Leonard Fournette has repeatedly said he doesn’t care how many carries he gets.
That’s a good thing for LSU coach Les Miles and his coaching staff.
Miles and his staff “routinely” discuss limiting Fournette’s touches through their headsets during games, the coach said during the Southeastern Conference teleconference Wednesday.
Fournette, however, has no set number of carries per game. His restrictions are based on feel, and they vary week-to-week.
“In certain situations, you have the opportunity to reduce his exposure,” Miles said. “In other games, you want to give him every opportunity that he needs to get his carries.
Fournette has emerged as LSU’s workhorse and a Heisman Trophy front-runner, so keeping him healthy through a brutal SEC schedule is a priority for Miles.
The coach said Fournette “seems to get warmed up the more reps he gets,” but more touches means a higher chance of injury. The running back limped to the sideline after taking a helmet to the knee on his third touchdown against Auburn last Saturday, sending a scare through the Tiger Stadium crowd and fans on social media.
Fournette said Tuesday his knee feels “good” and “isn’t too serious.” He carried the ball only 19 times during last week’s 45-21 win against Auburn, and his last touch came with 4:14 remaining in the third quarter.
“We wouldn’t want to wear him out before we get to some of the key contests in our season,” Miles said. “But in the same vein, it’s also important that we win. The criteria is, who is the guy that should touch the ball the most to give us an opportunity to win the game.”
Fournette met that criteria against Mississippi State on Sept. 12, carrying the ball 28 times for 159 yards as the Tigers desperately tried to milk the clock in their 21-19 win.
Miles has shown he won’t hesitate to lean on Fournette in close games, and the star running back’s carries are likely fluctuate from game-to-game, as the coach said.
But there’s another reason Miles won’t set a strict limit on Fournette’s rushes.
“If it was a pitch count, I think you would eliminate some of the great performances in college football,” he said. “We’re still very cautious.”
Mills, Gordon to travel
Injured defensive back Jalen Mills and tight end Dillon Gordon will travel with the team to Syracuse, Miles said during his post-practice news conference Wednesday night.
Miles did not specify whether Gordon will play. He said earlier this week the senior was “day-to-day.” Gordon injured his Achilles tended during the first quarter of LSU’s win against Auburn and did not return to the game.
Mills is still out following an ankle injury he suffered during fall practice, though he was spotted Monday wearing a lightweight plastic brace rather than the walking boot he sported on the sideline Saturday.
“I saw (Mills) run on the field today,” Miles said during his weekly radio show Wednesday night. “We’re really excited about him. He’s way ahead. It appears to me at some point in time in the near future, he’ll rejoin the team actively.”
SEC teams can bring as many players as they want to nonconference road games, but only 80 are allowed to play.
LSU notched another victory Wednesday.
JaCoby Stevens, a 2017 consensus four-star prospect from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, committed to the Tigers. He picked LSU over several other major schools, including SEC foes Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Stevens said he likely projects as a safety or cornerback. He told Rivals.com his family and summer trips in Louisiana sealed the deal for LSU.
Stevens is ranked No. 24 on ESPN’s Junior 300 for 2017 and the nation’s No. 3 athlete prospect. He’s ranked No. 58 by 24/7 Sports (No. 5 athlete), No. 72 by Rivals (No. 3 athlete) and No. 181 by Scout (No. 25 wide receiver).
Stevens joins Lafayette Northside defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin as LSU’s second commitment for 2017. Shelvin is also a top 100, four-star prospect.
Bower knows Syracuse
Syracuse has eight players on its roster from New Jersey, as well as another who played his high school football there. But the Orange missed out on one that got away to LSU.
Junior defensive end Tashawn Bower said Syracuse was the first school to extend him a scholarship offer when he was a sophomore at Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey.
The offer came from former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Doug Marrone when he was the Orange head coach from 2009-12. Bower took an unofficial visit to the school, but decided to come south instead.
“I’m familiar with the area a little bit, but not too much,” Bower said. “I was in contact with them a lot. My buddy was being recruited by them, too, so we went up there. The campus is really nice and their (athletic) facilities are nice.”
Miles reaches out
Miles welcomed 16-year-old Sid Ortis, who suffers from osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, to Tiger Stadium last Saturday for LSU’s showdown with Auburn.
Ortis, an LSU fan from Mountain Brook, Alabama, spoke with Miles on the field during pregame warmups. The coach did not divulge what they discussed but said he gave Ortis a hug and asked how he was doing.
“He’s a fighter and a very quality man,” Miles said. “I was fortunate to have him at the game and come over during pregame and spend a moment with him. He’s a hero. That guy right there is very special.”
Advocate sportswriters Sheldon Mickles and Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.