What started off as a preseason full of optimism, has turned into nothing short of a nightmare for LSU fans. As they await the fate of starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson for next Saturday’s opener against Oregon in Dallas, the Bayou Bengals were dealt a brutal blow Thursday, when, according to the Twitter account of ESPN’s Joe Schad, star wide receiver Russell Shepard has been suspended.
For how long remains the question, but this from Schad’s Twitter handle:
LSU confirms WR Russell Shepard is ineligible for conferring w(ith) teammate prior to NCAA meeting
What Shepard conferred about remains to be seen, and what the NCAA meeting was about isn’t totally clear either. Shepard missed SEC Media Days earlier this summer, as he and LSU dealt with a compliance issue related to his summer housing. As Schad reported at the time (and was subsequently picked up by other outlets) Shepard was living with a member of the LSU football staff off-campus, and the issue was over how the rent was being paid.
Still, this is just more bad news for a club that can’t seem to get away from it in the last few weeks.
The biggest issue of course revolves around quarterback Jordan Jefferson, and his alleged assault outside of a Baton Rouge bar about 10 days ago. Right now it’s hard to separate the rumors from facts, but either way, it’s not looking good for Jefferson and three teammates who were alleged to have been at the scene of the crime. Because of it, LSU has hired high-priced defense attorney Nathan Fisher to defend the four, and their status for next Saturday remains up in the air. Police searched Jefferson's apartment yesterday.
And if that weren't bad enough, a report surfaced earlier this morning that backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger and defensive end Sam Montgomery had a gun pulled on them during an altercation earlier this summer as well. Thankfully, neither was harmed.
As for Shepard, well, he was expected to provide a big boost to a unit that lost leading receiver Terrence Tolliver. Tolliver finished 2010 with 41 catches for 579 yards and a team-leading five touchdown grabs. Shepard himself had 33 catches last year, in addition to 32 carries, in which he averaged over seven yards a carry. Without Shepard, look for Rueben Randle (33 catches) to be asked to step up, with Spencer Ware getting the bulk of the carries in the backfield.
As for the punishment, well it appears once again that the NCAA is playing moral arbiter here.
Again, we don’t totally know the facts, so it’s a bit hard to speculate. But assuming that this all relates back to the off-campus housing situation, it seems like nothing more than the NCAA trying to throw their weight around, and punish a kid for next to nothing. It appears to be quite similar to what happen to Dez Bryant in 2009, who, as you may remember, was suspended for the last eight games of his junior year, not for actually breaking NCAA rules, but for merely lying about his presence at Deion Sanders home for dinner. Granted, Bryant shouldn't have lied. But at the end of the day, if he didn't actually commit a violation, was eight games really just? It looks as though Shepard is facing some sort of similar (if not less extensive) fate.
Now it is important to add one caveat: If Shepard were conferring to cover up something to do with the bar fight, that’d be a completely different story. But considering that at this point the fight is a police matter, and not an NCAA one, that seems next to impossible.
It’s interesting, because just a few weeks ago Mark Emmert made a big stink about going after the major rules violators, and not spending as much time those who commit minor violations. Only from all indications, this seems to be much more the latter, than the former.
As much as things are supposedly set to change around the NCAA offices, they seem to stay the same.
Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.