Fournette

LSU running back Leonard Fournette rushes during LSU's 45-24 win against South Carolina.

AP Photo

Big. Powerful. Quick.

Those are all superlatives that Florida linebackers coach Randy Shannon bestowed upon LSU running back Leonard Fournette on Wednesday morning.

But despite all of the sophomore’s qualities, Shannon believes the Heisman Trophy frontrunner’s greatest strength is the reinforcements he has behind him.

"What makes Fournette really, really special is that he has other guys that alternate in the backfield," Shannon said. "He’s not carrying the load all the time. That makes him special."

Those guys would be freshman Derrius Guice and sophomore Darrel Williams, both of whom are providing Fournette with extra rest while not allowing the running game to drop off in production without him on the field.

Guice has rushed for 263 yards this season and is averaging a staggering 9.1 yards per carry, although 161 yards of that came against South Carolina last week.

Williams has been more consistent, rushing for 251 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

For backups, those are impressive numbers, and it doesn’t allow an opposing defense to ever get a break from the ground-and-pound onslaught.

"They’re all the same," Shannon said. "They’re all big guys. They’re all 6-feet, 6-foot-1 guys that are 230, 235 with a lot of speed and explosive. They’re home run hitters."

But none is as dangerous as Fournette, a human bowling ball who simply refuses to go down without carrying multiple defenders on his back.

And that’s what Florida’s strategy is — get as many guys on his back as possible.

"That’s all you can do," Shannon said. "You’ve got to gang tackle, get five, six guys to the football and wrap up and grab cloth."

Florida’s defenders believe the sophomore is the best back in the country, with some even saying he will definitely win the Heisman this season.

They know what type of challenge awaits them.

The Gators were taught a lesson in missing one-on-one tackles against Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd, who rushed for 102 yards and, at times, made Florida defenders look silly.

A similar performance against Fournette likely wouldn’t be something they could overcome.

"We had an eye-opener against Tennessee," linebacker Jarrad Davis said. "We missed a lot of tackles that game, so we know what we need to do facing a back like this."

"We’ve got to do it as a group, too, because this is a huge guy."

Davis will be one of the players tasked with stopping Fournette just as he’s breaking past the line of scrimmage — in other words, just when he’s beginning to get a full head of steam.

But if comparisons translate to performance, the junior linebacker might be ready for the LSU running back.

Shannon had some high praise for Davis on Wednesday, comparing him to NFL Pro-Bowler and former Miami Hurricane linebacker Jonathan Vilma, whom Shannon coached while the team’s defensive coordinator.

"Large build, same body frame," Shannon said of Davis. "He’s a little bit taller than Vilma, but same mind set, smart. Very aggressive. Very powerful when he hits. Very powerful young man.

"Vilma was a guy who likes to challenge and that’s the same with Jarrad. He’s a challenging guy and he thinks that he can beat anybody at anything at any time."

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