Recruitment over, Wilson eager to coach Fournette

As LSU recruiting coordinator, running backs coach Frank Wilson is the only person on the staff other than head coach Les Miles who recruits every player in a Tigers signing class.

The other position coaches recruit the players they will coach, and the coordinators help recruit the players on the units they oversee.

But Wilson recruits them all, even though most of them wind up under the tutelage of someone else once they arrive on campus. Wilson gets to coach the running backs, and the impending arrival of St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette is a special if not unique case for Wilson.

“It’s really exciting,” Wilson said at the Tiger Tour stop on campus Wednesday night. “In the recruitment of Leonard, I was able to say to him, “I’m not just your area recruiter, or your position recruiter, or the recruiting coordinator. I’m also your position coach.’ We would chuckle with that.”

The February signing of Fournette, who was the No. 1 recruit in the nation, completed a five-year project for Wilson, practically spanning his entire tenure at LSU. He started hearing what many observers called an unprecedented buzz about Fournette when the running back was in grammar school and playing for teams in the New Orleans Recreation Department.

“He was a dominant player when he was at NORD and won city championships, and people talked about him all the time,” Wilson said. “There’s been no one else of that magnitude.”

The Tigers were the first to offer Fournette a scholarship when he was a freshman with the Purple Knights.

Wilson has recruited, signed and coached several highly regarded running backs at LSU, including Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill. When he was at Ole Miss, he did the same with Dexter McCluster and Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, both of whom are in the NFL.

“But none of them were the magnitude of the No. 1 player in America,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s connection to Fournette is also special because Wilson is a St. Aug alumnus, having played football there himself.

But Wilson quickly noted, “I wasn’t half the player he is.”

Fournette wasn’t the only running back the Tigers signed. They also brought in Darrel Williams from John Ehret, but Fournette cast a long shadow.

Williams wanted to go to LSU all along and welcomed the competition with Fournette, Wilson said. But Williams’ family was put off by the publicity that the recruitment of Fournette was getting.

“I kept telling them, ‘We love your kid, we offered him, we’re all over him,’” Wilson said. “We think an awful lot of Darrel Williams.”

Williams has been running track at Ehret this spring.

“He’s getting faster and he’s getting leaner,” Wilson said. “He’s doing all the things that are necessary to put himself in position to compete.”

Though the public’s expectations for Fournette are through the roof, Wilson said the coaching staff has its feet grounded.

“The expectations from the public are so high for him,” Wilson said. “We’ll manage them effectively and bring him along and nurture him in a way that’s beneficial for him and the program.”

With a 12-game regular season and the potential for as many as 14, no running back is going to be a one-man show. Fournette and Williams will compete with talented veterans in Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard.

“We expect Leonard to compete, no more and no less,” Wilson said. “We have two quality back here that have experience. We feel comfortable with the depth that we have.”

Wilson said Miles encourages all the position coaches to “take ownership” of their position in recruiting and “make your position board as good as it can be.”

Fournette made Wilson’s position board look pretty good.

“We know,” Wilson said, “you’re only as good as the guys you’re recruiting.”

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate. For more coverage, follow our blogs at blogs.theadvocate.com