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Miles Explains QB Rotation At LSU

During the SEC teleconference yesterday, Les Miles was asked about his quarterback rotation of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, how he decides who plays when, and whether or not he is concerned the Jefferson’s return might have a negative impact on Lee moving forward:

“There’s the view of Jarrett Lee’s our starter, and there are bit and pieces of game plans that Jordan Jefferson is best for.  Depending on an opponent, depending on the situation, we may dial his number.  But both guys are doing a great job.  They’re both competing.  They both want the opportunity to play all the snaps, and it’s just what you want from a first- and second-team guy…

I think you’re trying to make a discerning decision about playing your best players, I think you always worry (about messing up a good thing).  And it’s one where frankly the team takes precedence over anything else.  If you feel like the best call is to run whichever guy it is out on the field for the snaps, that’s the call you’re making as a coach that says this is my best opportunity at victory.”

In six games, Lee has completed 71 of 118 passes (60.2%) for 947 yards with 8 touchdowns and just 1 interception.

Jefferson has been used mainly as a runner (8 carries, 36 yards, 1 TD) since returning two action two weeks ago.  He has completed 3 of 4 passes or 61 yards and a touchdown through the air.

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Jefferson, Johns Cleared Of Felonies; Reinstated To LSU Team

A grand jury in Baton Rouge yesterday lessened the felony second-degree battery charge against LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson to one of misdemeanor simple battery.  The battery charge against back-up linebacker Josh Johns was dropped altogether.

The result?  By late last night both players had been reinstated to the Tiger football team.

First, good for Jefferson and Johns.  There have been conflicting accounts of what happened during that August bar fight and if the two young men are innocent — or at least not guilty of what they were initially charged with — good for them.


As we wrote last week in anticipation of this scenario, this could be bad news for Jarrett Lee and the LSU team.

Miles has already said that Jefferson will return and will “absolutely” contribute to the team.  “I can’t imagine he’d be ready to play this Saturday (against Kentucky), but I wouldn’t rule it out,” Miles said.

So how much will Jefferson play?  Miles offered this:

“Right now Jarrett Lee is our starting quarterback.  What we would want to do is add a skill set.  There would be an opportunity just like a year ago when Lee played in (10 games).  There would be that opportunity for Jordan Jefferson…

I think there is an opportunity to increase our productivity on offense which would be for Jarrett Lee to continue doing what he has done and Jordan Jefferson to come into the game and do what he can do most significantly.”

That means bringing a run threat to the Tiger quarterback position, of course.  And that makes sense.  It’s also certainly fair for Jefferson (and Johns) to return as most players charged with a misdemeanor following a bar fight would not have missed four games to begin with.

But let’s look at Lee’s numbers during this career:

Comp %

Now it’s fully possible that Lee has simply improved over time due to natural maturation and playing experience.  It’s also possible that this offseason’s changes in the offensive coaching staff have benefited him.

But it’s also possible that Lee is a more confident player when he’s not splitting time with someone else.

The addition of Jefferson into the Tiger offense may added an arrow to the quiver and already powerful team.  Or it might cause Lee to start looking over his shoulder.  One way or the other, there’s now a question as to how this will affect LSU moving forward.

And as well as LSU had been moving in its first month, does anyone really want question thrown into the mix now?

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SEC Headlines – 8/30/11 Part Two

1.  Onterio McCalebb is listed ahead of Mike Dyer on Auburn’s Week One depth chart.

2.  The Tigers have 27 underclassmen listed in their two-deep.  Yeah, 27.

3.  Gene Chizik is talking up big, bad Utah State.

4.  Nick Saban doesn’t want his dueling quarterbacks to be looking over their shoulders on Saturday.

5.  Bama receiver Duron Carter declared “FINALLY! COMING TO A STADIUM NEAR U” on Twitter following his admittance to school.

