LSU reloads in spring; Perrilloux's maturity key to Tigers' success (cont.)
Lost in all of the hullabaloo surrounding Perrilloux was that his two previously disregarded competitors, redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee and senior Andrew Hatch (a former Harvard transfer) actually acquitted themselves admirably in spring scrimmages. The two went a combined 13-of-17 for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game, though they split time playing against both first- and second-string defenders.
When fall practice begins, Miles said Perrilloux will have to earn back his No. 1 status. The unquestioned talent he exhibited last season makes that a foregone conclusion -- but only if he keeps his nose clean.
"Certainly," said Miles, "We'd like to see this be the last suspension."
He'd also like to see Perrilloux begin to assert his leadership during voluntary summer 7-on-7 sessions, a role normally behest upon the starting quarterback.
As LSU prepares for its Aug. 30 opener against Appalachian State, it's clear the Tigers have the capability to be a more explosive offensive team than they were a year ago. In addition to Murphy, speedsters Keiland Williams and Trindon Holliday return in the backfield, along with Byrd, Brandon LaFell and budding sophomore Terrance Toliver at receiver and four offensive linemen who started last season (tackle Ciron Black, guards Herman Johnson and Lyle Hitt and center Brett Helms).
All the unit needs is a dependable signal caller.
"We'll be fine offensively," said Miles. "Our running back position as a whole has played extremely well. The line is coming together nicely. Our quarterback position was manned well in the spring and certainly we'll have better play going into the fall."
Defensively, LSU's recent tradition of dominant linemen shows no sign of slowing down, with Jackson and Kirston Pittman returning on the edge and tackles Jean-Francois (the defensive MVP against Ohio State) and Charles Alexander (a former starter who missed most of last season with a knee injury) filling Dorsey's void at tackle.
The team's biggest questions are at linebacker, where Darry Beckwith is the sole returning starter, and cornerback, where starters Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon departed. While Miles bestowed mild praise on youngsters Ron Brooks, Phelon Jones, Jai Eugene and Chris Hawkins, his relative confidence in the group is best measured by his stated hope that touted incoming freshmen Patrick Johnson and Brandon Taylor will contribute immediately.
"Some of these freshmen coming in will be pretty special," said Miles, "and I'm not certain there won't be a couple that come in and compete for time at corner."
Beckwith, Jackson and safeties Curtis Taylor and Chad Jones will be asked to take on the defensive leadership roles manned so ably last season by guys like Dorsey, Steltz and Ali Highsmith. And while offensive stars like LaFell and Byrd carry cachet from their performance throughout last year's title run, Miles knows well that all eyes will be on one particular position.
"You have to count on the quarterback position," he said. "Our discipline here is pretty strong, it's pretty well spelled out and you have to comply. [Perrilloux] understands more fully now. He's a guy that everyone realizes has ability but needs to be accountable."
It's a lot to ask of a guy who's spent the majority of the past year in Miles' doghouse. Last May, Perrilloux attempted to enter a casino using a fake ID, drawing his first suspension. In November he was left home from LSU's game at Alabama following his involvement in a disturbance at a bar. Then came the academic purgatory. Then came Kona Grill.
Whatever Perrilloux does next will likely go a long way in determining LSU's 2008 fortunes.
First, he'll need to regain the trust of his teammates through the example he sets during summer workouts. Then he'll have to handle the season-long pressure of finally becoming "The Man" this fall. Do all that, and there's no reason the Tigers can't contend for another SEC championship and/or post their fourth consecutive 11-win season.
If for whatever reason the job falls to Lee or Hatch instead, "We can win with them, believe me," insisted Murphy, and he may be right.
Realistically, however, the only way Perrilloux won't be under center this fall is if he does something off the field to fall further astray -- which would deal a serious blow to Miles' state of contentment.