<
>

LSU's records were made to be broken ... by Leonard Fournette

BATON ROUGE, La. -- There aren't many LSU rushing records that Leonard Fournette doesn't already own after his season for the ages in 2015.

But while the All-American running back says he cares about only one achievement -- "my main goal is to win the national championship, nothing less," Fournette said before Monday's practice -- he argues that there are still numerous individual records available to place in his crosshairs this fall.

"I haven't shattered everybody's record. I mean, Kevin Faulk has a lot of records here," Fournette said. "So my whole job is just to be better than last year."

Good luck with that. Fournette rattled off a list of areas where he can improve this season -- specifically, blocking, catching balls out of the backfield and becoming a more effective leader -- but it will be awfully difficult to run the ball any better than he did last fall.

His 1,953 rushing yards broke the LSU record and rank second in SEC history behind Alabama's Derrick Henry, who rushed for 2,219 yards while playing three games more than Fournette last fall. Fournette's average of 162.8 rushing yards per game last season led the FBS and ranks second in SEC history behind Georgia legend Herschel Walker (171.9 YPG in 1981).

Nonetheless, Fournette is correct to point out that there are plenty of LSU and SEC records at which he can take aim. In fact, they might be even more achievable if the Tigers develop the more potent passing game that they expect, preventing opponents from keying solely on Fournette and the run.

"I think balance is a way to remove people from the box and allow us bigger plays," LSU coach Les Miles said. "So if we can do the job that we have planned to do throwing the football, then I think you will find that there will be less people in the box and then maybe more productivity out of less carries."

Of course, climbing toward those single-season and career records also requires that Fournette stay healthy -- a major area of concern among Tigers fans two weeks ago after he left a team scrimmage with a sprained ankle. Linebacker Donnie Alexander landed on Fournette's ankle after pulling him down from behind, bringing the scrimmage to a screeching halt.

"Everybody got quiet. The music stopped," Fournette chuckled as he recalled the tense moments immediately afterward. "It was a crazy moment, but I went to rehab right after that and my ankle is better now."

Fournette said the ankle was a bit stiff when he returned to practice Thursday, but said he is back at 100 percent.

"It was like he wasn't gone," offensive lineman Josh Boutte said after Thursday's practice. "If anything, he's probably faster because he had a little break off his feet."

Now about those records.

The chase starts Saturday when the Tigers take on Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET/ABC) -- an opponent that quickly quieted the Heisman Trophy buzz Fournette was getting in 2014 before ever playing in his first college game. Fournette ran eight times for 18 yards in that season opener, taking a backseat as Kenny Hilliard (18 carries for 110 yards) and the defense led the Tigers' fourth-quarter rally to defeat the Badgers 28-24.

In fact, Fournette's first 100-yard game would not come until Game 5 against New Mexico State, but his cracking the century mark has been a regular occurrence ever since. Fournette rushed for at least 100 yards in four of the last seven games of his freshman season, setting an LSU freshman record with 1,034 yards. Then he blew those totals out of the water as a sophomore, putting himself at or near the top of virtually every single-season LSU rushing list worth mentioning.

Entering his rematch against Wisconsin, he's a much different player than the one who admittedly was slow to adapt to the speed of the college game early in his freshman season.

"Obviously it's going to be slower and slower now," Fournette said. "I'm used to the speed."

Reminiscing about Fournette's rocky college debut against Wisconsin, Miles agreed that he's a changed man, noting that, "Experience is always a tremendous advantage for anybody that plays football, and he's made that cut now instead of 20 times, he's made that cut 200 times. He understands the offense better, and he's in position to really take advantage of the experience that he's had."

Regardless of whether he surpasses last season's numbers, a healthy Fournette with an ever-improving feel for the game will be a problem for opposing defenses. If LSU keeps winning and Fournette's championship goal remains within reach, he might just bring home that Heisman.