LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette ran for just 18 yards on eight carries in his much-anticipated debut against Wisconsin Saturday night. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound New Orleans native was rated as the top running back in the country and the fourth-best 2014 overall prospect by Rivals, so in the eyes of many, his first collegiate action was not quite up to snuff.
Don’t tell that to Les Miles.
“He did great,” Miles said, per NOLA.com. “First games are not to be comparable to his 30th game, Expectations are unrealistic. Can you imagine that somebody would comment on how you played your first game as a true freshman? To say it was anything other than exactly what we needed – this is a mistake.”
Sure, a true freshman is not ordinarily expected to shine – especially when playing his first game in front of a huge crowd at an NFL stadium on national television – but Fournette has not been touted as any ordinary freshman. Miles was the one who acknowledged that Fournette was rated as “the number one tailback in the country” at SEC Media Days, so he certainly did not do much to quell the hype.
Miles more or less likened Fournette to Michael Jordan at SEC Media Days, too. What do you think that did to the hype?
“He expects himself to be something very special,” Miles said in July. “I think if you look at Michael Jordan, he could not have been coached to be Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan accepted the role of expecting him to be better than any. I think (Fournette) has a quiet confidence there that will benefit him, and I think we will always have an opportunity to play at that spot.”
The fact is, Miles does not necessarily need Fournette to be the Tigers’ feature back. Senior Kenny Hilliard ran for 110 yards on 18 carries and scored the winning touchdown Saturday night. Fournette, who also saw action as the Tigers’ kickoff returner (23.4 yard average on five returns) will continue to be eased into the rotation. The team’s home opener against FCS Sam Houston State will be the perfect time to do it.
“He’ll contribute more and more, better and better as we go forward. I think he recognized that. Anybody who expected more from him than exactly how he played has unrealistic expectations,” Miles said.
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