The head tilts, the eyes go zombie and…
by Glenn Guilbeau
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
Every year it makes educated adults with college degrees who otherwise think clearly say incredibly hypocritical and stupid things just moments after saying the complete opposite.
Two years ago when Joe McKnight was choosing between LSU and USC, he was hailed by LSU fans as the next great tailback at LSU. He was awesome. He was going to be for the Tigers what Reggie Bush was for the Trojans.
Then he made the right decision for himself and went to USC, and a 40ish man who was blowing kisses at McKnight seconds before the news hit at the Bayou Bash called him a “punk.”
By the next day, the LSU fan base was into complete rationalization spin.
“He’s really not that good,” one said on a local radio show to which the show’s host said, “If you could have him back right now, would you take him?”
And our fan said, “Uh, yeah,” as the host cackled in laughter.
It’s like obsessed recruiting fans are all Manchurian candidates. As soon as a prospect chooses against the favored school, the trigger goes off. Their head tilts, their eyes go zombie and suddenly that guy’s “a thug” or “just not that good” or “he got bought.” But if that same can’t-miss prospect would come back to the favored school, that head would tilt and those eyes would go zombie again and another national championship would be within reach.
All this happened again last signing day.
On Wednesday morning the feeling in the Tiger Nation was that Rueben Randle – the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation out of Bastrop – was going to Alabama because his father, Emmitt Randle, had apparently broken state laws and refused to worship at the altar known as LSU.
“Rueben Randle’s just one player,” a fan said on a radio show. “He’s not going to make or break this class. LSU will have the No. 1 class even if he doesn’t sign with us. He’s just one guy.”
Seconds later, just another one guy – defensive end Sam Montgomery - surprisingly announced he would sign with LSU over North Carolina. And our fans went wild.
“Hey, it’s just one guy,” the same radio show host said unable to control his laughter.
Earlier Wednesday when very talented former Bastrop receiver DeAngelo Benton surprisingly signed with Auburn instead of LSU, some LSU fans got mad. Benton, whom LSU fans have been waiting to see for three years, turned his back on LSU, they said, after LSU had signed him twice and patiently waited for him to get his academics in order.
And surely Auburn had got some money to him.
But later Wednesday, LSU coach Les Miles confirmed that Benton did not have a scholarship offer from LSU at the time he signed with Auburn. Seems Miles was concerned about the fact that Randle’s father was concerned about Benton joining his son at LSU.
Too much competition.
Buh Bye Benton. Hello Rueben… and Emmitt.
Suddenly, Benton wasn’t the bad guy. Miles was. He turned his back on Benton. Suddenly, the head tilted, the eyes went zombie.
“Benton’s a thug,” they said. “He was an academic risk. He’ll probably never get eligible at Auburn anyway. You should see what’s on his Facebook. Les did the right thing in deciding he didn’t want that element on his team.”
Never mind that Benton has been an academic risk for three years and LSU fans and Miles were ready to look beyond that and his element just as recently as Tuesday night. Miles actually did do the right thing, though. Given the circumstances – Benton or Randle – he had to take Randle. It was a program decision. Randle is a better bet as Benton is somewhat damaged goods. But Miles did turn his back on the kid.
So, just be careful when you criticize recruits - your coach may be doing the same thing.
Then on Thursday morning, Barbe High’s Janzen Jackson – the No. 2 cornerback in the nation – turned his back on LSU and signed with Tennessee. Jackson had committed to LSU nearly a year before.
The heads tilted, the eyes went zombie.
“Tennessee got some money to his mom,” they said. “Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron are pulling some stuff,” they said. “Jackson and his dad played LSU. They knew he was going to Tennessee two weeks ago. He should have told LSU that then so LSU could have replaced him.”
Jackson, like McKnight two years ago, made the right decision for himself. He played no one and neither did his dad. He did not know he was going to Tennessee two weeks ago.
He thought he was going to LSU just last weekend. He vacillated as kids often do about many things. His dad, former McNeese State secondary coach Lance Guidry, would have preferred his son go to LSU. But Jackson went where he wanted to go. Should he be arrested?
Even if he had de-committed from LSU three weeks ago, it’s still too late to go find another No. 2 cornerback. Once you’re in on a kid, you’re in on a kid. You just lose some, period.
About half a dozen things happened since Jackson committed to LSU a year ago, and by the way kids should never commit that early.
Since his commitment these things happened:
- LSU’s defense had a horrible year and let go of its two defensive coordinators. One of those was Bradley Dale Peveto, who recruited Jackson.
- Monte Kiffin, the best NFL defensive coach for more than 10 years, became Tennessee’s defensive coordinator and Orgeron, an old friend of Jackson’s dad, turned down LSU and became recruiting coordinator. And Jackson wants to be a coach one day.
- Jackson’s dad got a new job at Miami of Ohio, and that had nothing to do with
Tennessee. Jackson’s dad has known new Miami of Ohio coach Michael Haywood for more that 10 years. They met when Guidry was at Leesville and Haywood was recruiting Cecil Collins for LSU. Haywood always said he was going to hire Guidry. Tennessee didn’t place Guidry at Miami of Ohio so they could get his son and hire Guidry later, which is what one of the Manchurian candidates was saying.
Jackson is now closer to his dad and maybe, just maybe he wanted to go to Tennessee and play for the Kiffin.
So, snap out of it. They’re kids. They can go wherever they want.
Good luck to you Jackson. You made the right decision for you. And if you want to come back to Louisiana and coach when you’re playing days are over, you’ll get a job.
That’s another Manchurian comment: “If you leave the state, you can’t come back here.”
Really? Don’t you think the Manning boys could open a restaurant in New Orleans after going to Tennessee and Ole Miss, respectively. How about Warrick Dunn, a Baton Rouge kid who went to Florida State over LSU. He builds homes for the less fortunate in Baton Rouge.
So, don’t let anyone tell you anything Janzen. And if they do, be secure in the fact that you have a life because they probably don’t.
Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU athletics for the Gannett News Service. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.