RABALAIS: Stormy offseason for Tigers

HOOVER, Ala. - Suddenly, one of the most talked about teams in college football is getting talked about for all the wrong reasons.

Since the growing pains of the Ryan Perrilloux days, LSU football hasn’t been the epicenter of a whole lot of off-the-field craziness.

This offseason has been something different, though.

First, came the Willie Lyles saga, a rising swell of background noise that finally bled over into the main tracks of LSU’s bound-for-BCS glory preseason football anthem.

The whole matter reached a crescendo the past couple of weeks when first an NCAA investigator dropped by LSU to have a word with some LSU football coaches about the self-styled football recruiting service operator many are now referring to as a common street agent.

Then, an ESPN investigative report charged that much of the video Lyles’ company sent LSU was useless and/or of poor quality. How shocking - not! - considering Lyles seems to be about as good a recruiting service provider as Colonel Klink was a jailer.

Tuesday, the NCAA handed down a one-year probation on the Akiem Hicks/D.J. McCarthy/recruiting-phone-calls-gone-wild saga that has been brewing since 2009. A minor bump on the road to the 2011 season considering the Tigers have already served the major scholarship reduction penalties, but nonetheless one that left road tar on LSU’s purple and gold fenders. “Major sanctions” isn’t something you want on your résumé.

Thursday, junior wide receiver Russell Shepard was yanked from LSU’s starting rotation for media days at the last minute, for reasons yet to be fully explained. How serious the matter is remains a subject of conjecture.

You have to wonder how this is playing in the place where it stands to make the most impact: the LSU locker room. To hear senior linebacker Ryan Baker tell it, this offseason hasn’t been much of a distraction.

“We haven’t paid attention to that,” said Baker, one of the three players LSU brought to Southeastern Conference Football Media Days. “We just heard about Russell before we got on the plane. It hasn’t trickled down to the locker room.”

If true, that is good news for LSU fans who don’t want their promising season running off the tracks before it even begins.

Still, one has to ask: Does all of this mean LSU is running a renegade program? Has SMU-like lawlessness descended on Tigertown?

Probably not. LSU has never been that kind of serial offender program. It would be more accurate to say that these troubles come in cycles - remember the Crazy Days at LSU years in the mid-1980s?

LSU football has enjoyed an unusually tranquil period. It’s sort of like the post-Gustav breather Louisiana has had from hurricanes the last couple of years. Unfortunately, you know one day another one is coming.

Don’t know yet what kind of hurricane season this will turn out to be. So far, LSU it’s been a stormy summer.