Rising sophomore defensive back Phelon Jones has decided to transfer out of the LSU football program. It is being discussed that he may transfer to Auburn. Coach Les Miles has given him his unconditional release, which means he can transfer to wherever he likes, including within the SEC. He will be subject to the ordinary transfer rules, meaning he will have to sit out one year. He will be a junior in the 2010 season, when he can play again.
Phelon Jones played a fair bit last year as a nickel back. He was part of the 2007 recruiting class, a class which was considered a great recruiting class at the time, and Jones was one of the gems. He was out of the Alabama gulf coast, and decommitted from Miami to sign with LSU.
When Jones was redshirting, rumor had it that he was impressing coaches with his ability. Then LSU signed Patrick Peterson in 2008, and Jones took a backseat in the depth chart to Peterson. Word out of Spring camp is that he fell behind 2008 recruit Brandon Taylor as well. With the nickel back position being phased out, and with the emergence of Ron Brooks, the handwriting was on the wall that it would be very hard for Phelon Jones to break into the rotation.
Through his career, Phelon Jones and his family (particularly his dad) have been very good soldiers for LSU. Attrition due to depth chart issues happens for every program, and it should not be a surprise that it is happening here. Also, no one should be down on Phelon Jones deciding to find a place where he can be a bigger contributor.
The two big stories here are the dangers of getting too excited about a recruit, and the fact that Les Miles took the unusual step of not limiting where Jones could go to school. On the first point, here is what I said of Jones back in 2007:
This kid looks like he has NFL written all over him. He's the perfect size for a cornerback, with the great speed you want at that position. His videos and credentials are incredible, including reportedly shutting down 2008 5-star wide receiver Julio Jones.
Count everything wrong with those passages. I got overexcited about a recruit, more than one recruit in the quoted passages alone actually. Sometimes a guy comes in and struggles more than anyone could have guessed (Francois). And sometimes a good player just falls behind players who come behind him (Phelon Jones).
Hey, at least I was right about Chad Jones.
It just goes to show that these things don't always work out the way you think they will. Phelon Jones was one of the headliners of a highly ranked recruiting class. But, it just didn't work out for him here, because as good as he was there were people younger than him who were better. It happens a lot.
The second big story is a testament to how much this coaching staff respects Phelon Jones despite his decision to leave. It is a coach's prerogative to either choose not to let a player out of his scholarship (rarely does this happen) or to put conditions on his release. Ryan Perrilloux had conditions on his release (he couldn't transfer to a school in Louisiana or to another SEC school). Robert Marve of Miami was famously not allowed to transfer to Tennessee, LSU, or any Florida school, a vengeful move for what Miami officials thought was tampering by those schools.
The most likely scenario right now is that Phelon Jones will transfer to Auburn. He could end up playing us twice in his career. Who knows, he may even end up making a play that beats LSU. Miles has decided to take that chance, in order to let a good kid do what he thinks is best. I imagine that Miles could let Jones play this year, he would let him do it, but the rules don't give Miles that option.
Attrition is an inevitable, and even necessary, development for any program. College football is a brutally competitive business, and Jones wasn't really in the plans for the future. Now he's getting on with his life. We will probably see more attrition at defensive back, as more players see the writing on the wall.