August 26, 2011
For most of the past eight months, college football fans have looked forward to LSU's opening-night tilt with Oregon on Sept. 3 as a true heavyweight showdown that would shape the national championship race from the earliest hours of the season. As of Friday morning, it's beginning to look more like a test of which team can actually keep a complete lineup on the field:
LSU senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, 21, and sophomore linebacker Joshua Johns, 21, have been booked and released from Parish Prison after Baton Rouge police arrested them on second-degree battery counts.
Both players posted a $5,000 bond.
The arrest warrants accuse each player of kicking a man while he was lying on the ground during a fight outside a Baton Rouge bar on Aug. 19, the arrest warrants say.
The man who was kicked suffered "extreme physical pain and unconsciousness," the warrant says.
Jefferson and Johns were both in police custody as of 10:15 a.m. CT. Both were identified by name in a police report as two of at least 10 people who assaulted Andrew Lowery, 21, who according to witnesses had intervened in an ongoing brawl to help an unidentified man who had been pulled from his pickup truck; Jefferson was personally implicated by a witness who told police "she knows for certain that she observed Jordan Jefferson kick[ing] Lowery in the face." Hence the 49 pairs of shoes police confiscated from Jefferson's apartment earlier this week. Second-degree battery is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of five years upon conviction.
Both Jefferson and Johns have been indefinitely suspended from the team, if you had to ask.
Lowery, despite emerging from the fracas looking the worse for wear, initially refused treatment, according to the police report. But four people were hospitalized in the brawl, one of whom reportedly suffered three fractured vertebrae and another of whom was knocked unconscious with contusions to the head, nose and hands.
The general manager and a bouncer of the bar both told the Associated Press Thursday that Lowery, had been asked to leave the bar because he was harassing a young woman, and later threw the first punch against Jefferson after willingly joining the fracas in the parking lot. According to a petition for a temporary restraining order filed by his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend, Lowery was stalking her in a bar and hit one of her friends earlier in the evening. (She also claims Lowery forced his way into her home earlier this month and at one point followed her to New Orleans and threatened her friends.) A judge granted the restraining order on Wednesday and set a hearing date in September.
But the alleged creepiness of his alleged victim does nothing to change Jefferson's immediate fate, or LSU's without him in the huddle. The starting job Jefferson has held down for 26 of the Tigers' last 27 games now falls to one of two candidates: Juco transfer Zach Mettenberger, the fan favorite in the spring, or senior Jarrett Lee, the SEC's reining pick-six king. Mettenberger has never taken a snap in a Division I game — he was booted from Georgia last year for his own bar-hopping escapades — but given Lee's track record as a freshman starter in 2008 and an occasional relief man last year, that might work in Mettenberger's favor.
Either way, though, whoever takes the reins will be operating without one of his top receivers, Russell Shepard, who was suspended Thursday for discussing an NCAA-related issue with a teammate. Not that the LSU passing game has exactly lit up the skies the last two years with Jefferson and Shepard in the lineup, but with both of them out, it may show up in Dallas next week dead on arrival.
Then again, Oregon will be there without one of its most dynamic stars, cornerback/return man Cliff Harris, whose need for speed (and quite possibly for weed) has left him in the same indefinite limbo as Jefferson and Shepard. The Ducks are certainly no strangers to ongoing NCAA probes or late-breaking departures by once-high-profile recruits, either.
So both teams may be limping a little too hard at the moment to qualify for a "heavyweight showdown." But maybe we can interest you in an old-fashioned battle of attrition?
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