I didn't really want to step on the celebration of the Tiger basketball team winning its first SEC game, but Les Miles dropped the bombshell that everyone honestly expect yesterday when he announced a few positional changes to the media.
Can you believe it? Jai Eugene being moved to safety? Is this a move that shows that Miles has lost faith in Eugene's cover skills? Does this block Craig Loston from starting? Or will Eugene capably fill the rather large shoes to fill left by Chad Jones?
OK, no one really cares about those issues right now. We have all summer to worry about the secondary and how Miles and Chavis will organize the defense. Now is the time to completely over-react to our five-star recruit moving from quarterback to wide receiver.
There is simply no other way for me to say this more clearly: this move is so obvious that it shocks me that it has raised an eyebrow. Russell Shepard is an immensely talented prospect, but he's also incredibly raw, and small, prospect. Every time he took he hit, I winced, fearing for the kid's safety. If it were not for his immense recruiting hype, there is no way Shep sees the field as a freshmen. He is listed as 188 pounds but that looked like an extreme exaggeration because he looked like a kid.
Shepard's closest comp in the public's mind is Terrelle Pryor, another immensely talented dual threat recruit who arrived with immense hype. Pryor's just coming into his own as a player, right at the end of his sophomore year. He's also listed at 6'6" and 235#. Pryor is a great runner with questionable quarterback skills, just like Shep. He's also built like a tank, completely unlike Shep. Pryor could get by as nothing but a runner because, well, he has the build to do so. If Shepard tried to be an every down running quarterback in the SEC, he'd get killed. Not metaphorically, literally. He would get killed. Shep ain't Pryor. And would you really want the second Pryor anyway?
I want all of you recruit-niks to get real close to the computer now and read what I'm saying, because this is for you... If it were not for the immense amounts of hype surrounding recruits these days, there is no chance in hell Shepard sees the field last season. Think he was misused? Yeah, so do I. Smallish quarterbacks who rushed for more yards than they passed in their senior year should be doing two things in their first year: learning the playbook and hitting the weight room. That means a redshirt. If you think Shep is a QB, you absolutely should have been advocating a redhsirt for Shep to learn the playbook and bulk up, like almost every other QB recruit at every other program. Shep has tremendous talent, but there is no earthly way he should have been playing last year, and it's only because of the pressure on the coaching staff to try out the New Toy did he line up on the field.
He did not approach ready. Yes, he busted some big runs. He also called a lot of unnecessary timeouts because he was likely confused. He didn't get many touches because it did not look like a player that small could take the tremendous pounding a regular player takes in a game. Miles' mistake wasn't misusing Shepard, it was listening to the jackals in the fanbase who tore at their present like a kid on Christmas.
And to those of you who say that Shepard "never got a shot" at quarterback, this is a big world and we are all entitled to our opinions... but you are wrong and need to shut the hell up. Or suffer a facial burn, your choice (thanks, Bill Hicks). Saying that Shepard didn't get a shot at quarterback despite practicing with the quarterbacks and actually taking snaps at quarterback is absurd. Would anyone seriously argue that Chris Garrett has not gotten a shot at quarterback because he hasn't thrown a pass in a game yet? Didn't think so.
Shep oozes talent, but right now, it is only potential. Heck, even Michael Vick, the ultimate run-first make-it-happen quarterback, was redshirted. He's also a playmaker who needs to touch the ball, and he's no fool. He's likely fourth on the QB depth chart right now behind the two guys with lots of experience (and are only juniors) and a classic drop back guy who is no slouch in the talent department. LSU wants to get him the ball, and that means he has to move to a position where he can get the ball.
Billy Gonzales coached a pretty good all-purpose player at Florida in Percy Harvin. If Shep can play in a Harvin-type role, it will hopefully make our offense more explosive while at the same time showcase Shepard's talent so he can make it to the next level. LSU wins AND Shep goes to the NFL? Isn't that a classic win-win?
Shep moving positions is a good thing. It's a good thing for the team and it's a good thing for him. I'm pretty sure he would like to play professionally, and he has to know that it won't be at quarterback. The fact there is any controversy whatsoever at moving a talented playmaker to a position which will better showcase his skills says more about those who cannot let go of the recruiting race than the coaching staff. This is absolutely 100% the right move.