Leonard Fournette was the No. 1 player in the ESPN 300 recruiting rankings for the class of 2014, and the sophomore running back hasn’t disappointed. He has done things that no one else at LSU or in the SEC has accomplished.
On Saturday, he recorded his third consecutive game with 200 yards on the ground, becoming the first player in SEC history to rush for at least 200 yards in three games in succession.
Despite playing one fewer game than many other FBS players (LSU’s scheduled opener Sept. 6 against McNeese State was canceled because of inclement weather), Fournette leads the nation with 864 rushing yards this season. The 864 yards are the most through four games in LSU history and the most by any FBS player since 2000.
Carrying the mail
Fournette has accounted for 51 percent of his team’s yards from scrimmage this season. No other Power 5 running back this season has accounted for more than 40 percent.
If he were to keep it up, Fournette would be responsible for the highest percentage of a team’s yards from scrimmage of any FBS running back in the last 10 years.
Using his offensive line
Of Fournette’s 864 rushing yards, 530 have come before he is first contacted by the defense. He is averaging a Power 5-leading 133 rushing yards before contact per game this season. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is the only other Power 5 running back averaging 100 or more yards before contact per game.
Fournette has an FBS-high 11 rushes of 20 yards or more. Among 127 FBS schools, 12 of them have more 20-yard rushes this season than Fournette.
He is extremely dangerous when he can turn the corner. Forty of Fournette’s 99 rushes this season have gone outside the tackles, and seven of those 40 have resulted in touchdowns. That ties Alabama’s Derrick Henry for the most rushing touchdowns outside the tackles among Power 5 backs.
At an average of 10.9 yards per rush on such carries, Fournette ranks second in the Power 5 (minimum 25 rushes).
Things might get tougher for Fournette, now that LSU is in the conference portion of its schedule.
Saturday’s game, for example, was against Eastern Michigan, which has the worst run defense as measured by expected points added of any FBS team when excluding LSU as an opponent.
The Tigers play South Carolina on Saturday (noon ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), and Fournette needs 136 yards to become the 10th player in FBS history with 1,000 rushing yards in his first five games.
South Carolina is giving up an average of 170 rushing yards per game, which is the 75th-most among FBS teams.
The FBS record for consecutive 200-yard games is five, held by USC’s Marcus Allen, Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders and North Texas’ Jamario Thomas. The last FBS player with four in a row was Tulane’s Matt Forte in 2007.