During Les Miles’ reign over the Tiger program, just two in-state quarterback prospects were handed scholarship offers: East St. John’s Ryan Perrilloux and Destrehan’s Jordan Jefferson.
In 2005, during Miles’ first National Signing Day in Baton Rouge, Perrilloux, a five-star tabbed as the No. 2 quarterback prospect in the country, was considered the prized gem of the 13-man signing class.
After he redshirted behind JaMarcus Russell in the 2005 season, Perrilloux – amidst a number of off-the-field incidents – stayed with the team throughout his sophomore campaign, eventually leading the Tigers to a 21-14 win over Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Championship game, which subsequently vaulted LSU into the BCS National Championship Game against Ohio State.
Unfortunately for LSU, Perrilloux’s biggest impact on the program would also be his last. On Feb. 18, 2008, Miles indefinitely suspended Perrilloux for violating team rules. Less than three months later, the team’s most promising signal caller was booted from the program.
After skipping a year of recruiting the quarterback position, Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton got back to work in 2007 and signed Jarrett Lee, a four-star ranked as the No. 15 quarterback prospect in the country. The following season the staff settled on Jordan Jefferson, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound Destrehan-native that was also ranked among the nation’s top-20 passers (No. 18).
Lee’s woes are often too painful to rehash. 16 interceptions, seven of which were returned for touchdowns, have become the Scarlett Letter on a college career gone off course.
Jefferson, who took over the job when Lee stumbled, has since guided the team through a complete season with an 8-3 record as the starting quarterback to show for it. Over his two years in Baton Rouge, the rising junior, who became the second-youngest quarterback to start a season-opener for LSU, has completed 205-of-345 attempts for 2,383 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Being that Jefferson wasn’t the type of prospect that screamed the need to be played prior to his 19th birthday meant the Tigers were in hot water, and after Lee the lone scholarship backup arm was Chris Garrett, who signed on alongside receiver Russell Shepard as part of a two-quarterback class in 2009.
For 2010, Miles needed to strike with the sure thing.
The quest led the staff to McKinney, Texas native Zach Lee, who was tabbed not just as a top-flight arm on the football field but also the pitching mound. Lee’s worth was proven when the Los Angeles Dodgers selected the LSU pledge with the 28th overall pick in last week’s Major League Baseball Draft.
The lone quarterback pledge from the last recruiting season, priority for LSU became getting Lee onto campus after the draft, a mission they accomplished when the four-star prospect arrived in Baton Rouge last Tuesday and enrolled in summer school and began football workouts the following day.
“Zach wants to come to LSU, get a degree and play football and baseball for the Tigers,” Miles said in a statement released by the university. “I met with Zach and his parents, and I think that they are looking at LSU as a great opportunity both academically and athletically.”
Miles’ confidence aside, the Tigers are stuck between now and the Aug. 16 deadline with nothing but hope.
And if the Dodgers front office comes up with the sky-high signing numbers that Lee is looking for?
It’s the worst-case scenario, but the staff isn’t going to get caught wondering where to go if Lee bolts in mid-August. Scholarship offers have been extended across the Southeast, ranging from Tampa’s Phillip Ely to Rock Hill, S.C. product Justin Worley.
Worley was the only out-of-state target that camped with the Tigers for their first session in June, though many feel the three-star prospect currently favors the Tennessee Volunteers.
The same tune is being sung by a number of the staff’s other out-of-state quarterback targets. Four of the top prospects for 2011, Braxton Miller, Teddy Bridgewater, Kiehl Frazier and Jeff Driskel, have already pledged to a school. Charlotte, N.C. prospect Marquise Williams recently decided on a decision date and named a top-three that did not include LSU, while the Sunshine State’s Jerrard Randall, one the staff’s most recent offers, committed to Oregon on Monday.
With the crystal ball on prospects outside the state proving too cloudy to read, the focus from the staff turned to the in-state crop. Last week, three of Louisiana’s top senior quarterbacks traveled to Baton Rouge to work out with Crowton at the Les Miles Football Camp.
Is 2011 the season that sees the Tigers make a bid for their third Louisiana quarterback commitment during the Miles era?
“It was my first time throwing in front of the LSU coaches with Stevie and Zach both there, and I felt like I was one of the best passers, and definitely the best athlete, throughout the couple of days that I worked out,” said Prescott, who holds offers from Memphis and North Texas, among others. “The coaches told me that they were impressed and that I would be on their radar this fall.”
The feedback from Douglas and Oliver seems just as ambiguous.
“Right now I think the coaches are just weighing out their options and feeling out the numbers,” Douglas said. “Coach Crowton recognized how much better I have gotten over the past year, but we didn’t talk a timetable for a scholarship or anything like that.
“It seemed like he still didn’t have his mind made up.”
For the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Oliver, who’s ranked as the No. 35 quarterback prospect in the country, each time a performance in front of the Tiger staff comes and goes his confidence in the offer’s arrival is strengthened.
“I think I’ve got what it takes to play at LSU, and I’ve tried showing the staff that during both my season and these camps,” said Oliver, who passed for 2,587 yards and 37 touchdowns at Catholic High last fall. “I’ve been in a good system, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot that will prepare me for the college level.”
For the home-schooled Douglas, the worry is that not playing for a program like Catholic High lends coaches to become hesitant to take a risk if the learning gap is too large.
“Most colleges I talk with said that if I was playing ball at a big high school, I would have pulled in something like 20 offers by now,” said Douglas, whose lone D-I scholarship is from Memphis. “I have a really strong arm though, and that’s something that can’t be taught.
“Whether it is LSU or somewhere else, all I need is the chance to prove myself.”
Whether it’s Douglas or Oliver, or even a late-riser like Prescott, is yet to be determined. Yet the fact remains, LSU must land at least one quarterback in the Class of 2011, and a few talented in-state passers are gunning for their name to be called.