During his brief tenure at LSU, Jeremy Hill has displayed a rare ability to run over, through and away from opposing defenders. Unfortunately, the star runner hasn't shown the same elusiveness with the law.
His inclusion on the latter list is now tenuous at best.
If Hill is found guilty, he could see jail time because conditions of his probation mandate he "refrain from all criminal conduct."
Coach Les Miles understandably wants to wait until the legal process plays out before deciding Hill's fate. All eyes will be on Miles to see how handles the situation.
This isn't just any player. Hill is a future high NFL draft pick. Anyone who watched him run roughshod through the LSU defense during the spring football game at Tiger Stadium could see he's on the brink of stardom.
Regardless, playing college football is a privilege, not a right. Especially so at a school like LSU. And especially for someone like Hill, who'd already been granted a second chance.
Even if Hill skates on the battery charge, he still deserves discipline for getting himself into the predicament in the first place and then handling it so poorly afterward.
Who started the fight and why is irrelevant at this point. It almost surely will dissolve into an unwinnable he said-she said argument.
Hill, though, will have a more difficult time explaining what happened after the incident. He fled the scene and lied to police.
What's more, he embarrassed the program. The last thing LSU needed in the wake of the Jordan Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu,Tharold Simon incidents was another black eye, much less one from its best player. These things don't happen in a vacuum. Each arrest causes untold collateral damage to the program's reputation.
Forget the law, Hill is guilty of violating the rules of common sense. What's a guy on probation doing in a bar at 2:13 a.m.?
We've all heard the saying about nothing good happening after 2 a.m.? Hill is living proof.
No, Miles needs to make a statement here and a strong one. Stiff punishment is required, beyond the requisite early-morning suicides and stadium stairs. A slap-on-the-wrist sit-down for a game or two won't be enough.
This isn't about Hill anymore. It's about LSU football, which has generated an inordinate amount of negative headlines in the past 18 months.
Is the LSU football program out of control? Hardly. Hill's arrest is disturbing, no doubt. It's the sixth in the past three years and that doesn't include the incidents involving Simon, Mathieu, Jefferson, Karnell Hatcher and Derrick Bryant after they left the program.
Still, it'd be stretch to say Miles has lost control of the program. In the same span, Arkansas (12), Florida (13) and Missouri (16) have had twice as many players arrested. Even Kentucky (8) and Ole Miss (8) have had more players run afoul of the law.
Any group of 100 teen-agers and twenty-somethings is going to have a few find trouble. Young people make mistakes. Some of them are athletes. No school is immune.
Besides, Miles' program largely avoided off-field incidents during the first five years of his tenure.
Miles handled the Mathieu situation about as well as can be expected. He deftly walked the tightrope of showing empathy for a young player from a troubled background while also doing what's best for the program.
It speaks volumes about Miles' leadership that Mathieu continues to hold the coach in such high regard despite being exiled from the program.
But it's a slippery slope. The descent from dominance to downtrodden can be precipitous.
In Urban Meyer's first five seasons at Florida, the Gators went 57-10 and won two BCS titles. But as the wins mounted, so, too, did the off-field incidents. By 2010, the program had spun out of control. Approximately 30 players were arrested in Meyer's six seasons. Meyer resigned after an 8-5 season in 2010. A year later, Florida went 3-5 in the SEC and was unranked.
Mighty Southern Cal experienced a similarly meteoric rise and fall in the Pete Carroll era.
It can happen.
Miles is being compensated handsomely to ensure the same fate doesn't befall LSU.
Hill's situation requires a heavy hand. In the end, Hill and LSU football will be better off because of it.