Alabama football’s VIP 25: Nation’s top-ranked RB poised to make instant … – The Birmingham News –

Every season has its memorable moments and game-changing performances, so we’re counting down the 25 most important figures within or around the Crimson Tide program (or foes) who will determine whether Alabama’s upcoming season is a success.

No. 15: Leonard Fournette

Crazy as it sounds, sometimes even Alabama gets beat on the recruiting trail.

The one that got away in 2014 projects to be on the field and contributing heavily to LSU’s ground attack when the Crimson Tide travels to Baton Rouge on Nov. 8.

Fournette was the nation’s top overall recruit in the class of 2014, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. At 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds, the New Orleans native has been the recipient of endless, lofty comparisons to NFL running backs. The most frequent? All-Pro Minnesota Vikings playmaker Adrian Peterson.

Outside of wide receiver, there’s perhaps no better position than running back for a freshman to make an immediate impact. In the SEC alone, players such as T.J. Yeldon, Todd Gurley and Marcus Lattimore made the adjustment from high school to college look seamless in their first seasons.

Fournette, who ran for 7,360 yards and 90 touchdowns in his four years at St. Augustine High, could be just what the LSU offense needs in the wake of the departures of quarterback Zach Mettenberger, running backs Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue and wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. A return to a pounding running game seems likely considering the question marks at quarterback. 

Fournette hasn’t backed down from the hype. 

“My plan my freshman year is to win the Heisman and the BCS National Championship with my teammates,” Fournette said when he chose LSU over Alabama and Texas at his signing ceremony in January.

LSU coach Les Miles didn’t exactly scoff at the proclamation, either.

“I certainly understand it,” Miles said at his National Signing Day press conference. “And we’ve seen freshmen win it. Johnny Manziel was (a redshirt freshman). And this guy from Florida State was a first-year quarterback starter and wins the Heisman. So it would be nice to have some national awards being considered as a freshman with the Tigers.”

When the Crimson Tide beat LSU in 2013, the Tigers managed just 1.4 yards per rush attempt, as Hill never got going in a game Alabama dominated in the second half. The last time LSU beat Alabama, it ran for 148 yards in 2011’s overtime victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

One player won’t make the difference in a game as physical and demanding as Alabama and LSU’s annual get-together, but a talent like Fournette could certainly alter the game plan.

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