There’s always been a mythical quality to Leonard Fournette, a Paul Bunyan-like presence that preceded his arrival on the national stage and has never quite lifted. Statistics be damned: As a physical specimen, he’s been touted as a legend from the start, a chiseled size/speed idol in the mold of Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, and Adrian Peterson. Hell, maybe even Tecmo Bo; after three years on campus, Fournette still cuts the figure of a living, breathing Create-a-Player, ratings maxed. In a sport of born-and-bred freaks, he’s the freakiest.
And in that sense, at least — the intuitive, visceral sense — he’s also reigned as the best player in college football over the last two seasons even when the objective body of evidence doesn’t back up the claim. In 2015, it did: Fournette destroyed the single-season LSU rushing record, led the nation in yards per game, and averaged nearly a full yard more per carry than the Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, all as a true sophomore. This year, not so much: Almost two-thirds of the way through his junior campaign, Fournette is barely a third of the way to last year’s output on the ground, his production diminished by a combination of a) a depressingly one-dimensional attack that offered no support over the first month of the season, and b) a nagging ankle injury that has sidelined him for three of LSU’s first seven games. On paper, he’s only narrowly his team’s leading rusher.