Just a sophomore, Fournette is on pace to break LSU, SEC, and NCAA single-season records
The fever pitch on Leonard Fournette’s sophomore season may seem like it has hit a high but in fact the hype is far from its potential zenith. The LSU running back is the clear early leader in the clubhouse for the Heisman Trophy, but far more could be achieved if his current pace is carried out through the final six games of the season.
The question is how much can he accomplish and what all could he accomplish? Breaking down his season to date we took a look at what he has accomplished so far and what he could achieve given his current pace five games into the 2015 season. And don't forget that LSU has only played five games thus far because their season opener against McNeese state was canceled due to inclement weather. This means Fournette's regular season will consist of only 11 games.
Fournette’s Season Statistics Thus Far
Through five games, Fournette has carried the ball 119 times for 1,022 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns. That's an average of 8.6 yards per carry. He also has five receptions for 41 yards.
The next closest competitor for the 2015 FBS rushing title is San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin. The diminutive (5-10, 177) senior has 874 yards on 140 carries with 11 touchdowns in six games.
From mid-September into the first week of October, Fournette became the most prolific running back in SEC history over a three-game stretch. The dazzling sophomore posted 228 yards with three scores off 19 carries against Auburn, 244 yards (career high) and two touchdowns on 26 carries against Syracuse, and 233 more yards on 26 carries with another three scores against Eastern Michigan.
Fournette’s 244 yards rushing against Syracuse places him third on LSU’s single-game all-time list. Alley Broussard holds the top spot with 250 yards against Ole Miss in 2004 and Kevin Faulk is second with 246 yards in 1996.
When Fournette collected 158 yards, a season low, against South Carolina, he became the first LSU running back since the program started playing football in 1893 to pass the 1,000-yard rushing mark in just five games. He is the 10th Division I player to accomplish this feat. The previous quickest Tiger to 1,000 yards was Charles Alexander in 1977. Alexander hit the mark in seven games and needed 175 carries. Fournette reached the century mark on his 116th tote of the season.
More School Records
Fournette’s 12 rushing touchdowns over five games is another school record. He also is the quickest Tiger to 500, 600 and 700 yards rushing in a season. And last season, he set a school freshman record with 1,034 yards when he played in all 13 games but only started six of them.
Gentleman and a Scholar
After last week's LSU vs. South Carolina game, Fournette announced he would auction off his game-worn jersey to help benefit the flood victims in South Carolina. Unclear if it was the NCAA or LSU, but an initial ruling said Fournette could not do that, but he has since been allowed to after the determination was made he won't be collecting any of the proceeds.
Postseason Honors can Wait
Fournette has already earned several in-season honors including SEC Offensive Player of the Week after the Mississippi State, Auburn (co-Player of the Week,) and Syracuse games. For his efforts against Auburn he also was named Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week, AutoNation FWAA Offensive Player of the Week, and Maxwell Award Player of the Week.
Highly Decorated out of High School
No surprise to find out that Fournette’s skill set was greatly admired before he suited up for the Tigers. Once his high school career was finished he was named the No. 1 recruit in the nation regardless of position by 247Sports, was USA Today’s National Offensive Player of the Year and twice won Gatorade’s Louisiana Player of the Year honors (2013 and '14).
Chasing Tiger Greatness
Fournette is on pace to break LSU’s single-season rushing record held by Charles Alexander. Alexander holds the top spot rushing with 1,686 yards on 311 carries in 1977. Alexander also is seventh on LSU's all-time list with 1,172 yards in 281 attempts in 1978.
Call it a Career
Through 18 games, Fournette is already tied for 13th with Domanick Davis (1999-2002) on the LSU career rushing list with 2,056 yards. Kevin Faulk is the top Tiger with 4,557 yards (1995-98) followed by Dalton Hilliard at 4,050 yards (1982-85). Fournette is currently 2,501 yards behind Faulk, who played in a total of 41 games.
How Many Yards can he Gain?
Fournette is averaging 204.4 rushing yards per game over five contests with six regular season games left to play. At this rate he will add another 1,226 yards to his season total, giving him 2,248 in 11 games. Add the possibility of an SEC Championship Game and/or a bowl game to the mix, and he would finish with either 2,453 yards (bowl game only) or as many as 2,657 yards (bowl and SEC Championship Game) at his current pace.
And if LSU is chosen for a spot in the College Football Playoff, it's possible that Fournette and the Tigers would end up playing in as many as 14 games, should they advance to the national title game. At his current per game average, that scenario would put Fournette at 2,861 yards rushing for the season, again despite the fact that LSU's season opener was canceled.
SEC Greatness Within Reach
The SEC single-season record for rushing yards is held by Fournette’s most widely used comparison, former Georgia Bulldog legend Herschel Walker. In 1981 Walker ran for 1,891 yards. Second on the list is former Arkansas Razorbacks and current Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden, who had 1,830 yards rushing in 2007.
To get into the conversation when it comes to putting together a historic season in the SEC, Fournette would have his sights set again on Walker, but this time it's the Hall of Famer's 1980 season when he rushed for 1,616 yards, good for 10th all-time in conference history. McFadden is ninth on this list with 1,647 yards in 2006. Fournette needs just 595 yards to take Walker's No. 10 spot, something he may be able to accomplish in three games if he maintains his current 200-plus yards per game pace.
NCAA All-Time Single-Season Greatness a Possibility
As the years fly by, many may not remember the 1988 season when another great running back, Barry Sanders, blew away the competition with an NCAA single-season record 2,628 yards rushing for Oklahoma State. Sanders truly took college football by storm, seemingly coming out of nowhere. In 1986 he played in eight games compiling 325 yards on 74 carries. The following year he played in 11 games carrying the ball 105 times for 603 yards.
If Fournette passes Sanders an asterisk might be in place depending on when the mark is reached. Sanders crushed the record in 11 games, while also leading the NCAA with 37 rushing touchdowns. Sanders averaged 239 yards rushing per game during his Heisman Trophy-winning season. As impressive as Fournette has been thus far, he hasn't been as good as Sanders was in 1988 on a game-by-game basis.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.