Tigers should believe the hype with Leonard Fournette

VooDoo works on barbecue, too
January 7, 2014
Carla Bernard Sapia
January 8, 2014
VooDoo works on barbecue, too
January 7, 2014
Carla Bernard Sapia
January 8, 2014

I’ve always been a big sports history buff.

I love the art of telling stories. More specifically, I love to incorporate dates into those stories to paint a clearer picture of what truly took place. For example, it’s fascinating to me that children 100 years from now will be able to look back and say definitively that on Jan. 4, 2004, the LSU football team transcended to the Louisiana Superdome and trumped Oklahoma 21-14 to win the BCS National Championship – the Tigers’ first national championship since 1958. 

But what is even more fun to me is breaking down the smaller, lesser-known dates in history that make the bigger, more memorable dates possible.

For example, while LSU did win the national championship on Jan. 4, I think we’d all agree that the entire process started on Nov. 30, 1999 when the Tigers made the decision to pluck Nick Saban away from Michigan State and bring him to the SEC.

Another big date in the process was Jan. 1, 2002 – the night LSU learned to win on the big stage, taking home the Sugar Bowl Championship against Illinois. 

Obviously, if you’ve read this deeply into the column, you’re wondering what all of this has to do with consensus five-star halfback Leonard Fournette – the young man widely regarded as the top prep football player in America.

Well for those posing the question, here’s the formal explanation: Fournette’s commitment to LSU marks one of those smaller historical dates that lead to a larger, more memorable moment in time years down the road.

Here’s what I’m saying in more specifics. Remember January 2, 2014 – the date that LSU started on its path to winning its third BCS National Championship.

Leonard Fourette is a grand-slam home run recruit for a laundry list of reasons (which will be explained later). He is, by far, the biggest get for the LSU football program since Patrick Peterson signed a National Letter of Intent with the Tigers in 2008.

He’s that type of All-World performer that will enable LSU to continue to be near the top of the SEC standings. 

But more importantly, Fournette has shown throughout his recruitment that he is also the high-character, face of the franchise-type player that Tim Tebow proved to be when he became a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida.

Let’s start on the field – Leonard Fournette is absolutely perfect for LSU’s offense.

In today’s world of spread offenses and four wide receiver sets, the Tigers are one of the few stragglers that run a traditional, run-oriented power attack.

And in that type of system, Fournette is a cold-blooded assassin.

The St. Augustine High School product possesses a 6-foot, 1-inch frame and a muscular 225-pound build.

As the biggest, strongest and most athletic player on the field in most prep games, Fournette is a wrecking ball that routinely punishes linebackers and safeties tasked with the chore of trying to make a tackle. 

Obviously, at the next level, pure power will not be enough, and speed will be a factor.

Fournette has a little of that, too. As a member of the Purple Knights’ track and field squad, Fournette has a clocked 10.5 time in the 100-yard dash – one of the quicker recorded times in Louisiana among high school athletes.

His combination of physicality and speed will merge with plus-level hands and will form a halfback that will be awfully difficult to defend in both the running and passing game. 

Scouts make the statement that Fournette is the highest-graded player at halfback since Adrian Peterson. Others tout that he would have been a five-star recruit since his sophomore season.

I don’t like to sip the Kool Aid that heavily, but if Fournette can play as well as the gang of experts projects, then he will be a true force to be reckoned with. 

The beauty of it all is that we should see it play out right away. 

With Jeremy Hill likely heading to the NFL Draft and guys like Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard also on the fence, Fournette is in line to lace ‘em up as a true freshman in Baton Rouge.

Even if the entire gang stays in school, he still could be a major factor in the team’s game plan.

But freeze all of the on-field accolades and talents for a minute and let’s talk about Fournette as a young man.

By all accounts, the blue-chip prospect is mature beyond his years – a young man that deserves the success that he’s obtained.

In today’s age of mainstream recruiting, many prospects give countless interviews detailing their plans – often misspeaking and contradicting themselves many times along the way. 

But Fournette’s recruitment was quiet. He kept his thoughts to himself nearly the entire journey. The St. Augustine halfback did very few interviews and revealed very little about his options, merely giving a few complimentary words about the Tigers and Alabama – the two finalists for his services.

Likewise, Fournette made his decision with class, simply standing on the stage and unveiling his choice with his family. There were no neon lights, nor revolving hats. The young man understood that while his decision marked a big day, it was just the first step in a new chapter. 

Think I’m reading too much into all this? 

Here’s another example.

After dominating Louisiana prep football in 2013, St. Augustine entered the Division I State Playoffs as the No. 1 seed – a heavy favorite to win the state championship.

But instead of taking it all, the Purple Knights were upset in the state semifinals against Rummel – a 31-28 defeat.

Days later, Fournette was still honored by the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club as its Prep Player of the Year. 

Upon accepting the award, he immediately handed the trophy to lesser-touted East Jefferson quarterback Eugene Wells. In his public address, Fournette said he made the decision because Wells won a state championship.

“I feel like I’ve seen (Wells) grow as a young man,” Fournette said. “So I feel like Eugene Wells deserves this.” 

Leadership to that level is rare to find in any prep athlete.

Hell, it’s tough to find that sort of character in any person at all – regardless of athletic affiliation. 

Fournette is a winner – on and off the field. 

Mark down Jan. 2, 2014 – the day that the Tigers pushed forward in its quest to win the national championship. 

Don’t sweat Jennings’ poor day

Another topic I wanted to discuss today was Anthony Jennings’ perceived poor game in the Outback Bowl. 

Immediately during and following LSU’s win, fans took to message boards and Facebook by storm, proclaiming that Jennings was a fraud. Some even went as far as to tout that if he is the Tigers’ starter in 2014, then the team is doomed. 

We’re going to chalk this up as another example in a long line of stupid opinions formed by LSU fans.

Jennings is young. He is raw. He is not prepared to start in the SEC.

That’s why he wasn’t the team’s starter in 2013.

But with another offseason to polish his craft, who are we to claim to know more about football than Les Miles, Cam Cameron and the rest of the LSU coaching staff? 

Cut the kid some slack. Iowa had a Top 10 defense nationally and he got a win. 

I’ll take it.