BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles broke out a baseball analogy on Monday while discussing star running back Leonard Fournette’s sizable workload.
LSU’s coach compared Fournette to a baseball lineup’s No. 3 or 4 hitters -- spots typically occupied by the best batters on the team because not only do those players get more opportunities to hit, they also get more prime opportunities to bat with runners on base.
“Basically what’s always been the rule is you give your home-run hitter opportunities to hit home runs,” Miles said.
At this rate, FBS rushing leader Fournette will put Barry Bonds to shame. He certainly has received plenty of opportunities through four games, and he has paid back the Tigers with off-the-charts production that has him on pace for one of the best seasons in SEC history.
Fournette already has an FBS-high 11 runs that covered at least 20 yards this season, more than all but 12 FBS teams. That’s right, teams. His 864 rushing yards are the most through four games by an FBS player since 2000.
After becoming the first SEC player ever to rush for 200-plus yards in three straight games, Fournette needs 136 yards on Saturday against South Carolina to become just the 10th FBS player to crack the 1,000-yard mark in the first five games of a season.
We could go on and on about the statistical accomplishments Fournette already has etched onto his resume. However, apparently the only way Fournette will know about them is if somebody tells him because he says he does not track stats at all.
“I don’t care for them,” Fournette said after rushing for 233 yards and three touchdowns last Saturday against Eastern Michigan. “As long as we’re winning.”
In fact, you’ll have a difficult time getting Fournette to discuss his accomplishments without him quickly bringing up the players who clear space for him to run.
“Without my line and my fullback, I’m nothing,” Fournette said. “I can’t block those 11 guys by myself and run the ball. They’re doing a tremendous job. I thank them every day.”
Some of Fournette’s teammates at LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC) are keeping close watch on what he’s doing. These highlight-reel performances are becoming old hat for the star sophomore, but his fellow Tigers are well aware that something historic is happening with each successive 200-yard outing.
“What he’s been able to do is really ridiculous,” offensive guard Will Clapp said. “He’s been making us look good and teams really have to game plan for him and that’s an advantage towards us. We just have to keep feeding him the ball and just keep doing what we’re doing.”
What everyone inside and outside the program is wondering is whether he can keep up this torrid pace. The porous defense from South Carolina (2-3, 0-3) might not slow down Fournette on Saturday -- the Gamecocks rank 102nd nationally in yards allowed per rushing attempt (4.89) -- but a few stout defenses are ahead on the schedule. Future LSU opponents Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss and Arkansas are all in the nation’s top 50 in both run defense and yards per carry allowed.
Assuming LSU plays a 12-game schedule, Fournette would have to average 128.4 yards per game over the remaining eight games to eclipse Herschel Walker’s SEC record of 1,891 rushing yards in a season. He’d need to average 220.5 yards per game to match Barry Sanders’ FBS record-setting total of 2,628 yards in 1988.
Of course, if the Tigers reach the SEC championship game and/or the College Football Playoff, the extra games would provide Fournette with more leeway to reach the records. But the idea that we can even discuss these possibilities at all says enough about what Fournette already has accomplished in 2015.
He might not want to know about the numbers, but they’re real and they’re spectacular.
If Fournette keeps it up, they might even be the most spectacular.
“It’s a pretty ridiculous deal, but it’s become so kind of natural this season because that’s just how it’s been every game, so we don’t know any different,” said fullback John David Moore, whose blocks frequently lead Fournette into the holes he exploits. “I think our focus is really just on executing what we do and the results are what they are.”