With Georgia reeling from the temporary loss of Sony Michel and the uncertainty of Nick Chubb’s ability to bounce back from a horrific knee injury, the LSU Tigers boast what is by far the best running back duo in the SEC — Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice — a pair of former Louisiana high school stars who elected to stay home and don the Purple and Gold.
Alongside the likes of fellow local products Nick Brossette, Darrel Williams, Devin White, and under under the guidance of first-year running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, they now headline the most dangerous backfield in college football.
Everybody knows the name “Fournette”. For essentially his entire high school career, Fournette was the most talked about player in the state of Louisiana, and quite possibly the country. Hailing from St. Augustine High School, which has produced a bevy of future NFL players, including former LSU great Tyrann Mathieu, hype was bound to arise.
But Fournette’s legend truly took off when his highlight reel surfaced on the internet. Comparisons immediately began to pour in, drawing similarities between the then-teenager that was taking the college football recruiting scene by storm and the NFL’s top running back at the time in Adrian Peterson.
When he announced the decision to take his talents to LSU, the storyline took on a nature of its own. Fournette kicked off his career by rushing for more yards than any other freshman in LSU history, despite entering the season as the backup. He followed that up with one of the greatest single-season rushing performances that the SEC has ever seen. Fournette rushed for 200 yards or more in three consecutive games en route to compiling 1,953 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. With an average of 162.8 yards per game, he became the first SEC player to lead the nation in rushing since 1947. The New Orleans native fell just short of an invite to the Heisman Trophy Ceremony last season, and enters 2016 as one of the favorites to claim the coveted honor.
Guice, as he would tell you, is no slouch either.
As a true freshman out of nearby Catholic High School, Guice rushed for a total of 436 yards and three touchdowns. His true worth, however, would be measured by his efficiency and uncanny ability to change the trajectory of a game; two things that were put on full display against South Carolina and Texas A&M last season.
Guice looked every bit the part of a human pinball against these teams, bouncing off potential tacklers with ease and gashing the defense with his violent running style in the process. He finished these two games with a total of 234 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The victory over the Gamecocks was the first 100-yard rushing performance of his career. In the regular season finale against Texas A&M, he altered the momentum of the game with a 75-yard kickoff return to start the second half and a 50-yard touchdown scamper that put the Tigers ahead for good.
The tandem of Fournette and Guice provides LSU fans with a promising outlook that is nearly unmatched in the college football landscape.
Fournette is a player for whom anything less than a Heisman Trophy or national championship will be considered a letdown by many. As unfair as such standards may be, it is nothing new to the electric junior. When he leaves school to become one of the most sought after prospects in next year’s NFL Draft, which at this point is all but a certainty, Guice will be poised to step in as possibly the best back in the SEC.
The future is undoubtedly bright, but first, the moment must be seized in the present.
As a team that enters 2016 eyeing its first national title in nine years, the Tigers know this all too well.