Miles finally ready to name starting QB
Wednesday, 09/07, 7:25 p.m.
By William Kalec
BATON ROUGE - Oh man, here it comes. Finally.
This six-month soap opera - occasionally overblown, but too titillating to completely ignore - appears on the cusp of having its curtain close as JaMarcus Russell politely fields an oft-asked inquiry (and no, it’s not about Fats Domino).
Hey, JaMarcus, who is going to start at quarterback this Saturday at Arizona State?
Suspense has snowballed since February when Ryan Perrilloux, sitting in his high school coach’s office twirling a broken strand of Mardi Gras beads, signed a letter-of-intent to play football for the Tigers and made a couple of comments about the team's incumbent QBs. From there, the he-said, he-said, boiled for a couple of weeks. In May, Perrilloux said he and Russell were Playstation buddies. In August, Miles said they’re not exactly suitemates. Like all good soaps, a main character went through amnesia (Perrilloux, transformed from gregarious to humble during Media Day). Besides not writing a role for Susan Lucci and adding a torrid love octagon, this saga has primarily stuck to the generic script.
And now … the ending (cue suspenseful music).
“One of the three,” Russell said, referring to himself, Matt Flynn and Perrilloux.
He swears he doesn’t know, and since there’s no bailiff around, we’ll have to believe him. Ugh, so close to figuring out where this pipeline of media preseason filler ends. But wait, there’s still Flynn. Perhaps he knows something Russell doesn’t.
“Hadn’t heard anything,” Flynn said.
So the wait continues, with Miles hinting more than once he’ll pick somebody Thursday. He said he likes Thursdays, through a satisfied smile. Of course, Miles is not scheduled to meet with the media Thursday so this extended hand of three-quarterback rummy might not be revealed until 8:15 p.m. Saturday, assuming LSU doesn’t kickoff in the first half.
If the Tigers do win the coin toss and elect to defer, add-on about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on commercials.
And here’s a quick timer-saver for the impatient: examining body language offers no clues, either. Russell has been rather jovial in recent conversations with the press while Flynn is sporting some goofy mustache, making him look like Matt Damon with Tom Selleck’s signature facial hair.
“It hasn’t been difficult at all,” Flynn said of the wait. “We’ve gone out there and known it’s been a competition and the uncertainty has not been a problem. We’ve been focused every day and just tried to make strides every day.”
Inheriting a team loaded with talent, dealing with the quarterback issue is the only instance Miles has really mixed beakers this fall - an experiment so volatile it could have easily blown up in his face. Instead, this situation appears to be soluble. Miles kept his recruiting promise to Perrilloux, letting the hyped-blue chip compete for the job while not letting Russell or Flynn get too comfortable.
“You never know,” Russell said. “If he would have announced a starter too early, things could’ve gotten out of hand, or a little shaky with that guy as far as him knowing he has the job…Waiting, it kept everybody on a level ground.”
Playing the extended waiting game also allowed each quarterback not to overanalyze or lament every poor throw, knowing one exceptional or one terrible practice would not win or lose the prized position.
“You can’t think like that,” Russell said. “Because if you’re worried about not doing wrong, then wrong is going to creep in on you,” Russell said. “They say it’s stepping on eggshells. You’re playing light - you’re trying to do good but at the same time you’re trying not to mess up.”
The logical argument to Miles' belated announcement is that extending the verdict within days of kickoff prevents players, particularly receivers, from gaining confidence in the guy under center, to which the new coach said is only necessary if, “you pick the wrong guy.”
“It made us work every day,” Russell said. “Because you never know what (Miles) is going to say? So it’s still on you to do your job, get your work done, and still help the other guys at the same time.”