Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The media looks at our 3rd string quarterback

And of course, the media gets it wrong. I swear I'll get back to my Recruiting 101 series, which already has the next two installments written, but things with more immediacy keep coming up, and I'm not interested in turning this into a multiple-post-per-day affair quite yet. Anyway, I give you your sports media:

Matt Hayes

Perrilloux hasn't come close to reaching expectations; he struggled to connect with former offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and had little grasp of the offense.
What were Perrilloux's expectations? Was he expected to win the starting job over a guy who would become the #1 overall NFL draft pick? Was he expected to beat out another very talented quarterback who had been in the system for two years longer than he has been? Maybe Perrilloux expected to do that, but I don't think anyone else did.

He also apparently "had little grasp of the offense". How does Matt Hayes know this? Did he glean this from the 4 passes that Perrilloux attempted at the end of blowout wins last year? Does he have "inside sources"?

I wish I didn't have to play the "race card", but people make it so easy when they talk about black quarterbacks. Here are some things I have never heard said about a black quarterback, except among people who follow the person closely:
  • He grasps the offense quickly
  • He reads defenses well
  • He makes good decisions in the pocket
  • He's a pure drop back passer
  • He's a coach on the field
  • He's a "field general"
  • He's heady
Notice any patterns? Notice how Matt Hayes' comments fit into the pattern? Ryan Perilloux has spent his career at LSU stuck behind more experienced players who are also very talented. I'm sure it has been frustrating for him at times, considering throughout his recruitment he was considered a can't-miss immediate impact player. Well, a team can only play one quarterback at a time, and Perrilloux fell behind two players who who were very very good (#1 overall NFL draft pick) and more experienced than him. Quarterback is a position that takes a long time to truly learn, and Perrilloux has been behind guys who had more time to learn it.

We don't know how good Perrilloux will be, but even if he turns out to never be a starter for LSU (doubtful), Matt Hayes will still be wrong. He's wrong because he's talked about things he knows nothing about, and he's heard from "inside sources" (I'm guessing), things that completely jibe with quarterback racial stereotypes. And he believed his "inside sources" despite a complete lack of first hand knowledge of the situation.

Hayes doesn't stop there. He shows further ignorance by saying:

Meanwhile, LSU signed star recruit Jarrett Lee last month, and coach Les Miles says he will recruit two more quarterbacks next season. In other words, it's now or never for Perrilloux, who will begin spring drills behind senior projected starter Matt Flynn.
He's right that Jarrett Lee is a "star recruit", one of many star recruits signed by LSU on National Signing Day. The strong implication here is that Miles recruited Lee because he was disappointed with Perrilloux, and needed a fall-back quarterback to be available.

Left unmentioned, though highly relevant to the issue of why we recruited another quarterback, is the fact that right not Perilloux is the only quarterback on the roster who isn't a senior. We have 5th year senior Matt, walk-on senior Jimmy Welker, and that's it, except for maybe some other walk-ons. If we didn't recruit a solid QB for the 2007 class, we would not have a single QB who had been through a Spring Practice other than Perrilloux available for the 2008 season. Our backup quarterback in 2008 would necessarily be a true freshman, which is a recipe for disaster if Perrilloux was to get hurt.

If you want to know if Les Miles is confident in Ryan Perilloux's ability to be a starting quarterback, consider this. Perrilloux was the only quarterback signed by LSU over the 2004-2006 period. In 3 years, LSU recruited one quarterback: Ryan Perrilloux, putting us in the position of having Ryan Perrilloux as the only quarterback on the roster who will have been on the team longer than a year at the start of the 2008 season. Do you think Les Miles, who is a smart coach, would allow this to happen if he didn't have confidence that Perrilloux was learning the system at an expected rate?

This isn't saying that Jarrett Lee will not come in and beat out Perrilloux. It is certainly possible that this will happen, though I think it's unlikely. Of course, if Perrilloux eventually falls behind Jarrett Lee, Matt Hayes will take the credit for bringing you the inside scoop. If Perilloux becomes an all-conference performer after Matt Flynn graduates, Matt Hayes will say either
  • nothing, or
  • that LSU fans should be thankful that Perrilloux managed to "turn it around", even though for all Matt Hayes knows, he was doing fine all along.
One of the common theme of this blog will be that the sports media is generally pretty foolish and unaccountable. Consider this the first installment of that series.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spring Practice

In the spirit of football, I'm calling an audible.

Yesterday, I promised more on the basics of recruiting, but then I remembered. "Oh yes, spring practice has started." I will just save my continuation of yesterday's topic (already written, actually), and instead talk about spring practice.

