LSU recruiting drama continues to unfold

Dave Moormann
LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee has battled Jordan Jefferson for the Tigers’ starting signal caller spot.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college football program, but it can also suck the blood out of the very thing it is meant to sustain.

Look no further than what happened to the University of Southern California. The NCAA hit the Trojans with a two-year bowl ban, four years’ probation, loss of scholarships and forfeiture of an entire season worth of victories.

USC was cited for lack of institutional control in large measure for improper benefits made to Reggie Bush (now with the New Orleans Saints) dating back to the Trojans’ 2004 national championship.

USC most likely would have received some penalties had it policed itself during the NCAA’s four-year investigation, but the discipline would have been much less severe.

Just ask LSU, which knows better than to rely on the whim of the NCAA. When LSU learned of possible infractions involving a former assistant coach and player, LSU quickly notified the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference before beginning its own internal investigation.

School officials then discovered infractions that included excessive telephone calls. To make nice in the eyes of the NCAA, LSU dismissed the coach in question and never used the player during the 2009 season. Once the academic year was complete, LSU didn’t renew his scholarship.

Not only does the NCAA take kindly to such action, it also must appreciate the fact that LSU stripped itself of two scholarships. For those who might worry that LSU cut its own throat, consider how bad the outcome could have been if LSU hadn’t been so proactive. As it is, the NCAA likely will not add to LSU’s self-imposed penalties.

The race to acquire talent can lead players, coaches and boosters to take actions they might later regret. Bush, and those around him, seemed to show little remorse for what they had done.

Although Bush later gave back his Heisman Trophy, he did so after the NCAA penalties had been handed down.

In USC’s case, signing a premium athlete can result in consequences that will take years to overcome. On the flip side, making a mistake on scholarship athletes can have a harmful effect, as well.

LSU thought well enough of quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee to have signed them a class apart. After all, both enjoyed a wealth of high school success and reaped the benefits of having fathers as coaches.

All well and good, except that Lee and Jefferson haven’t proven to be as gifted as the LSU coaches thought they might be. Certainly they’re not in the same athletic category as Ryan Perrilloux, but that troubled signee exhibited such bad behavior that he was dismissed long before he came close to tapping his rich potential.

Desperately in the market for a quarterback, LSU recently signed junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger. A prototype dropack passer, Mettenberger already has been dismissed by One SEC School for his boorish behavior.

Mettenberger originally signed with Georgia, but a series of arrests that included misdemeanor charges of sexual battery landed him out the door. He wound up at Butler (Kan.) Community College, which he led to a national runner-up finish.

Mettenberger’s background is similar in nature to that of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who ran into trouble at Florida before leaving, excelled at junior college and led Auburn into this  year’s national-championship game against Oregon.

The NCAA looked into Newton’s recruitment and concluded that no wrongdoing took place. LSU can only hope that Mettenberger’s story unfolds in true Newton fashion and that Mettenberger wins the Heisman Trophy while directly guiding LSU to the SEC Championship.

Mettenberger signed early because of his junior college status. High school players who have committed can’t lend their signatures to scholarship papers until national signing day in February.

The wait already has prompted one decommitment from running back Jeremy Hill of Redemptorist in Baton Rouge.

Recruiting is an endless process that can leave countless players and programs in its wake.