Jordan Jefferson has put Les Miles in a tricky situation.
Sure, Jefferson is just one of four LSU players interviewed Tuesday by Baton Rouge police, but the potential charging of Jarvis Landry or Josh Johns or Chris Davenport - and the suspension that likely would follow - doesn’t carry the implications that such a development in Jefferson’s case would.
Yes, many other players were on hand for the altercation outside that bar Friday morning, but at this point they are no more than curfew-breaking bystanders.
There are legal issues that trump football ones, and determinations to be reached, but Miles’ primary job right now is to get his fourth-ranked football team ready to play the third-ranked team (Oregon) in 10 days.
Jefferson is the starting quarterback, the supposed team leader, the player more than any other that Miles has stood steadfastly behind in the wake of strong, recurring criticism, both fair and unfair.
Miles has made it clear for months that it would be Jefferson, not Jarrett Lee, who replaced an ineffective Jefferson several times last season, or transfer Zach Mettenberger who Miles would trust to run his team as it embraced national title-level expectations.
It has been Miles who has talked up Jefferson, saying he has better mechanics, he’s more consistent, he’s more confident, more mature, more of a leader.
Now this. Perhaps the most challenging opener in LSU history is looming and Jefferson’s status is uncertain.
Miles said Tuesday night he would suspend or absolve the players in question regardless of the status of the police investigation if he felt he had the necessary information. But he doesn’t, and the police say their investigation could continue for another seven to 10 days.
Miles doesn’t want to prematurely judge Jefferson - who before Friday morning had an unblemished off-the-field record with the Tigers - and suspend or bench him for the sake of football continuity when Jefferson might later be exonerated.
But he can’t prepare for this opener as though Jefferson will definitely be available, then find out in the coming days that a suspension is the appropriate - or unavoidable - punishment.
So he must prepare his team to play with Jefferson and Lee playing quarterback, and also prepare it to play with Lee starting and Mettenberger waiting in the wings. That must be complicating preparations for a team whose offensive pace is complicated enough.
Miles said the ongoing investigation has left the coaches and the players “weighed down.” He said the Tigers’ preparation is being hurt by the “seriousness” surrounding practice. He understated he’s “concerned about the time frame.”
The circumstances have changed, but the wild card LSU has dealt with for the past two seasons has returned for this season’s opener.
Les Miles doesn’t know if he can count on Jordan Jefferson.