Perrilloux's dismissal will end up benefiting a loaded LSU team
Friday's news that LSU has finally dismissed troubled quarterback Ryan Perrilloux may well have provoked giddiness among fans of the Tigers' SEC rivals and other assorted national contenders. Already, the defending national champs are headed toward their imminent demise.
In actuality, Perrilloux's dismissal was the best thing that could have happened for LSU, particularly coming nearly four months before the start of the season. While Perrilloux's personal self-destruction is hardly cause for celebration, there's no denying the positive impact his departure will have on his now-former teammates.
We may never know the extent of Perrilloux's personal troubles, and it's not our place to render judgment on a kid we don't know. It had become abundantly clear, however, that the thrice-suspended quarterback was ill-suited to lead a football team. Based on his track record, it seemed unlikely he would have stayed on the straight and narrow throughout the next eight months.
With that in mind, there was a far better chance of the Tigers imploding with Perrilloux than without him. Though coaches and players often scoff at the notion of "distractions," the junior's ongoing troubles had become exactly that long before the season even started. Can you imagine how much more disruptive it would have been had Perrilloux's next transgression taken place in the middle of the season?
By dismissing his quarterback now (though he probably should have done it months earlier), LSU coach Les Miles has lifted a huge cloud that would have continued to hover over the Tigers for as long as Perrilloux remained a member of the team. Most likely, he would have crippled his team's chemistry as well. The starting quarterback for any team inherently sets an example for the rest of his teammates, and Perrilloux had become the least desirable example imaginable.
While there's no question LSU lost an extremely talented player, it would be na´ve to think the perennially loaded Tigers can't still win without him. Another national championship is probably out of the question, but they're certainly still capable of winning the SEC West.
It's not ideal to trot out an untested quarterback -- in LSU's case, either redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee (Rivals.com's seventh-rated pro-style quarterback in the class of 2007) or Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch. But the Tigers have enough experience and talent in other spots to make their adjustment easier.
Whoever wins the job will be playing behind one of the nation's top offensive lines (four returning starters, including all-conference performers Ciron Black and Herman Johnson) and throwing to at least two stud receivers, Brandon LaFell and Demetrius Byrd. The backfield is once again stacked four-deep and the defensive line, as is LSU's recent tradition, will be stout.
As Miles said throughout spring and will undoubtedly say many more times in the fall, all he needs is for Lee or Hatch to manage games. They don't need to throw for 3,500 yards. They don't need to post a 70-percent completion rate. They simply need to move the chains and avoid back-breaking mistakes. Both did that in the Tigers' spring game.
LSU's situation feels very similar to that of Texas the year after its 2005 national title. Vince Young's early departure to the NFL (and, ironically enough, Perrilloux's defection as a committed recruit the year before) left the Longhorns with what seemed like a gigantic void at quarterback.
But with so many other key players returning from Texas' title run, unheralded redshirt freshman Colt McCoy was able to ease into his new role and wound up having a phenomenal season. The 'Horns finished 10-3, with two of the losses coming after McCoy got hurt.
By no means is Lee, should he win the job, guaranteed to follow in McCoy's footsteps. Plenty of other redshirt freshman QBs (including future stars Young and JaMarcus Russell) experienced their share of growing pains on the job.
No matter their level of performance, however, what's more important is that the Tigers will have a quarterback who they can trust will be there for them. A handful of ill-advised interceptions would still be far less costly than the potential destruction Perrilloux would have caused with any further indiscretions.
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