JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State’s game at LSU on Saturday naturally conjures the most high-profile player the two schools have in common, and it’s a moment to reflect on what Ryan Perrilloux’s 2008 transfer meant to JSU.
Perrilloux — who chased his playing dreams in the NFL, Canadian Football League, Arena Football League, United Football League and Europe after finishing his collegiate career — brought JSU major headlines and so much promise when LSU coach Les Miles helped him land there after dismissing him
It seemed like a watershed moment. Louisiana’s Mr. Football and a one-time major recruit, who played a significant role in helping LSU win its 2007 national title, would play in JSU red and white. A then-middling FCS program had a player that would push it to another level.
Perrilloux accounted for 5,479 total yards and 57 touchdowns in two seasons, but JSU’s 2008 team was among those from Jack Crowe’s years as head coach that fell short of preseason picks to win the Ohio Valley Conference. The Gamecocks finished 8-3 and ranked 22nd, but they tied for second in the OVC and were not selected for what was then a 20-team FCS playoff field.
The 2009 team, arguably the most talented of Crowe’s 13 years, finished with a No. 16 ranking and the OVC’s best record, but APR-related penalties made the Gamecocks ineligible for the OVC title and postseason play.
Oh, to think what might have been, if that ’09 JSU team could have made its playoff run.
LSU fans probably wonder what could have been, had Perrilloux’s off-field problems not forced Miles to boot him in 2008. Miles sees the bigger picture of Perrilloux’s life today.
"There are phases in young men's lives where they make mistakes, go in a direction they shouldn't," Miles said in Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. "Hopefully, that will not define him.
“He's coaching. He's excited about it. He enjoys his life. He had an experience at Jacksonville State. We all know how talented he is."
The fact that such a talent wound up at JSU marks Perrilloux’s lasting impact. He gave the school a bigger profile in FCS market for FBS transfers, especially transfers within the SEC footprint.
JSU got transfer players before that, but Perrilloux taking his talents to The ’Ville made more players look at the school as a possible landing place. Just look at the Jacksonville dot on a map. Draw a line to every SEC locale. Every destination is drivable.
Perrilloux made more potential transfer players from this part of the country see that, and think of the players with SEC profile who have transferred to JSU since.
Washaun Ealey had his moments as a Georgia running back before he wound up at JSU.
Nearly all of JSU’s first team on the defensive line from last season’s national runner-up team came from SEC programs. That included Chris Landrum (Auburn), who just made the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.
Three wide receivers and two running backs who came from FBS schools saw action in JSU’s season-opening victory over North Alabama. All but one came from SEC schools.
That current JSU head coach John Grass coached running back Roc Thomas (Auburn) at Oxford High School helped to lure Thomas back home to Calhoun County, but count Thomas as another former high-profile recruit who chose to finish his college career at JSU.
Competitive SEC programs are replete with players who’d rather not lump their lot on a depth chart. Whether those players might wind up at JSU has become a running question.
It’s a next thought … a JSU watch list, of sorts.
Ryan Perrilloux arguably did more than any single player to make it that way. He got more potential transfer players to look at JSU, and what did they see?
Old No. 11 plying his craft in what was then called Paul Snow Stadium was quite a sight. A Perrilloux bomb to Maurice Dupree was pretty football.