LSU’s bumpy preseason hit more turbulence Thursday when the university announced that starting wide receiver Russell Shepard has been declared ineligible indefinitely.
Shepard, a junior from Houston, is expected to miss multiple games, beginning with the Sept. 3 season opener against Oregon in Arlington, Texas. Shepard was disciplined for violating an NCAA regulation.
The NCAA and LSU determined that Shepard, who can continue to practice with the Tigers, violated NCAA bylaw 32.1.4. He did so by discussing an NCAA inquiry with a teammate who was scheduled to meet with an NCAA representative, and his actions were deemed to have violated NCAA protocol, according to a university news release.
Shepard’s ineligibility ruling came as the Baton Rouge police investigation into a bar fight that allegedly included several Tigers football players concluded its first week.
Coach Les Miles, who was not scheduled to meet with reporters Thursday, chose to speak about the Shepard situation after practice.
“Russell Shepard has run afoul of some NCAA regulations,” Miles said. “I can only tell you that the things that were done there were innocent. They were issues of protocol, but they’re serious enough to warrant him being ruled not eligible.
“We’ll seek reinstatement and hope that that goes well.”
It’s unclear how long the NCAA will take to rule on the reinstatement request, and the university release said Shepard “is expected to miss a number of games.”
Shepard’s eligibility had been in question since a compliance issue related to his housing situation surfaced shortly before preseason camp started, but LSU spokesman Herb Vincent said Shepard has been cleared in that regard.???
Shepard started nine of 13 games last season and was the Tigers’ second-leading receiver with 33 catches for 254 yards and a touchdown. Though sophomore Kadron Boone is listed immediately behind Shepard on the depth chart, when asked who might replace Shepard, Miles said, “(freshman) Odell Beckham is certainly a guy who will up his snaps.”
Senior quarterback Jarrett Lee has played with the first- and second-team offenses, working with numerous receivers.
“They’re all making plays for us and working hard for us and we’re just looking forward to what those receivers can do for us this year,” Lee said. “We have guys rotating in and out every day with the ones and the twos. If somebody’s not there, something happens, we’ve got somebody who can fill in right there for them.”
Miles said he had nothing new to report regarding the bar fight investigation. Four players, most notably starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, were interviewed by police on Tuesday and police executed a search warrant on Jefferson’s apartment Wednesday night, took a DNA sample from him and removed several bags of potential evidence. A police report related to the incident was released Thursday, but Miles said he hadn’t read it.
Miles was asked about his team’s morale in the midst of the off-the-field issues.
“I think our team is trying to take one step at a time and do the right things,” he said. “They come to practice with great attitude and they’re fighting like heck to get things right.”
When asked if he might suspend any players before the police investigation is completed, Miles said, “I think that’s speculation and that’s something I’m not ready to look at.”
When asked if he was still planning on starting Jefferson against Oregon, Miles reiterated, “Again, I think it’s speculation at this point. That doesn’t really do anybody any good.”
When asked if he could make it clear that as of Thursday Jefferson was still his starting quarterback, Miles said, “Just to be clear, I said speculation at this point in time really doesn’t do anybody any good.”
Miles was asked about a June 5 incident in which a man allegedly pointed a gun at quarterback Zach Mettenberger and defensive end Sam Montgomery during an argument in a parking lot. News of the incident surfaced Thursday, and the East Baton Rouge Parish district attorney said he is pursuing charges against the gunman and another man.
“I knew all about that,” Miles said. “I investigated it very thoroughly. I understood what happened. ? Certainly our guys were victims in that issue entirely.”
Miles said he was “very much” concerned about the image of the football program and the university.
“I think through time that you’ll find that this thing will play out effectively and that you’ll find that it’s really the same group of men that work hard and want to represent LSU extremely well,” Miles said. “I think you’ll find that these guys will handle that.
“(This) will be a piece of time that will mark them and make them stronger, and I would expect that we will have leadership here that will understand the very specific lessons that we’ll learn.”