Two-sport star Zach Lee considering future with LSU

By Michael Lambert

LSU football coach Les Miles and baseball coach Paul Mainieri are no strangers to recruiting the best talent in the country to suit up for the Tigers.

Miles is regarded as one of the top recruiters in the nation, landing the likes of Russell Shepard, Patrick Peterson and Chad Jones.

Mainieri holds his own in the recruiting world as well, having signed Leon Landry, Austin Nola and Anthony Ranaudo, among others.

Now the two coaches are forced to muster their recruiting prowess into one prospect who could alter the future of LSU football and baseball — phenom Zach Lee of McKinney, Texas.

The two-sport star dominated the high school gridiron on Friday nights, throwing for 2,564 yards and 31 touchdowns his senior season, and owned the diamond, striking out 90 batters and leading McKinney High School with a 11-3 record and a 2.15 ERA.

Lee, with his 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound stature, was drafted 28th overall June 7 by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2010 MLB Draft, but he is currently attending summer classes at LSU and working with the football team.

Bobby Reyes, Lee’s football coach at McKinney, said he predicts his former quarterback will choose to play at LSU.

“He’s told me all along … he wanted to go to school, and he wanted to play both [football and baseball],” Reyes said.

Reyes said he talked to Lee about the potential of having to decide between LSU and an MLB team.

“It’s a decision him and his family will have to make,” Reyes said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it — that’s what he always told me.”

Shea Dixon, managing editor of, said Lee may make his decision before Aug. 16, the deadline for drafted players to sign.

“Coach Mainieri usually asks his guys to give him some sort of heads up,” Dixon said. “I’m guessing it won’t come down to the last hour.”

Dixon talked to Lee before he enrolled in LSU, and Dixon said all indications point to the athlete joining the Tigers on the field.

“The impression I got is that he is looking forward to college,” Dixon said.

Mainieri said he was surprised Lee went in the first round.

“The Dodgers took him in the first round, and really, from my knowledge, they had not really had any conversations with him about whether or not he was signable,” Mainieri said at a media session the day of the draft. “His asking price is through the roof.”

Dixon said the Dodgers, already struggling financially after the divorce of owner Frank McCourt, drafted the pitcher knowing he would be tough to sign.

“At first the numbers were $2 and 3 [million],” Dixon said. “Then I heard the Dodgers people were saying anywhere from $4 to 6 [million].”

Rene Nadeau, college football analyst for ESPN and TigerVision, said LSU is the favorite to land Lee.

“There’s a better-than-average chance he’s going to go to LSU,” Nadeau said. “The Dodgers’ situation with the divorce — that’s going to make him tough to sign. Money is just not available.”

Los Angeles has signed most of its draft picks, including the second and third round picks.
Ralston Cash, a high school pitcher from Georgia, and former LSU outfielder Leon Landry have inked deals with the Dodgers since the draft.

“We’re all hoping that [Lee] shocks the world and doesn’t sign as a first-round draft choice,” Mainieri said.

Reyes said Lee has the ability to be a duel-sport athlete for the Tigers.

“He’s talented enough to play quarterback and pitch for LSU,” Reyes said. “He’s somebody that can balance the two.”

Lee was the only quarterback in LSU’s 2010 recruiting class. Shepard, who has now moved to wide receiver, and Chris Garrett from Tupelo, Miss., were signed as quarterback in the 2009 class.

“It’s unrealistic for him to come in and compete for the starting spot.” Nadeau said. “[Junior quarterback] Jordan Jefferson’s going to be given every opportunity possible.”

Nadeau said Lee would see more time on the mound of Alex Box Stadium early in his career.

“It would be a bigger shot in the arm to Paul Mainieri,” Nadeau said. “He has a lot more to gain immediately than Les Miles does.”

Dixon said Lee has started off strong in limited football practices this summer in Baton Rouge.

“From what I hear, he is impressing the coaches,” Dixon said.

Reyes knows what LSU will be losing if Lee signs a deal with the Dodgers.

“LSU better really pray he doesn’t sign a baseball contract,” Reyes said. “He can be a big part of what they do for the next four years.”

Reyes said Lee’s best attributes are his short-term memory and potential to grow from his 200-pound frame.

Off the field, Reyes said Lee, who had a 4.8 GPA at McKinney, is down to Earth and humble among all the hype surrounding him.

“He’s a yes sir, no sir kind of guy,” Reyes said. “Zach is as fine of a young man as you’re going to meet.”

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