BATON ROUGE – Leonard Fournette might need to heal from that ankle injury as quickly as possible. His understudy on the LSU football team, sophomore tailback Derrius Guice, has been a quick study in his absence.
Guice leads the Tigers in rushing with 402 yards on 46 carries as he passed Fournette, who has 386 on 67 attempts, on Saturday while rushing for a career-high 163 on 17 carries with three touchdowns in the 42-7 win over Missouri. Guice was named the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the week on Monday. He averaged 9.6 yards per carry in the game.
Fournette, a junior who contended for the Heisman Trophy last season, has already missed the Jacksonville State game and last Saturday’s game against Missouri with recurring ankle injuries. And he is questionable for Saturday’s game when the Tigers (3-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) play at No. 18 Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC) at 11 a.m. on ESPN.
“It’s going to be day to day,” LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron said at his weekly press luncheon on Monday. “I don’t know if he’s going to play.”
Guice, on the other hand, will play against the Gators, who are No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the SEC in total defense with 230 yards allowed a game. Florida is also 11th in the nation and No. 2 in the SEC against the run with 90.6 yards allowed a game. LSU is third in the SEC in rushing with 237 yards a game. In Guice’s other start this season for Fournette, he gained 155 yards on 19 carries against Jacksonville State.
So Guice is averaging 159 yards a start and has reminded Orgeron of two of the greatest players he has ever coached or been around in college – defensive tackle Warren Sapp at Miami in 1992 and tailback Reggie Bush at USC from 2003-04. Orgeron coached Sapp, who helped lead Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl XXXVII title in the 2002 season and has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, when he was the defensive line coach for the Hurricanes. He was on USC’s staff as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator when Bush helped lead the Trojans to national championships in 2003 and ‘04.
“He runs the ball like Warren Sapp played defense and has an energy about him,” Orgeron said. “And he has an attitude when he strikes you that he’s wanting to go through you.”
The devastating cuts Guice is prone to make, such as on his 42-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against Missouri remind Orgeron of Bush, who is now playing for the Buffalo Bills after playing for the New Orleans Saints from 2006 through 2010 with a Super Bowl championship in the 2009 season.
“I watched the (Missouri) film last night,” Orgeron said. “His ability to jump cut, run to the left and jump cut to the right is one of the best I’ve seen. He has some Reggie Bush-like cuts. He’s bigger and stronger than Reggie was in college, but maybe not quite as fast. But he has cuts like Reggie had.”
Guice has watched game film of Bush and wears No. 5 as Bush did at USC.
“I watched him a lot,” Guice, 19, said. “That’s one of the guys I’ve looked up to besides my god dad. I watched Reggie a lot as a kid. So all the times I didn’t do my homework as a fifth grader have paid off. I wore No. 5 since I was 7 playing little league football. I didn’t have it in high school (at Catholic High in Baton Rouge), but I got it back when I got here. I like the Reggie Bush comparison on my cuts.”
Orgeron’s Sapp comparison at first surprised Guice.
“He did? Well, mentally, I could see why he compared me to Sapp,” he said. “I wouldn’t say physicality because I’m not that big. But mentally, yeah.”
Should Fournette return to action at Florida, it will likely not mean Guice will return to the bench full time. Orgeron has plans to use Fournette and Guice on the field at the same time as USC often used Bush and fellow tailback Lendale White.
“I would love to, love to,” Orgeron said. “I believe in putting the best players on the field and putting the ball in their hands. That’s something that can be a possibility in the near future, and it’s something that we have done in the past.”
Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com/.
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