Posted on: August 26, 2011 1:42 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2011 2:54 pm
A promo banner across the top of LSU's website Friday could have passed as a taunt considering the current state of the program.
At the moment -- and check back frequently for updates -- LSU goes into its mega-match with Oregon in eight days diminished and disgraced. Once again, updating from two seconds ago, LSU ...
--is currently under NCAA investigation because of its dealings with Will Lyles.
--will be missing its fastest player and best big-play threat Russell Shepard against Oregon due to suspension.
--has no idea whether starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and backup linebacker Josh Johns will ever play again. Both were suspended indefinitely Friday within an hour of warrants being issued for their arrest. The two were expected to be charged with second-degree felony assault stemming from the infamous Shady's bar fight.
--in the middle of all this, awarded coach Les Miles with a contract extension on Friday. Before the outrage boils up, be advised this just happened to be a serendipitous convergence of events. School officials were already scheduled to meet Friday to rubber stamp the deal.
Get your heads up, Tiger Nation. This is what passes for closure. This is what many of you wanted. Your team went 11-2 last year and you blamed Jefferson. At best, he was the most experienced quarterback on the roster. At worst, he had become a huge distraction. Law enforcement decided the issue.
Who's next? Senior Jarrett Lee. He's not a difference maker. Don't worry, it's not like LSU has been churning out top draft choices at the position, but fans being fans they're always looking toward the next best thing. Some of the more uncaring had tagged Lee "Pick Six." Can't imagine why. This is the same guy who in an eight-game stretch in 2008 threw 10 interceptions. Five of them were returned for touchdowns. That includes a four-pick performance in an overtime loss to Alabama.
Lee is now perceived as somewhat of a savior. First, because he's the only guy on the roster with any notable experience. Second, he's not Jordan Jefferson. It's easier now to remember Lee's heroics last season against Alabama (key third-down pass) and Florida (game-clinching touchdown pass to Terrence Tolliver).
Closure might not be the right word. LSU might actually be better without Jefferson. But that's not the point either. Whether LSU beats Oregon or wins the SEC probably wasn't going to hinge on the quarterback. The Tigers have won national championships with a former minor league catcher (Matt Mauck) and with a savvy guy who shows up nowhere among the school's top 10 career passers (Matt Flynn).
Lee is serviceable, which is all LSU needs right now. There isn't that much of a drop off between him and Jefferson. The difference is Lee is committed having lost 30 pounds and, well, eligible to play. Transfer Zach Mettenberger is the guy on the come but still third-string.
As mentioned, it's not like the program has been producing top NFL quarterbacks lately. But it has been winning -- big.
Miles didn't earn that extension because of his grass-eating ability. He won 62 games in six seasons in the toughest conference in the country. His name continues to pop up for big-time jobs, especially at Michigan. LSU has won under Miles (and Nick Saban before him) with two time-worn SEC strategies -- running the ball and playing defense.
And talk about clock management, Les is a changed man. Barely 30 minutes passed before Miles suspended the two players after word came down about the arrest warrants.
So in a strange way it is a more stable LSU program heading into the season opener. We know for certain that Jordan Jefferson is an accused felon right now. That doesn't mean he's responsible for what is reported to be the battery of a bar patron. It doesn't mean he's guilty or will serve jail time.
It means that we know his situation going forward. LSU and Les can move on. The coach knows he has been betrayed. Miles went to wall in defending his inconsistent senior. It looks like Jefferson has repaid him with a slap in the face.
It's not like Oregon has its Ducks in a row heading to Arlington. The program has had its own unfortunate dealings with Lyles. Defensive back Cliff Harris is suspended himself having successfully proven it's possible to get a rental car up to 118 mph on I-5 while driving with a suspended license.
Who's next? Maybe a lawyer and an NCAA investigator at the 50 for the coin toss.
Posted on: August 4, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 2:05 pm
Steve Kragthorpe was plowing ahead. It was the first week of April and LSU's new offensive coordinator was jacked over what he had inherited.
Athletes, talent, speed.
"I can't wait," he said.
Kragthorpe had motioned me into his office while he was working on the 2011 playbook. He was energized. He was back in the game after resigning in 2010 at Texas A&M due to complications regarding his wife Cynthia's multiple sclerosis.
The MS was being treated, he explained, but Cynthia also needed heart surgery. In essence, they couldn't go on treating the MS with the proper medicine until the heart condition was rectified. I inquired about doing a more in-depth story on his year out of the game, his family and Cynthia but the coach politely declined.
I understood. Some things are too private. Krags was looking ahead. This was by far the best offensive present he had ever opened. The former Tulsa and Louisville coach had his ups and down but the man could always call plays.
His job was to fix Jordan Jefferson, LSU's quarterback who had become a lightning rod figure in the program. Krags was confident he could do it. That confidence is a big reason why the Tigers debuted at No. 4 in the preseason coach's poll.
It was devastating, then, that about an hour after that poll was released Thursday it was announced that Kragthorpe would relinquish those OC duties because he had developed Parkinson's disease. He will stay as quarterbacks coach but assistant Greg Studrawa will take over as coordinator.
I hope would that most folks first thoughts are about Kragthorpe, Cynthia and their children. They have been dealt the rawest of deals. Life isn't fair especially when it always seems that bad things happen to good people.
Kragthorpe had seemingly gotten through to Jefferson. The quarterback had begun to speak up, become a leader. He was taking instruction and, judging from his spring play, getting better.
"He's almost a little bit shy," Kragthorpe told me in April. "When you first meet him, you're wondering, 'Does this guy have his paws up, kind of feeling you back? He's just shy. He's not that way around his teammates. I think he's got a chance to be a good player."
The best tribute to Kragthorpe's abilities would be for Jefferson to have a monster year. The move means that the coach will be having even more one-on-one time with the quarterback.
The best thing we can do for Kragthorpe and his family is pray. They deserve our sympathies and our love. No one deserves their current situation.