6.  The head coach likes the attitude of his new Crimson Tide team.

7.  Arkansas won’t have to rely on as many freshman as it did in 2010.

8.  Overall, there weren’t many surprises on the Hogs’ depth chart.

9.  After a good preseason camp, new quarterback Tyler Wilson’s true test begins on Saturday.

10.  LSU will lean on experienced backups to replace injured O-lineman Josh Dworaczyk.

11.  Backup quarterback Jarrett Lee will once again be pulling the trigger for the Tigers.

12.  That’s a good thing, because this writer doesn’t believe now is the time for Jordan Jefferson to return.

13.  As bad as things have been in Baton Rouge in recent weeks, there are some bright spots.

14.  Ole Miss will be looking for a little better start than last year’s loss to FCS-level Jacksonville State.

15.  Houston Nutt wonders how much can the Rebels get out of defensive end Kentrell Lockett on Saturday.

16.  UM’s coach also believes his squad can improve on last year’s turnover margin.

17.  MSU quarterback Chris Relf appears primed for a breakout season.

18.  But Dan Mullen says his signal-caller has “still got a ways to go.”

19.  Just because D-coordinator Manny Diaz has gone to Texas, don’t expect the Dogs to change their blitz-happy ways.

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SEC Headlines – 8/25/11 Part One

1.  Five-star Alabama basketball signee Trevor Lacey has been cleared to play by the NCAA.

2.  Bama receiver Michael Bowman is “the biggest clown” on the team.

3.  Trent Richardson is working to be a leader in Tuscaloosa.

4.  Tide tight ends are hoping to add an extra dimension to Bama’s offense.

5.  If you though Auburn ran plays quickly last year, wait til you see them up the pace this fall.

6.  Young guys are answering the call on AU’s defensive line.

7.  Some injured Tigers are improving on the health front.

8.  This writer doesn’t expect a whole heckuva lot to come out of the NCAA’s meeting with Danny Sheridan.  (Agreed.  We said the same thing yesterday.)

9.  Kicker Zach Hocker is ready to build on a successful freshman year at Arkansas.

10.  Bobby Petrino has made his quarterbacks off limits in scrimmages, and that’s got his pass rushers longing for next week’s season opener.

11.  Freshman linebacker Brock Haman will miss the season with a foot injury.

12.  Arkansas’ plans for a 9/11 tribute are drawing some criticism.

13.  Analysts believe it’s a longshot that Jordan Jefferson will play against Oregon next weekend.

14.  The Marine Jefferson allegedly kicked has a police record of his own in Florida.

15.  In football news, Jarrett Lee is ready if needed at quarterback.

16.  Defensive end Sam Montgomery says you should expect a lot from LSU’s young D-line.

17.  MSU has a big hole to fill at left tackle this year.

18.  Depth is a question across both Bulldog lines.

19.  Mississippi State will combine its two private fundraising arms next summer.

20.  Houston Nutt was pleased with yesterday’s practice session at Ole Miss.

21.  UM’s Mike Markuson isn’t buying all the praise being heaped on his O-line this offseason.

22.  Rebel receivers coach Gunter Brewer covers up — even in the sweltering summer heat of Mississippi — because he has a history of skin cancer.

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McElwain Says He Feels Good About Bama QB Situation; We Say UA Needs To Find A Clear-Cut Starter

Alabama is a consensus preseason Top 5 team.  In many circles, they’re viewed as a potential national champ, too.

Nevermind the fact that the Crimson Tide still has no official starting quarterback.  And you can count Bama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain among those who aren’t worried by the lack of a sure-fire starter:

“We’re very excited about what we have happening at that position.  A lot of people will through and have a quarterback situation where they’re wondering who to play simply because they don’t really have a capable player at that position.  I think we’re fortunate here — and we’ll identify when the bullets fly — but we’re very fortunate about having some quality players at the position.  Phillip Sims, AJ McCarron, Blake Sims, have done a fantastic job at the position, and have learned and really done a good job of studying.”

As any Tide fan can point out, Bama didn’t know what it was getting in 2009 with Greg McElroy, either.  And that campaign turned out pretty well (if you like crystal footballs).

But at least McElroy grabbed the job and became the clear leader of Alabama’s offense.  This season, the Tide isn’t just dealing with a lack of experience, it’s dealing with a potential rift on the football team.

For their part, Sims and McCarron are laughing off — literally, they say — the idea that the two QBs are so competitive that they’re not friendly to one another.  We’ll take them at their word.

That doesn’t mean, however, that if Sims and McCarron both do some good and some bad early in the season, there might not develop a debate between all those offensive players around them.  The longer the two players split playing time, the more likely it becomes that two camps will develop.  That’s only natural.

