LSU puzzle missing one piece

The LSU Tigers are one player away from successfully defending their 2007 BCS national title. Unfortunately, that player fills the most important position on the field.

The dismissal of Ryan Perrilloux, the heir-apparent to Matt Flynn as LSU's No. 1 signal-caller, leaves head coach Les Miles with superior talent at 21 positions and a big question mark at the other one.

Based on Perrilloux's inability to observe team rules, however, Miles felt he had no choice but to show him the door.

"Any time you get rid of a student-athlete, it's not something you enjoy," the coach said during the recent SEC Media Days. "You don't look necessarily at the real positives."

That's because there were no real positives. The Tigers said goodbye to a distraction but they also said goodbye to a guy who might've meant the difference between 9-3 and 12-0. Perrilloux is THAT talented, as he showed in guiding LSU past Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game while Flynn was injured last December.

"We're going to miss that guy," Tiger center Brett Helms conceded. "Anybody with that much talent we're going to miss."

Perrilloux's departure leaves Miles with two returning quarterbacks, Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch. Lee is a 6-2, 190-pound redshirt freshman who has never taken a snap in a college game. Hatch is a 6-3, 214-pounder who played junior varsity football at Harvard in 2005, spent a year on a Mormon mission, walked on at LSU last summer but hurt his shoulder after completing 1 of 2 passes for 9 yards in mop-up duty vs. Middle Tennessee.

Obviously, neither of these guys is a threat to be the No. 1 NFL Draft pick someday, as Tiger QB JaMarcus Russell was in the spring of 2007. Miles isn't complaining, though.

"Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch both had good springs," the head man said. "They had an entire summer of study with the receiving corps (who) really helped identify to our quarterbacks where they're going to be."

Although Lee or Hatch – or both – should open Game 1 under center, Miles isn't ruling out the possibility of giving the reins to a heralded freshman.

"I'm not going to go by Jordan Jefferson, a true freshman who may have to play," the coach said. "We have three quarterbacks on campus that have grant-in-aids."

Helms says each of the three has the qualities needed to win.

"Hatch is more athletic than Jarrett Lee," Helms said. "He's got more speed. That's one thing he brings to the table moreso than Jarrett Lee ... running the ball, option-wise, and things like that. They're both athletic but I would say he is faster than Jarrett.

"Jarrett is more of a pocket passer. That's who he is, how he plays. He maybe throws the deep ball a little better than Hatch does.

"The new guy (Jefferson) has a lot of talent, so we're going to see what happens with him in camp. He's a real speedy guy."

Given that LSU has three diverse options but no experience at the quarterback position, what will determine who starts?

"The most consistent performer," Miles said. "The guy that makes the play, the guy that is least likely to turn it over, least likely to make poor decisions ... that guy will be the first to get to the field."

Ideally, the head man says he is looking for someone who can make good reads and adjustments, someone who can make clutch plays on third down, someone who can make big plays when the opportunity arises.

"Those are things," he conceded, "that we're still really waiting to emerge."

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