Any team with a running back like Leonard Fournette on the roster would be crazy to do anything but strategize on how to make him a bigger part of the success of the team. Right?
Fournette made a powerful run at a Heisman Trophy last season. Although he didn’t come away with the hardware, he did lead the nation with 162.8 rushing yards per game, and of the backs returning to campus for Saturday football in 2016, Fournette is the prohibitive favorite for college football’s top individual honor.
Instead, LSU is planning to throw the ball more and open its offense – absolutely the perfect move to spawn success.
The Tigers hit the field for their first spring practice Monday, and Jim Kleinpeter of The Times-Picayune said they came out chucking the football.
“We took the field throwing the football in the first part of practice,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We walked our throws, and took the first part of individual and threw it. We’re headed toward the opportunity to throw the ball better. That’s what we intended to do in the spring and that’s what we’re doing.”
If anyone thinks pass-happy Miles will only stick around a short time, or that the idea of throwing to get better was a one-day, dog-and-pony show that quickly regresses back to his comfortable ground pounding ways, think again.
“I want to throw the football 15 practices just like we threw it today, irrespective of scrimmage,” Miles said. “That’s the plan. What that means is we’re taking an inordinate amount of time at the beginning of practice to set up, technically, our throwing game, the whole group [quarterbacks and receivers].
“Some of our meeting time is donated to football being outside. Our guys are pretty flexible and don’t internalize it as big change, but it’s something that effectively addresses some place we have to be better.”
Don’t think of this as taking the ball away from the nation’s best rusher. Instead, LSU opening up its passing attack should back defenses off the line of scrimmage, making it easier for Fournette to churn yardage.
Easier? Is that fair?
Fournette faced more stacked boxes on Saturdays last year than all the stock boys combined in East Baton Parish, possibly even the state of Louisiana. If linebackers are forced to back up one yard, maybe three, because LSU is throwing the ball more often, Fournette will see space like he’s never experienced before.
Linebackers and safeties already hate tackling Fournette. The idea of engaging in an attempt to stop LSU’s human bowling ball after he’s built up even more speed – there’s even the real possibility he could spin and curve unobstructed (stick with me on this bowling ball metaphor, I’ll get there) – won’t be high on any defensive player’s list. Imagine the explosion of bowling pins once stricken by a ball … that’s how would-be tacklers will bounce off Fournette.
But the only way LSU enjoys that kind of rushing success is if there’s aerial proliferation. The Tigers have to throw the ball better in 2016. Whether is junior Brandon Harris, or Danny Etling figures out a way to dethrone the incumbent, success must come from the quarterback position.
If it does … LSU could be unstoppable.
LSU had a crazy 1.83-to-1 run-to-pass ratio last season, only Auburn’s was more skewed, and there’s no way LSU wants to be lumped into any category with Auburn – similar mascots, aside, that is. Teams figured out how to combat that run-first attack – it took seven games, but the three losses that came once the epiphany was discovered shook LSU’s season to the ground.
After one spring practice, Miles sounds like he wants to live in a 50-50 world where opposing defenses have trouble predicting the play-calling and the Tigers have the option, at any time, to run or throw the ball. That strategy is sound, but only if quarterback play gets better on the Bayou.