As the #3 Oregon Ducks wrapped up their fall camp this week, anticipation for their showdown with #4 LSU on September 3rd continues to grow.
Unfortunately for both the teams and football fans, the number of star players that will take the field under the bright lights of Cowboys Stadium is shrinking.
It began when Oregon’s defensive and special teams star Cliff Harris was suspended for at least the opening game stemming from his speeding violation earlier this summer. The car was clocked at a brisk 118mph, but every Duck fan gave a collective fist pump when the police video surfaced of Harris dominating the sobriety test.
Oregon also has suspended starting middle linebacker Kiko Alonso indefinitely following his second arrest in two years, last April. Many have suspected that since Alonso has been practicing with the first unit in Duck practices, and head coach Chip Kelly has declined to officially rule him out for the LSU game, that he may get to play.
Those hopes may have been dashed in the past few days due to the fact that Oregon has turned their preparation focus on LSU and Alonso has been moved to the scout team. There is still no official word on Alonso’s status for the game.
In the past week LSU has lost some star-power of their own by suspending starting wide receiver Russell Sheppard, reserve linebacker Joshua Johns and quarterback Jordan Jefferson indefinitely while separate investigations continue.
Russell Sheppard was the first to be disciplined due to NCAA findings that he had a conversation with a teammate concerning the Will Lyles investigation prior to that player’s interview with the NCAA concerning possible violations against LSU for their use of Lyles’ scouting service.
Johns and Jefferson were involved in a fight outside of a bar in Baton Rouge later in the week, along with other LSU players. Police gathered enough evidence to charge Jefferson and Johns for their involvement in the brawl.
The evidence gathered against Jefferson included several pixelated cell phone videos of the fight, thus silencing every person over 50 that swears the damn things don’t work and are just a waste of money. The videos and witness statements claimed Jefferson was kicking a victim who was taken to the ground during the melee.
Also, police took 49 pairs of shoes from the quarterback’s apartment to search for any proof that Jefferson was practicing his field goal kicking motion on a man’s face. Having that many pairs of shoes may weaken the argument of the starving college athlete needing to be paid to survive while playing. Unless those shoes were all crocs bought on sale at Wal-Mart, I think Jefferson is doing just fine financially.
So after all of the suspensions here is where we stand:
Cliff Harris will not be on the field to cover Russell Sheppard, but neither will Sheppard so no one wins.
Alonso would have been slotted to contain Jefferson, a mobile quarterback, but they will both be on the sidelines as well.
So no ground is really gained or lost for either team by these loses from the individual’s standpoint. The keys to the game may lie in who replaces them.
Harris will be replaced by redshirt freshman cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who beat out fellow freshman Troy Hill for the starting job.
Mitchell is very talented and athletic and may be an upgrade from Harris in the run game, but in coverage he does not have the same ball skills. Mitchell’s inexperience will make him a target for LSU’s offense.
The man that will be picking on Mitchell will be LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee.
Lee has starting experience and many LSU fans believe he is actually a better player than Jefferson.
However, contrary to every LSU fan that yells at the TV complaining about play-calling before turning the channel to “Hillbilly Hand Fishing,” head coach Les Miles knows a lot about football. If Lee was the better player, he would have been the starter already.
It truly is a shame that these players will not be in the game because it detracts attention from the game that has been called a BCS bowl in September. No matter who wins there will be doubt in the minds of fans whether it was legitimate. The question that will be thrown around regardless of who wins is “what if ______ had been in the game?”
Football is not an individual game, it takes a team. The best teams are not defined by who is in street clothes on the sideline; they are determined by who has the depth to replace key players when the moments matter the most.
This game was slated to be covered with stars, from the players to the big blue one at midfield in Arlington.
But on this stage, the stars that shine brightest will need to be between the white lines.
If fans think the headlines will be written based on who was ineligible for the game, then they are watching the game for the wrong reasons.
Maybe this is the perfect opportunity for a new star to be born while others fade. But you can look to the night sky to confirm it’s the largest cluster of stars that shines brightest.
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.