LSU coach Les Miles said there were “a bunch of reasons” for his decision to suspend starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns after they were arrested Friday morning.
The fact that they broke curfew in being at a bar early last Friday morning warranted punishment, he said, as did their involvement in the subsequent altercation that led to a felony second-degree battery charge against each.
Additionally, Miles said, the indefinite suspension allows Jefferson especially to focus on his defense.
“It’s absolutely correct for (Jefferson) to be free at this point to really attend to his personal business,” Miles said after practice Friday. “We want to make sure that when he returns we have a clear understanding of the incident and that he can have a clearer view of football. The opportunity for him to be free of what must really be a distraction to him if he were playing on this football team would be too much.”
Miles said he told Jefferson “to defend himself fully and participate in the legal system and stand his ground.”
Jefferson’s entire senior season could be in jeopardy depending on how long the legal process takes to run its course and what the resolution is. He would be eligible for a redshirt that would allow him to return in 2012.
“I’ve not crossed that bridge just yet,” Miles said when asked if he would consider redshirting Jefferson.
Miles had often praised Jefferson during the spring and summer on his preparation for his final season.
“He’s certainly a guy who put himself in the best position to compete,” Miles said. “This incident is unfortunate in many ways, but he had really shown team leadership skills that he had not shown up to this point. This is devastating to him and his family, but it’s my guess that they will stand tall and recoil and participate in their defense.”
Miles said Jefferson and Johns will not participate in practice in the days leading up to the Sept. 3 season opener against No. 3-ranked Oregon in Arlington, Texas.
He said he hasn’t determined their status for practice beyond that, adding that the suspensions are indefinite “until further information is brought to light.”
Jefferson and Johns turned themselves in Friday morning, and word spread around campus quickly.
Miles said he “had no sense that something like this was coming.” The team learned of the arrests before Miles could address them before the 4 p.m. practice.
Miles said there was “real emotion” on the field, but the team managed to have a very good practice.
“They really put it behind them and focused for the two-plus hours that we practiced,” he said. “I was proud of them today, because they were sick. They played hard.”
Miles said he seemed “to be getting a good view of what happened,” outside the bar, though he said he didn’t have all the facts.
“I look forward to knowing more about this incident period,” he said. “This is not how I intended to spend my preseason. I wanted to spend much more (time) on football.”
Miles said he had East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore and the LSU Dean of Students K.C. White addressed the team earlier in the preseason about how to conduct themselves and stay out of trouble.
“We had a lengthy discussion of how you should act and what it’s like at night during season in a bar and the responsibility of an athlete and the responsibility to represent an institution,” Miles said. “You go through it and you do it painstakingly and you do it repeatedly and you give an example of how quickly you can get involved in something like that.
“This lesson, though painful as it is, will be one that this team understands much more fully and much more clearly than any possible preseason lecture they got from the coach or the D.A. or for that matter the Dean of Students.
“Sometimes you have to have the experience in order to have the lesson learned.”
In an effort to help Miles maintain better discipline on his team, LSU Chancellor Michael Martin said Friday he wants Miles to get some assistance in dealing with off-the-field organization.
“Les knows what he has to focus on going forward and he needs a very good support staff,” Martin said.
Martin indicated football may add a staff member or see a reshuffling of duties among existing personnel.
At least for now, Martin said senior associate athletic director Verge Ausberry will fill that role.
“We’ve given Verge Ausberry greater responsibility in that area,” Martin said. “Our intent over the next several months is to give him all the support he needs.”
Johnson cleared to play
Freshman defensive tackle Mickey Johnson (5-foot-11, 310 pounds) of Covington St. Paul’s has been approved to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse, LSU announced Friday.
Another 2011 LSU signee, wide receiver Alonzo Lewis (6-3, 205) of St. James, is expected to enroll at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College.