Ryan Perrilloux will be trying to capture another national championship for LSU after several off-the-field incidents this spring.
April 18, 2008
By Adam Caparell
Caparell is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
Les Miles wants to make one thing abundantly clear about his Tigers heading into the season, even if we're well over four months away from its start.
"This," Miles said, "is the `08 team; the `07 team was the national championship team."
The Tigers may be welcoming back 13 starters from the team that won it all only three and a half months ago, but the look and feel of LSU circa 2008 will be drastically different than 2007.
Not having the likes of Glenn Dorsey, Chevis Jackson, Craig Steltz, Jacob Hester, Matt Flynn and Early Doucet will do that to a team. That core of six veterans, who were each so integral to LSU's BCS title run, must be replaced by some familiar names and a few new faces who are being counted upon to step up their games.
Just don't get fooled into thinking the expectations of a fourth straight 11-win season will wane with the loss of roughly a handful of future NFL players.
"The ambition can be the same, the goals can be the same, but the potential, the team chemistry and how the team comes together is all in front of us," Miles said. "We're not carrying the burden of defending on our shoulders, were talking about the '08 team."
But defending that title will be a major theme for the '08 team because it's loaded with too much talent for it not to be.
The cupboard is far from empty in
"Every year guys step to the front and young guys play and we're fortunate to have some talent on this football team," Miles said. "The next guy at the position has the responsibility to play well."
But at the same time, they have some very big shoes to fill. Dorsey will be one of the top players taken in next week's NFL Draft and many of the Tigers other seniors were All-American material. Now Miles will be relying on last year's lesser known talents and a number of young players from those vaunted recruiting classes the Tigers have brought in the past few seasons.
Some programs never rebuild, they just reload. Now it seems like the Tigers never run out of bullets.
"I think we're at a point in the program that the guys that come in certainly are not the starters that left, but with some development and some snaps and some game experience we think we'll be fine," Miles said.
But just how fine Miles' '08 Tigers ultimately turn out to be will depend, of course, on their quarterback.
Ryan Perrilloux is one of several immensely talented players returning for Miles from the '07 team, but will the oft-troubled junior manage to stay on the team, let alone the field?
The off-the-field incidents involving Perrilloux are well documented and have piled up so prodigiously over the past year that the list seems to run almost as long as his 6-foot-3 frame. Perrilloux's been suspended three times over the past 10 months and his latest suspension had him missing all of spring practice, only to have Miles finally reinstate him on April 6, one day after the Tigers' spring game.
And because trouble has found a way to hound Perrilloux almost as well as an LSU pass rush, the dual-threat QB -- once widely assumed to be the successor to Flynn -- is competing for his job with two other quarterbacks who have never taken a snap against Division I-A competition.
Red-shirt freshman Jarrett Lee and Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch took all the Tigers' snaps under center during the Tigers spring practices and Miles went as far to say that either could play under center during a SEC game.
Anyone willing to call the gambling Miles on his bluff?
Everyone knows that Perrilloux, with his arm and legs, gives LSU the best chance to win the SEC West and make another run at a BCS bowl. Having Lee or Hatch take the snaps is not what Miles has envisioned for '08. Perrilloux was once considered the top high school quarterback in the country and showed glimpses of greatness last year in the SEC title game, taking home game MVP honors while filling in for the injured Flynn. But he squandered the opportunity to step right in for Flynn this spring and summer with his many transgressions.
As it is, Miles will have Perrilloux competing with Lee and Hatch for the starting job this summer -- as hard as that might be to believe for some. That's Miles' own personal form of punishment for Perrilloux.
"As long as he continues to pursue the classroom, as long as he continues to take care of business off the field we'll allow him to compete on the field," Miles said. "The punishment that was dolled out here; instead of a returning starter, or a guy who should be labeled a starter, he's competing like heck for his job. So there's loss and he needs to put himself in a position to come back and compete."
Miles' patience has been tested more times than he ever would like with Perrilloux and he's received plenty of criticism for his handling of the suspensions -- mainly for the fact he hasn't handed down harsher punishments to the QB.
But Miles hasn't budged. He's ultimately stood behind his player, calling many of the incidents Perrilloux was involved in defendable.
But maybe, just maybe, from the sound of things this spring, Perrilloux's been given his final chance.
"You would think that anybody who has had the experience that Ryan's had would understand his time is coming and in fact he needs to take care of his business from this time forward," Miles said.
And if Perrilloux finds one final way to irk Miles and get kicked off the team, it changes the dynamic of the '08 Tigers for the worse. If that happened, quarterback wouldn't be the only question mark LSU would need to address this summer.
Granted, there aren't a ton of flaws with the Tigers, but the cornerback positions need to be addressed. There are co-defensive coordinators taking over for the departed Bo Pelini who haven't been tested yet and then there are the rough waters of the SEC schedule.
"The team is developing. It's the `08 team, it's not the '07 [team]. This team has to come together," Miles said. "I think they're well underway. I like the progress."
Including Perrilloux's, for the time being.