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May 9, 2008
Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes you win by losing.
That's how it can work out in the bizarre world of college football recruiting.
The concept of ultimately benefiting from losing on a recruit isn't anything new. But last week when LSU coach Les Miles ran out of patience and quarterback Ryan Perrilloux ran out of chances, it offered a reminder of just how true that concept can be.
The prize of LSU's 2005 recruiting class, Perrilloux ? who had already been suspended three times in less than a year ? was dismissed last Friday after reportedly failing a drug test. That ended an underwhelming stay in Baton Rouge in which he passed for 704 yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons as a backup.
Rarely has so little been accomplished by someone with so much acclaim.
Three years ago, Perrilloux ? a fleet, strong-armed, five-star prospect from Reserve, La. ? was among the nation's most prized quarterback recruits.
He originally committed to the University of Texas. When rumors circulated that he was wavering on that commitment, he continually re-affirmed his pledge to the Longhorns.
Then, about a week before signing day, Perrilloux revealed he would attend LSU.
Though surely disappointed at the time, imagine the headaches Texas coach Mack Brown avoided. The Longhorns didn't suffer on the field, either.
Colt McCoy, the "other" quarterback to commit to Texas that year, is 20-6 as a starter. McCoy has led the Longhorns to two bowl victories and has completed 66.4 percent of his passing attempts for 5,873 yards and 51 touchdowns.
McCoy can't run as fast as Perrilloux can. His arm isn't as strong. But he's dependable, an underrated quarterback quality.
Had Perrilloux not changed his mind, McCoy might not have gotten a chance to start at Texas. Maybe he would have transferred or not have signed with Texas at all.
The Longhorns benefited because Perrilloux wasn't there.
LSU will, too. No longer are the Tigers relying on the unreliable.
Perrilloux repeatedly showed he was deficient in both areas.
He was arrested for trying to enter a casino with a fake I.D. He was questioned for an alleged role in a bar fight. He missed practice. He missed team meetings. He skipped classes.
Yet each time Perrilloux was suspended, some fans predictably defended him on message boards or through e-mails. In that sense, Tigers fans are no different than most fans of big-time college football programs.
A little more than a decade ago, Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips was arrested for dragging his girlfriend by her hair down a flight of stairs. Yet, then coach Tom Osborne didn't dismiss him.
When Phillips continued playing and helped the Cornhuskers win the 1994 national championship, there was little or no outrage expressed by Nebraska fans ? who on average are infinitely more conservative than LSU's faithful.
Many thought Perrilloux was the key to successfully defending the Tigers' national title because quarterback is one of the few areas in which LSU isn't experienced.
But his absence may instead enhance their championship aspirations.
It's better to lose him now than risk an incident that could cost the Tigers their starting quarterback in the middle of the season. Now, Miles and offensive coordinatorGary Crowton can give full attention getting junior Andrew Hatch and redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee ready to step into the starting lineup.
Besides, it's not like either is void of ability.
"I think Hatch is maybe a little ahead in understanding the offense than Lee," Miles said during spring practice. "Only because he took more snaps. But I think Lee has got a nice release and very capable throwing motion and is making some big plays for us as well.
"Both guys have to understand that's the quarterback position, and that ball is possession and that ball is the game. They have to recognize when we're throwing it and where we're pitching it at times."
LSU is so talented it doesn't need a star quarterback to win big in 2008. An effective game manager may be enough. Perrilloux couldn't even manage to stay out of trouble.
The defense will likely ensure the Tigers won't need to score a lot of points.
The offensive line is experienced and proven. The running backs are fast and explosive. The receivers have NFL potential.
There is no better situation for a team with an inexperienced quarterback.
Meanwhile, Perrilloux is looking to improve his situation.
He has indicated he would likely transfer to a Division I-AA school, so he would be eligible to play immediately. Jacksonville State is openly courting him.
Hopefully, he'll realize what he has and what he's wasting, salvage the last two years of his collegiate career and get a chance to play professionally.
Of course, immature players squandering immense talent and blowing opportunities for which most of us would sacrifice is nothing new.
There are many others, too.
Perrilloux is in danger of joining that list.
But LSU has avoided the risk of being pulled down by him. Just as Texas did.
What father and son had their football jerseys retired by the same Pac-10 team? (Answer at the end of the column.)
? UCLA quarterback Ben Olson had surgery earlier this week to repair a fractured right foot. A screw was inserted to help the healing process. Also, running back Craig Sheppard had shoulder surgery that will require four to six months to recover.
? A. Marie Fleming, the mother of 1961 Heisman Trophy recipient Ernie Davis, died on Tuesday. Davis died of leukemia in 1963 at age 23.
? Joe Hamilton, hired last week as Georgia Tech's assistant director of player personnel, resigned after being charged with marijuana possession, driving under the influence of alcohol and hit and run.
Wilford "Whizzer" White and Danny White have both had their jerseys retired by Arizona State. Wilford White wore No. 33 from 1947-50, while his son Danny wore No. 11 from 1971-73 as the Sun Devils quarterback.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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