It is said that the typical player will make the biggest improvement he will ever make during his first Spring Practice. I don't know if that's true, and I certainly don't have any proof, but it makes some sense. The seniors are gone. The incoming freshmen aren't there yet. Instead, there is a group of about 60 or so scholarship players getting the most one-on-one coaching that they will get the entire year. There isn't the pressure to get the first string all the snaps to prepare for an upcoming game. It makes sense that young players, kind of far down the depth chart, will have a great opportunity to improve.

Anyway, onto spring practice. Of course, the headlines will be made by the quarterback competition. Our outstanding starting quarterback, Jamarcus Russell, has left to make his name in the NFL, leaving 5th year senior Matt Flynn and former all-world high schooler Ryan Perilloux to battle it out. While I anticipate an open competition and a vigorous battle, I fully expect Matt Flynn to emerge as the starting quarterback and Perilloux to be his backup entering fall. While it will get headlines, I don't see this as the big battle of the spring.

The real battles will be at wide receiver, safety, offensive line, and defensive end. Only Early Doucet has a spot claimed at wide receiver, with Brandon Lafell, Chris Mitchell, Jared Mitchell, and Ricky Dixon fighting for the other spots. Lafell is the most experienced, and J. Mitchell seems to have the inside track on C. Mitchell and Ricky Dixon, but he will miss about half of Spring Practice playing baseball. Craig Steltz is going to be one of the safeties, but the other safety spot is totally up for grabs. Danny McCray? Curtis Taylor? Someone else? It's a lot more uncertain than the QB spot. The battle at these two position will heat up more when the true freshmen show up. LSU signed outstanding wide receivers and safeties in this class, and they will push for playing time in the fall.

At defensive end, LSU has to replace Chase Pittman, a two-year starter. My dark horse for this battle is Rahim Alem, who I thought looked really good during garbage time of blow out games last year. If Ricky Jean-Francois can't get his eligibility straight, I think Alem could be outstanding. If Francois comes back, he's an NFL level talent.

On the offensive line, we have to replace two starters (Dyakowski and B. Johnson). There are a lot of young offensive linemen on this team, and it will be very interesting to see who emerges from that group to take those spots. If Will Arnold ever manages to come back from his injuries, it will solidify the offensive line considerably. As it is, I think the offensive line is going to be the strength of the offense next year.

So when you read about spring practice in The Advocate, TigerDroppings, or wherever, pay special attention to the wide receivers, safeties, defensive ends, and offensive linemen who are getting the reps. You'll find out a lot about what LSU will look like next year.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Recruiting 101 - Part 1

I guess my first substantive post is going to be about recruiting, considering that LSU has apparently received its second verbal commitment for the 2008 class. PJ Lonergan, an offensive lineman out of Rummel has given his verbal commitment. He is about to finish his junior year of high school.

Recruiting is, they say, the life blood of a football team. For those of you unfamiliar with football recruiting, I'm going to start with the very basics, in multiple parts. We'll be getting a lot more complex as time goes on.

LESSON #1 - Commitments

What is the difference between a verbal commitment and a written commitment?

Good question. The simplest way to explain this basic part of recruiting is to say that a player's recruitment (usually) ends when he has signed his "Letter of Intent" and faxed it to the school of his choice. I won't get into the scenarios in which this would not actually end the player's recruitment.

A Letter of Intent is a binding written statement by a player that he is accepting a scholarship offer from a school. Once he signs and faxes this statement, he is bound to his agreement and cannot get out of it without paying a heavy price (sitting out a year of football).

A verbal commitment is a statement by a player that he will one day sign a letter of intent. It is totally nonbinding and a player may change his mind at any time before going through the process of signing and faxing. It is a promise to the coaching staff (and the fans) that he will be going to a particular school, but is otherwise not particularly meaningful.

Well, why don't players just skip the whole "verbal commitment" thing and go straight to signing a Letter of Intent?

Well, there is a very important rule about this. While a player may verbally commit at any time, a player may not sign and fax his Letter of Intent before a day called "National Signing Day", which is usually (always?) in February of the player's senior year. If a player wishes to commit before this date, he can only give a "verbal commitment", and that's it. Right now, recruits for the 2008 class are almost one full year away from National Signing Day. Recruiting for 2008 is in full swing, however, and coaches are looking for their commitments.

Are there any rules at all about verbal commitments?

