Fournette impressive but No. 8 LSU ground game no 1-man show
While Fournette has averaging a nation's-best 193.5 yards through a pair of victories to open the season, LSU's three backup running backs and quarterback Brandon Harris have combined for a not-so-shabby 136.5 rushing yards per game.
''We have elite backs we can shift into the game when we want to give Leonard a break and freshen him up,'' said Tigers coach Les Miles, whose team plays at Syracuse on Saturday. ''Then, we have a mobile quarterback. That is always an issue for the defense when the quarterback can go up the field.''
Darrel Williams and true freshmen Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette round out LSU's quartet of running backs who've seen playing time this season. Williams has picked up 86 yards on 20 carries and is Fournette's primary backup. Williams also has the versatility to line up at fullback.
Guice and Brossette got the first carries of their LSU careers against Auburn. Guice, who broke off a 29-yard run, gained 55 yards on six attempts. Brossette, a hometown product like Guice, contributed 13 yards on four carries. Both Guice and Brossette also caught a pass.
''It's amazing the number of running backs we have,'' offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins said. ''They are all great running backs. It surprises the offensive linemen each week at how well they do. One of them comes in and it's like we don't miss a beat.''
Harris provides that extra threat about which the defense must be concerned. Harris was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country coming out of Parkway High School in Bossier City, Louisiana, two seasons ago. Miles wants a pocket passer, but one who can make plays with his running ability.
In the first two games, Harris has run the ball 12 times for 119 yards - an average of almost ten yards per carry. Most of those attempts have been on designed runs, although he has scrambled for long gains in each of the first two games.
''Brandon is always a threat to run the ball,'' guard Will Clapp said. ''It was said that he was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. He has proven to be that. He is a real threat in the running game. Defenses have to account for him.''
LSU runs a very diverse offensive system. The Tigers will be in the I-formation at least 50 percent of the time. LSU can use a three wide-receiver set. Then, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can call plays out of the zone-read playbook. Harris ran an old-fashioned option play for a touchdown against Auburn.
Wide receiver Travin Dural had an 89-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep against Mississippi State called back by a penalty. Backup wide receiver Donte Jackson picked up 14 yards on a jet sweep against Auburn.
''There are multiple things we can do when we are running the ball,'' Clapp said. ''We have the read option where Brandon is a threat. We have packages where there are multiples backs in the game. Everybody's a threat. People must account for everybody.''
And LSU is set to remain potent on the ground beyond this season. Its top four running backs are either sophomores or freshmen. Fournette, Williams and Harris are just second-year players to go along with the two newcomers, Guice and Brossette.
''Our running back group is the most talented in the country,'' offensive tackle Vadal Alexander said. ''All of our backs can make plays. All of them can gain yards.''