Having two quarterbacks isn’t always a curse.  Last year LSU finished 11-2 with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee sharing some duties.  But in a perfect world, a team will have a clear-cut, most-talented, starter and leader at signal-caller.  Alabama doesn’t have that in August.  The quicker it finds one in September or October, the better its title chances will become.

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LSU’s Kragthorpe Says It’s Tough To Groom Multiple QBs

New offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe met with some LSU fans yesterday and he let it be known that he’s not a big fan of playing multiple quarterbacks.

Last year, Jordan Jefferson was sometimes relieved by Jarrett Lee.  Both return this year along with newcomer — and fan favorite — Zach Mettenberger.  But it sounds like Kragthorpe wants to have one man pulling the trigger, not two or three:

“I’m not opposed to a multiple-quarterback system.  But it’s hard to get more than one or two quarterbacks ready every week with this 20-hour rule.  If we had a 20-hour rule when I was playing, we would have played the games on Wednesday.”

The coach had nothing but praise for Jefferson, the incumbent who head coach Les Miles has been so very high on this offseason.

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LSU Fans The Most Disappointed This Spring?

When former Georgia-turned-juco quarterback Zach Mettenberger inked with LSU, visions of touchdown passes danced in Tiger fans’ heads.  Gone were the up-and-down, frustrating days of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee… in was a new prototypical passer and a brand new offensive coordinator who’s expected to take more shots down the field.

But here’s the thing about dreams that dance in your head — eventually you have to wake up.

This spring, Les Miles has made it clear that Jefferson — who struggled mightily at times last season — was keeping a tight grip on the starter’s job.  That had to be a wake-up for Tiger fans.  Which means Jefferson’s performance in Saturday’s spring game had to feel like a bucket of cold water to the face.  Or like waking up on the locked roof of a Las Vegas casino, for you fans of “The Hangover.”

Instead of the new-and-improved Jefferson, fans saw the same guy who disappointed last season.  LSU’s starting QB was 4 of 14 for 102 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

Meanwhile, Mettenberger completed 5 of 8 passes for 86 yards including a well-thrown 60-yard touchdown toss.  Instead of seeing for themselves what Miles had been saying, the folks in purple and gold saw what they wanted to see all along — Mettenberger looking better than Jefferson.

For now, it sounds like Jefferson will still be the Tigers’ starter when the season kicks off against Oregon in Arlington, Texas.  That’s not all bad as the Tigers finished a flashy 11-2 last season.  He might not be Joe Montana, but the Tigers can win games with Jefferson at QB.

Also, Tiger supporters got just one view of Jefferson this spring.  Basically, it was one practice out of 15 and that’s just not enough data to make an informed decision.

Unfortunately for Jefferson and Miles, that one practice looked a whole lot like what LSU fans saw from #9 for most of last season.

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Kragthorpe’s Top Duty – Fix LSU’s QB Situation

New LSU offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe met the media in Baton Rouge for the first time yesterday and the talk turned quickly to coaching quarterbacks.

“Coaching quarterbacks is about two things: You play with your feet and you play with your head,” Kragthorpe said.  “You’ve got to be able to make quick decisions with your head, put the ball where it’s supposed to be put, get the ball in the playmakers’ hands.  And the other thing is you’ve got to be able to make and manufacture some offense.”

In spring practice, returning seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee will be joined by juco transfer (and former Georgia Bulldog) Zach Mettenberger in the QB race.  Tiger fans are excited about the arrival of Mettenberger, but Kragthorpe had good things to say about last year’s starter, Jefferson.

“He’s got a lot of ability.  The first thing I looked at was his ability to keep plays alive and make plays with his feet.  There were huge plays that were critical with the game in the balance.  He got first downs that kept drives alive.  That’s one of the things we talk about with the quarterbacks — keep the drive alive, get another set of downs.  Put yourself in position to keep the drive going.”

Kragthorpe said the competition for the starting job would be wide open, but it sounds like Jefferson’s feet and legs might give him the early edge over Mettenberger’s arm.  That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll hold that edge, mind you.

“I tell people all the time, ‘If you want seniority, join the Army.  If you want to play with the best players, go to LSU.’”

You can click here for a more detailed Q&A breakdown.

