New Set of Downs

What's next for Ryan Perrilloux?
By Bruce Feldman

Alabama State head coach Reggie Barlow knew all about Ryan Perrilloux. He knew the ex-LSU QB was the SEC championship game MVP, that he'd been suspended from the team three times (for a fake ID, a scuffle at a bar and missed classes) and that Les Miles had kicked him off the Tigers for good on May 2.

Still, 48 hours later, after finding out that LSU had included Alabama State as one of the schools to which Perrilloux could transfer, Barlow was on the phone with the QB's mom. "She told me, 'You're No. 15 on the list,' " he says of their short conversation. "Fastest three minutes I've ever had."

The line formed for Perrilloux because he has the size and the tools—6'3", 225, with a big arm
and mobility—to become the best FCS (formerly D1-AA) quarterback since Alcorn State's Steve McNair. Plus, some coaches believe he's a tailor-made reclamation project—and what coach can resist being a fallen star's savior? "He's a smart person who does love football," says Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe. "And when I looked into his eyes and asked him about his story, he gave the right answers. I could tell he wants things to change."

After a two-day visit to Jax State, Perrilloux decided he wanted to be a Gamecock, in part because Crowe is a players' coach just like Miles. But Crowe also has his limits. Last December, following a 5-6 season, he kicked starting QB Cedric Johnson off the squad for violating team rules.

So before Perrilloux can remind anyone of McNair, he needs to follow the advice of his high school coach, Larry Dauterive, of East St. John High, in Reserve, La. "He's gotta get used to playing in front of 15,000, not 95,000," says Dauterive. "And he has gotta learn how to tell time so he can get to class."

A Debate

What's the proper way to handle a troublemaker at the college level?

By Chris Spielman and Lou Holtz

CS First thing I'd do is install a leadership squad of juniors and seniors to make calls and check on teammates. On weekend nights, I'd even assign guys to known problem spots—street corners, frat houses—to watch out for fellow players.

LH But there's a thin line between discipline and harassment. Discipline breeds success; harassment breeds discontent. I have a better idea: Find guys who might struggle, then pair them up with big brothers, solid veterans. Require them to have weekly dinners and several 10-minute face-to-face talks a week.

CS And each incident has to be taken separately, because parking tickets are different from DUIs. I would be lenient for minor first offenses—everybody is entitled to one mistake—but I'd still take away playing time. After that, you have to think about yanking scholarship money.

LH You absolutely cannot take scholarships away. As a coach, you promise recruits' families that their sons will get an opportunity to get an education. You can take away playing time; that's a privilege. But you don't screw with their education. No way.

CS But traditional discipline doesn't get through to some kids. About 98% of college players follow the rules; coaches have to figure out a way to get through to the other 2%.

LH Here's one nontraditional way that has always worked for me: When a guy gets into some trouble—either with the law or grades—I would draw up a contract. It would explicitly say what I expected, what I would provide as far as guidance and assistance, and the specific punishment should he violate the contract. At South Carolina, I drew up 20 of those. All 20 players signed, and not one contract was violated.