Before LSU running back Leonard Fournette ever stepped on the field last season as a true freshman, he was already being touted as a future Heisman Trophy hopeful following a stellar high school career in his hometown of New Orleans. While he did not make an impact in the 2014 Heisman voting, he is definitely a solid contender to win this year's award for college football's best player at 14/1 betting odds on Bovada's latest futures board.
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In his first game for the Tigers last August in a stunning 28-24 upset of Wisconsin, he ran the ball eight times for a total of 18 yards. Over his next three games the numbers started to build with an average of 6.1 yards an attempt on a total of 30 carries. The future potential of Fournette's ability to run the ball came to light in LSU's 63-7 rout of New Mexico State in late-September when he gained 122 yards and scored two touchdowns on 18 attempts.
By season's end, Fournette had become LSU's leading rusher with a total of 1,034 yards while racking up a team-high 10 touchdowns on the ground. He ran the ball 187 times for an average of 5.5 yards a carry. At 6-foot-1, 230 lbs., he proved to be a punishing back between the tackles, but he also showed some deceptively solid speed running the ball outside as well. The one area that still needs some development is his pass-catching skills out of the backfield. He ended last season with seven receptions for a total of 127 yards, so there is some untapped potential heading into his sophomore season.
Many college football experts are touting Fournette as the best running back in the nation despite the fact that Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott and Georgia's Nick Chubb actually have better betting odds to win this year's Heisman Trophy. That is a tribute to his rare combination of size and speed. These same experts believe that he barely scratched the surface with what he can do with the ball in his first season at the collegiate level. If that is truly the case, then there would be some tremendous value in his betting odds to win this year's Heisman considering the quality of those first two running backs on Bovada's futures list.
There is little doubt that Fournette will have ample opportunity to impress the Heisman voters as the featured back in LSU's run-oriented offensive scheme. The Tigers went 8-5 last season behind a passing offense that was ranked 116th in the nation in yards per game (162.9). Conversely, they moved up to 25th in the country running the ball with an average of 224.5 yards a game. Defense will still determine whether or not head coach Les Mile's team is a factor in the SEC's tough West Division race, but Fournette will also have a large say in the final outcome.
The Tigers' early schedule is favorable for him to get a fast start out of the gate in voter's minds with a season opener at home against Division IAA McNeese State. This will be followed by two high-profile showdowns against Mississippi State on the road and Auburn at home that are both sure to attract a national audience. The month of November opens with a possible make-or-break road game against Alabama, and LSU will close things out against Ole Miss on the road and Texas A&M at home.
The competition for this season's Heisman Trophy is shaping up to be fierce with so many solid running backs in the mix. I always feel that any player that is not a quarterback is at a huge disadvantage when it comes to this award when you consider that since 2000 the only non-quarterback to win a Heisman was Alabama running back Mark Ingram in 2009. When you add in the fact that Fournette is just a sophomore, even more value gets drained a bit from his oddsto win. He could be worth a small play at 14/1, but he is not on my short list when it comes to betting this college football player prop.
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Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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