Ed Orgeron's college coaching experience spans nearly three decades, and the LSU interim coach has seen plenty of gifted running backs in that time. But in the wake of Tigers RB Leonard Fournette breaking the school's single-game rushing record on Saturday, Orgeron puts the junior ahead of all others.
"It's unbelievable the power he generates from his hips and lower body that comes up through his shoulders," Orgeron told FOX Sports. "He'll run over you, through you or he can run around you. He also can run by you and 'outspeed' you. He's the best running back I've ever seen. No question. He's just so physical and so fast. He catches the ball well. He does everything."
Orgeron was on the USC staff for two of Reggie Bush's three seasons with the Trojans. But the coach didn't simply say Fournette is the best he's coached. In calling Fournette the best back he's ever seen, he expanded to the field to the likes of Adrian Peterson, who Orgeron coached against as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints in 2008. Peterson's Minnesota Vikings won that game, 30-27, but the Saints defense, with Orgeron in charge of the defensive line, bottled Peterson for 32 yards on 21 carries.
Other talented backs Orgeron has coached against include LaDainian Tomlinson, that same season. He's also coached against two of college football's most potent rushing duos: Arkansas' Darren McFadden and Felix Jones as head coach at Ole Miss, and Alabama's Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson as an assistant at Tennessee. None of those backs went on to NFL success like Peterson or Tomlinson, but each was a spectacular college player.
Fournette embarrassed the Ole Miss defense to the tune of 284 yards on 16 carries Saturday in a 38-21 win. It was his first game back after a layoff of roughly a month due to an ankle injury that has hampered him since August. Fournette said he was out of shape, in fact, despite the remarkable performance. Fournette has until a mid-January deadline to decide on whether to apply for early eligibility in the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite missing three games with the ankle injury, Fournette was listed as the No. 7 player in the nation in NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein's midseason rankings.