Last Saturday, a friend told me about an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that reported a member of Michigan’s secondary had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute. My first thought was that the player in question was freshman and Pennsylvania native Marlin Jackson. What a disappointment this would have been for Wolverines fans who saw the young star make tremendous plays all season and earn a starting position opposite senior Todd Howard.
I imagine that Michigan fans were elated that it wasn’t Jackson, but instead teammate Jeremy LeSueur. You may remember him from such blunders as the Michigan State game and the 2000 secondary. But for those of you unfamiliar with the LeSueur saga, I will quickly bring you up to speed.
LeSueur was a highly rated defensive back prospect from Mississippi, and it was considered a huge victory for Michigan (not to mention every school north of the Mason-Dixon line) that he didn’t sign with a school in the SEC. Analysts said he could be a dominant presence as a big, strong cornerback.
In his first year at Michigan, LeSueur redshirted after tearing his ACL and MCL. The next season, he earned regular playing time on what was widely regarding as one of the worst Michigan defenses ever. The secondary was often burned deep and was unable to keep a lead even with an offense which included Drew Henson, David Terrell and Anthony Thomas.
In the 2001 season, great things were expected from the defensive backfield as it had an additional year of experience. LeSueur, Todd Howard and Cato June were expected to anchor this unit.
But, while better, the defense still had many of the flaws that it had during the 2000 season. Howard had improved to keep his No. 1 cornerback position, but by midseason, LeSueur had lost his job to Jackson, who played brilliantly under pressure. By contrast, LeSueur struggled in the same situations.
With less than a minute left against Michigan State, LeSueur earned a 15-yard personal foul penalty for nearly ripping off Charles Rogers’ head. The penalty kept the Spartans’ drive alive and led to the eventual loss in East Lansing. LeSueur was so distraught by the media’s reaction to his play that he was unable to play in the secondary during Michigan’s remaining games.
Now it appears that his judgment is just as impaired off the field as on it. LeSueur gave the program a black eye with his unsportsmanlike play and gave it another with his latest debacle.
And coming off the heels of fellow secondary member Markus Curry’s plea of no contest to assault and reinstatement to the football team, it is time for Michigan coach Lloyd Carr to make an example of someone.
Big-time football programs are often criticized for lenient penalties on their players, and Michigan is no exception. Michigan football players have been involved in no fewer than eight incidents in the past two seasons alone. In addition to Curry and LeSueur, cornerback James Whitley was convicted on a weapons charge and running back Kelly Baraka was cited for drug possesion – twice. Shante Orr and B.J. Askew were accused of assault, although all the charges against Orr were dropped, and Howard nearly killed an old woman with his wreckless driving this summer.
LeSueur’s college career wouldn’t have to end if he were to be kicked off the team. Former Michigan cornerback William Peterson proved that a player could go on to have a successful career after being booted from the football team. After being dismissed from the team after the 1998 season, Peterson transferred to Youngstown State and then to Western Illinois, where he became a defensive standout and eventually a third-round draft pick of the New York Giants.
Like all Michigan and college football fans, I hope that LeSueur can stay out of trouble and turn his game around, but Michigan might not be the place for him to do so.
Jeff Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.