeron as the coach.
|Alabama||LSU (Under Les Miles)||LSU (Under Ed Orgeron)|
|Scoring offense (ppg)||43.9||21||41.7|
|Total offense (ypg)||498||339.5||536|
|Scoring defense (ppg)||14.9||16.75||12.7|
|Total defense (ypg)||274.5||341.25||277.3|
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