The tales of five-star Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine) go back much further than just his senior year. In his first game as a freshman, Leonard had 26 carries for 238 yards and three touchdowns, even though his coach at the time started a senior out of respect. Shortly after, LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson let the St. Augustine coaches know Fournette had an offer.
Leonard Fournette is the 2014 247Sports Composite National Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back went on to run over, and around, would-be tacklers for almost 7,000 rushing yards and 82 rushing touchdowns during his high school career, including a 2,135-yard, 35 rushing touchdown junior campaign that had many comparing Fournette to Adrian Peterson.
St. Augustine head coach Cyril Crutchfield feels Fournette is as good as it gets.
“Leonard Fournette is the best I have ever seen – bar none,” Crutchfield said. “Coaches I have spoken to in the state of Louisiana, some that are new and some that have been coaching over 30 years - they all agree with me that he is the best they have seen.”
The 247Sports Composite National Player of the Year annually goes to the prospect that finishes No. 1 in the 247Sports Composite Rankings. 247Sports Composite rankings are determined by a proprietary algorithm which equally weighs recruit rankings and ratings from all major recruiting media outlets, including 247Sports. Players are honored with a ceremony at their high school. Leonard Fournette is the inaugural 247Sports Composite National Player of the Year for the Class of 2014.
Fournette has it all – a rare combination of size, speed, power, vision, and agility. Crutchfield says there is more to Fournette than what you see on the gridiron.
“I think what makes Leonard great is that he is a student of the game,” Crutchfield said. “He has the God-given ability from a physical standpoint, but he is so mentally tough and mentally prepared as well. People do not know the amount of time he puts into film study and trying to put himself – and his team – in the best position to win. It was never out of the norm for him to call at 10:30 at night and make a suggestion or describe something he noticed on film, and that is what sets him apart from other guys, however few there are, that have similar physical characteristics and traits.”
On a nationally televised game against eventual state champion River Ridge (La.) Curtis, another squad loaded with FBS talent, Fournette showed why he is one of the most talented running back prospects in recent memory.
In that game, Fournette carried it 34 times for 255 yards and a touchdown, then with less than two minutes remaining in the game, Fournette made a 27-yard touchdown catch to give his team a 29-28 victory.
LSU won a heated recruiting battle for the nation's top prospect according to the 247Sports Composite.
“I have come to the conclusion that nothing he does surprises me,” Crutchfield said. “Against our rival John Curtis, an emotional game on national television, he carried our team against such a highly-ranked opponent. Only he could have handled that type of pressure, and then for him to make the winning touchdown catch with under a minute to go, I think that long after his playing days are over that will be a game that I will never forget.”
It was another pivotal play, earlier in the game, that the opposing coach, J. T, Curtis, will never forget.
“We had Leonard pinned down on a two-point conversion, and he saw a hole to the backside,” Curtis said. “Now we had some guys there – the crease was just minimal – and he was able to hit it and split it into the end zone. It was just a special play.”
Curtis has seen more than his fair share of talent, having coached his team to 26 state championships in 45 years. With a remarkable 530-56-6 record, Curtis is No. 2 in career wins among high school coaches.
“Leonard brings all of the qualities that you look for in a running back to the table,” Curtis said. “I played against big backs, fast backs, and running backs with quick feet, and Leonard has all of that in one. I even watched Leonard in track last year – he is a 10.6 guy. That is the reason he has an opportunity to be a special player at the next level.”
Back in 2000, former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs ran for a state-best 3,032 yards and 35 touchdowns at Napoleonville (La.) Assumption. Curtis remembers going up against Jacobs as well.
“Brandon Jacobs was the biggest running back we ever played against, at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, which made him a load to bring down,” Curtis said. “But Brandon did not have the moves, the quickness, and the feet that Leonard has. That is no knock to Brandon, but Leonard has the quickness and vision of a smaller back, and when you get that combination, it makes it impossible to stop him.”
Fournette committed to LSU during the Under Armour All-America Game Jan. 2, ending a heated battle between the Tigers and conference rival Alabama. While the in-state program was always seen as the heavy favorite, Crutchfield said the Tide did not go down easily.
“(Alabama Associate Head Coach) Burton Burns recruited him hard, and I would not necessarily say he has given up because anything can happen, but ultimately it is the kid’s decision,” Crutchfield said. “Burton knew it would be a daunting task to get him to leave Louisiana, especially given everything that has been invested in trying to keep him in-state. Burton is one of the best recruiters out there, but you win some, you lose some.”
According to his coach, losing a special talent like Fournette would have been a tough pill to swallow for the local fanbase.
“Leonard Fournette going to Alabama might have broken the back of LSU, especially losing two other top recruits to out-of-state programs that day,” Crutchfield said. “If Leonard had chosen to take his talents out of state, I think that would have been an ugly sight in the state of Louisiana.”
LSU made Fournette a recruiting priority for the past four years, including not signing a running back in the 2013 class. Their efforts with Fournette paid off with his commitment, but with the departure of running backs Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill, signing day cannot get here quickly enough for the LSU staff.
About 247Sports Composite Rankings: 247Sports Composite rankings are determined by a proprietary algorithm which equally weighs recruit rankings and ratings from all major recruiting media outlets, including 247Sports.