Monday, April 29, 2013
Latest LSU arrest raises more questions
By Gary Laney
It was a huge weekend for LSU football.
It was also a bit of a black eye for Tigers football.
On the same weekend LSU set an NFL record with six defensive players drafted in the first three rounds and a school record with nine players total getting picked, the Tigers also had two players arrested -- their leading rusher and a draft prospect two nights before he was picked.
Jeremy Hill's arrest over the weekend was the latest in a series of disturbing events involving LSU football players.
For as much as LSU makes news with the talent it possesses, it seems like it spends as much time being discussed lately for off-field behavior of its players. After a weekend where LSU should have been celebrating its prolific production of pro talent, the Tigers are instead dealing with questions yet again about player conduct.
Jeremy Hill, who rushed for 755 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman in 2012, is the one dominating the headlines Monday.
Already on probation after pleading guilty to carnal knowledge of a juvenile, Hill was arrested Saturday night after allegedly punching someone outside a bar near LSU and subsequently has been charged with simple battery. He was suspended from the team indefinitely by coach Les Miles on Monday.
His arrest came two nights after former Tigers cornerback Tharold Simon was arrested on several charges, including public intimidation, in a dispute with police in his hometown of Eunice, La. Despite the arrest, Simon was drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks.
And while the arrest and subsequent suspension of Hill raises questions about his future with the team and the Tigers' lack of depth at running back, it brings up larger issues regarding the football program.
In the past two years, LSU football has seen a string of bad off-the-field behavior.
First was the fight at Shady's, a Baton Rouge, La., bar in 2011 that resulted in the arrest of starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was suspended for the first part of the season.
Then came the Tyrann Mathieu saga. The Honey Badger was suspended for one game -- along with Simon and running back Spencer Ware -- for the 2011 Auburn game for testing positive in a drug test (like Simon, Mathieu and Ware were drafted over the weekend). Then he was dismissed from the team in 2012 training camp for repeated failed drug tests.
Then came the arrest of Mathieu and three other members of the 2011 team in October 2012 on drug charges (none were still members of the Tigers' team).
And on draft weekend, off-field news once again dominated the headlines. If it wasn't Mathieu's redemption story, it was Simon's arrest. And before LSU fans could ingest all that happened in the draft, news of Hill's arrest was out.
LSU will surely defend the discipline in its program, pointing at its graduation rate, which is second in the SEC behind only Vanderbilt. And LSU will rightfully point out that the top Tigers picked in the draft -- defensive end Barkevious Mingo, safety Eric Reid and linebacker Kevin Minter -- are all players noted for their high character.
It's not a situation where LSU is a program out of control. At the same time, the questions are real.
What is the character of LSU's football program? Is it one of admirable graduation rates and high-character players? Or is it one with a constant police-blotter presence and continued off-field issues?