SDS talent evaluators Jon Cooper and Brad Crawford spent several months breaking down last year’s highlights, incoming talent and projected 2014 impact following spring practice to compile a list of the SEC’s Top 100 players heading into fall. Athletes were selected by position then ranked overall counting down to No. 1.

Stick with SDS throughout summer and get in on the action using the hashtag #SDSTop100 as we unveil a new player daily leading up to opening night on Aug. 28.

42. Leonard Fournette, Frosh, RB, LSU

The hometown standout will fight for carries early with seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, but Fournette will be an impact player by season’s end as a true freshman for the Tigers. Considered by some recruiting services as the nation’s top overall player, Fournette’s Godzilla-sized expectations should be toned down a bit according to LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson.

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Wilson has reiterated the importance of ‘learning the process’ and ‘nurturing’ Fournette at his summer arrival. The Tigers have already scripted their transition plan for a talent Sporting News calls the best running back since Adrian Peterson, the NFL record-holder for rushing yards in a single game (296). He’ll have the opportunity to earn the starting gig, but a maturation period’s to be expected.

Remember Todd Gurley’s freshman numbers at Georgia in 2012? Fournette has the ability to put up comparable results if he separates himself in a crowded, four-deep LSU backfield that includes another freshman in Darrel Williams. There’s several rookies — notably Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd and Auburn’s Roc Thomas — capable of making an early impact, but Fournette’s the only freshman ballcarrier who earned a spot in this year’s Top 100.

2013 statistics: Rushed for 7,619 yards and 88 touchdowns in his career at St. Augustine High in New Orleans.
2014 projection: 119 carries, 702 yards, 6 TD