With the reinstatement of senior QB Jordan Jefferson, the LSU football program has some serious decisions to make.
After three impressive road victories against No. 3 Oregon, No. 25 Mississippi State and No. 16 West Virginia, the Tigers roared past Oklahoma for the No. 1 ranking in the country. We'll wait until after Saturday for the talk of eerie parallels, as the 2007 National Champion Tigers earned their No. 1 ranking against Florida and were upset the next week in triple OT at Kentucky, who LSU faces this Saturday.
But one similarity that must be addressed lies at quarterback.
The 2007 season essentially belonged to Matt Flynn, even as then-sophomore Ryan Perrilloux showed tremendous promise. Like Jefferson, Perrilloux ran into legal trouble early on and was suspended, but later reinstated. He displayed said promise against Middle Tennessee, when he threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-0 landslide. But soon, Perrilloux made the front pages again, and not for his play.
Perrilloux, like Jefferson, was involved in a bar fight at a Baton Rouge club, along with two other Tigers, who were later dismissed. The sophomore was suspended for the Alabama game, but would lead the Tigers to a 21-14 victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game, courtesy of Matt Flynn's sore ankle. Flynn would return for the BCS National Championship Game and earned offensive MVP honors for his efforts in a 38-24 victory over Ohio State.
But that's where the similarities end.
Last season, Jefferson and current senior starter Jarrett Lee went back and forth with the reins for LSU. But during the offseason and through spring practice, the Tigers became Jefferson's team. He outperformed Lee at practice, showing a much-appreciated tenacity towards studying the playbook and program.
With Cam Newton departing for the NFL Draft, the SEC media spotlight turned to Jefferson and whether or not he could lead a well-built LSU team to the national title game, this year conveniently held at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, the site of LSU's 2003 and 2007 victories.
Then came a really bad night at Shady's Bar in Baton Rouge—which, in the humble opinion of this columnist, lives up to its moniker on a nightly basis.
After the Jefferson arrest, the media buzz, the mournful BRPD press conference where the police chief himself nearly cried over having to announce the charges, the season became solely owned by Jarrett "General" Lee—and here's hoping that nickname really doesn't stick.
The stress of the moment was too great. After the charges were announced and Jefferson was suspended, Miles quickly moved to name Lee the starter, as that energy propelled the Tigers to the victory (read: duck hunt) over Oregon. This should be Lee's team, as he continues to not only play well, but benefit from a monstrous defense and electric special teams.
Jefferson should do the biggest thing he can (and this is where we start separating players from legends), and that is to redshirt the 2011 season and start working his tail off for 2012.
Logistically, it's the right thing to do. LSU's offense is young but incredibly talented, evidenced by freshman wideout Odell Beckham, Jr. sitting at second in receptions to junior Rueben Randle. To command this young squad after a year together in his senior season after Jarrett Lee's graduation, Jefferson would have little trouble confirming the rumors about his potential.
Emotionally, the arrest and controversy took a lot out of the Tigers, and they needed to move on from the drama. For Jarrett Lee to assume the reins after the turmoil, only to have his dream of leading LSU to a title, would be almost unfair on Jefferson's part. Realistically, if LSU's defense continues its on-the-field prowess, it might not matter who quarterbacks for the Tigers.
Ultimately, the major decision is on Jefferson. Lee is still the starting QB, as Miles indicated that Jefferson might be ready to play soon and that he would presumably have the right to step back on the field. But for the sake of the season and beyond, Jordan Jefferson should be the bigger man and formally hand the 2011 season off to Jarrett Lee. Then, start working for his own future.
It's the kind of move that makes mistakes into legends.