No. A player may verbally commit at any time. A six year old can give his verbal commitment. Further, other schools may continue to recruit a player who is verbally committed to another school as if the commitment never happened. A player may remain verbally committed for a year, and then change his mind without warning on National Signing Day, announcing his choice by faxing his Letter of Intent.

Well, why are verbal commitments so important if they are totally non-binding?

While verbal commitments are non-binding, and a player may retract a verbal commitment at any time, most players honor their verbal commitments. Every year will see several high-profile recruits change their minds as recruiting continues, but 9 out of 10 recruits will end up signing with the school to which they initially committed.

There are certain pressures on a player to honor a commitment. First, no kid wants to be known as a liar or a flake. Every kid who changes his mind about this, in an age where there is a substantial portion of the media that covers recruiting, will become known as a person who went back on his word.

Second, I think there is a more internal pressure to keep a verbal commitment. A recruit who gives his verbal commitment to a school instantly becomes part of that football program. Many will try to encourage other recruits to commit to his team. Many will develop friendships with players currently at the school. Many, particularly kids who live near their chosen college, will become local heroes for picking the local school. Psychologically, there is a resistance to changing all of that around. It's a little like the phenomenon that occurs in every new car lot in which the salesman knows that if he can get you to test drive the car, you will probably buy it because you'll develop an emotional attachment to it from having driven it. The recruiter is like the salesman and the verbal commitment is like the test drive. If he can get you to give your verbal commitment, he knows you will probably sign the Letter of Intent in February.

This is why the verbal commitments are so important, and why coaches push for them so early.

Continued tomorrow
Technorati Profile

I've been told that one way to get readership is to get on Technorati. Consider it done.

First Post


I am Richard Pittman. I am a third generation LSU graduate, living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I am starting this blog to talk about LSU athletics in general, and about the joys of living in "enemy" territory. This blog will cover football, basketball, baseball (a little), recruiting, and other sports as they come up. I'll also sneak in some posts unrelated to LSU athletics, such as life in Tuscaloosa, my deep and abiding love of alternative music, and law.

A little introduction to me:

  • Like I said, I am a third generation LSU graduate. I graduated LSU in Chemical Engineering in 1996. My parents are both LSU graduates, and my maternal grandfather graduated as well.
  • I am from Gonzales, LA and have lots of family in the Ascension Parish and Baton Rouge area. My father was a teacher and principal at East Ascension High School, St. Amant High School, and Gonzales Middle School before his retirement several years ago.
  • I am an attorney working primarily in Bibb County, Alabama. I went to Law School at the University of Alabama (yes, I know). I graduated in 2005.
  • I live in an undisclosed location in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I am married, with pets and a child on the way, but this blog will not be about my personal life.
  • I am not an athlete. I never played organized football except in the 3rd grade, and my experience in organized basketball ended when I got to high school. I played a little high school soccer, but frankly I wasn't very good at it, and if I went to a high school that had a well-established program, I probably would not have made the team.
Here are some things I will not be doing on this blog:

  • I will not criticizing players in a personal way, unless they get in major trouble with the law (re: Cecil Collins).
  • While I will discuss football recruiting extensively, I will not be evaluating high school talent. I put this limitation on myself for the simple reason that I have no skill in evaluating how a high school player will perform in college. I can watch a highlight tape of a guy and know he's good, but I can't tell the difference between an LSU-level prospect and a ULM-level prospect. For that, I trust the coaches and the semi-professional scouts at Rivals and Scout. My discussions of recruiting will focus on the battles for recruits, evaluating recruiting needs, and discussing LSU's standings in the college football recruiting world.
  • I will not criticize other teams in a knee-jerk, purple-and-gold-colored glasses way. It's just not my style to say something like, "Bama will suck this year because Saban will ruin them." I don't believe it to be true, and even if I did believe it, I do have to live and do business in the Tuscaloosa area. I will try to evaluate other teams, especially in the SEC, but I will do so in a fair and objective way to the best of my ability.
  • I will not ever use the phrase, "LSU gets no respect from the media."
  • I will not be giving you "inside information", because I don't have any.
  • I will not ever call for a coach to be fired, even if I personally believe the coach should be fired.
  • I will not be discussing sex or politics, except as they intersect with sports.
I think I am an intelligent guy, and I hope I can give some intelligent insight about LSU athletics. I also hope to have a vibrant and thriving comments section. Fans of other teams are welcome.

I hope you see this and check back frequently. I probably will not post every day, but I want to post on average about 4 to 5 times per week, more or less, depending on what is going on in the world of athletics. Drop me a line in the comments. I'd like to hear from you.