LSU running back Leonard Fournette likely will miss his second consecutive game and third of the season when the Tigers host Southern Miss on Saturday, coach Ed Orgeron said Wednesday.
"I don't think he's going to play," Orgeron said on the SEC coaches teleconference. "He hasn't practiced. I would not expect him to be ready."
Fournette injured his left ankle Aug. 16 during the second weekend of fall practice. He reinjured it in a Sept. 24 loss at Auburn in what was Les Miles' final game as Tigers coach.
Last season's Division I-A rushing champion was leading the conference with 128.7 yards per game. He has 67 carries for 386 yards and two touchdowns.
Speculation has surfaced that Fournette — a preseason Heisman favorite who is almost certain to forgo his senior year and enter the 2017 NFL draft— might, or should, sit out the rest of the season to protect his future. Orgeron said that is not the case.
"I know he wants to play," Orgeron said. "When he's fully healthy, I expect him to have a great rest of the season.
"It looks like (he will return this season). It's taking a little longer than we thought. We're not going to rush it. We're only going to put him in when he's 100 percent healthy and ready to go."
Orgeron said he thought Fournette would play two weeks ago. The Tigers have a difficult stretch of games after Saturday, with Mississippi at home and, after an open date, Alabama at home. That is followed by road games against Arkansas and Texas A&M, and the possibility of a rescheduled Florida game.
"He's not ready," Orgeron said. "I thought he was going to play two weeks ago. I was wrong on that."
NORTH CAROLINA: Coach Larry Fedora said he expects running back Elijah Hood to play Saturday at No. 16 Miami. Fedora said Hood has practiced this week and has "done well and had no issues." Hood leads the team with an average of 67.6 yards rushing.
Tennessee: Coach Butch Jones said he expects Jalen Hurd to play Saturday against No. 1 Alabama after the junior running back missed last week's double-overtime loss at Texas A&M with an unspecified injury. Jones said Hurd is "back full strength." Hurd was at Tuesday afternoon's practice and was wearing a noncontact jersey. Hurd leads the ninth-ranked team with 407 yards rushing on 107 carries.