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Miles: Kragthrope Has The Experience To “Develop Quarterbacks”

LSU finally made the hiring of offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe official last night.  The former Tulsa and Louisville head coach replaces Gary Crowton who left LSU for Maryland.  Initial reports indicated Les Miles would take his time in finding a replacement, but he inked Kragthorpe exactly one week after Crowton’s announced his departure. 

Why Kragthorpe?

“Steve brings to our staff the type of experience necessary to develop quarterbacks,” Les Miles said via press release.  “He’s an experienced play-caller who will bring a great deal of enthusiasm and energy to the staff.  Steve will come in and build on what we’ve been able to accomplish on offense in the past.”

Ah, yes… quarterbacks.  Crowton became an unpopular man in Baton Rouge the past three seasons as he was forced to work with Andrew Hatch, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson at the signal-caller position.  None of those three will likely be drafted into the NFL anytime soon.

But Crowton has a long history of working with successful passers and high-flying offenses.  Tiger fans don’t want to hear it — because everyone loves to bash their offensive coordinator — but it’s likely the past few seasons’ problems started with the players and not the coach.

That said, many of the much-publicized recent gaffes at LSU have come on the offensive side of the ball (at the end of the Ole Miss game in 2009 and at the end of the Tennessee game in 2010).

Kragthorpe will be called upon to fix those mental errors and tutor incoming juco transfer Zach Mettenberger.  Jefferson is back and he had a solid Cotton Bowl, but folks in the Pelican State are counting on Mettenberger becoming the starter sometime in 2011 (preferably in the spring).  Jarrett Lee and incoming freshman Stephen Rivers will round out the QB position.

RC Slocum — the former Texas A&M coach who once employed Kragthorpe as his OC — believes Miles’ new hire will be “a perfect match” at LSU.  “Steve is the kind of guy you can’t help but like.  And I think a lot of Les and what he’s done since he got to LSU.  Those are two very good people who are going to work very well together.”

Slocum doesn’t believe Kragthorpe’s history as a head coach will be a hindrance, either.  “A lot of guys come in with a big ego, especially when they’ve been a head coach like Steve, but he’s not that kind of guy.  He’s very knowledgeable and will offer a lot, but he won’t come in and try to fight the head coach every step of the way.”

Many expect Kragthorpe’s offense — “A pro-style, run-first offense that set up play-action passing” — to be a better fit with Miles’ desires than Crowton’s more pass-happy system.  Of course, Crowton also employed more option with Jefferson as his starter.

A former Louisville quarterback under Kragthorpe, Tyler Wolfe said of his old coach’s system: “He runs a pro-style offense and always does a lot of things — shotgun, I-formation and multiple wide receivers.  He does a little bit of everything.”

Whether he does the things Miles and LSU fans are looking for, well, that remains to be seen.

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Don’t Blame Crowton For The QB Conundrum In Baton Rouge

Earlier this week, Les Miles took a few broadsides from the media covering the LSU football team and its still struggling passing game.

Here’s a sampling as provided by Glenn Guilbeau of The Shreveport Times…

REPORTER:  “Jordan Jefferson’s been in the program for almost three years now.  Jarrett Lee’s been in it for four, and yet you’ve got the worst passing attack in the SEC.  It continues that way every week.  Every week, you answer the question the same way, that ‘We’ve got to get better throwing the ball.’  What are you all not doing?  Or what is the problem?”

MILES:  “We’re throwing it, I can tell you that.”

REPORTER:  “I know that, but…”

MILES:  “We’re throwing it.  I don’t know.  It’s… we’re working at it.  And the players and the coaches are taking the time.  And we’re throwing.  We’re throwing balls.  I guess for me, I just expect at some point in time that this thing is going to take off.  I just think it’s OK.  That’s what we would well have expected.”

REPORTER:  “Do you think the coaching has been good enough after four years with one, three with the other?”

MILES:  “I don’t know.  You know, that’s a tough question.  The only thin I can tell you is that they’ve been coached and coached and coached and drilled.  The passing attack has not changed so significantly that it’s not comfortable for all.  I, uh, yeah, I think they’ve been coached.”

Brutal, no? 

Well it could get even more brutal if LSU loses to Alabama next Saturday and can’t throw the ball to boot.  With Miles possessing a buyout clause that basically cedes to him all the lands of The Louisiana Purchase should he be ousted, offensive coordinator Gary Crowton figures to be LSU’s version of The Fall Guy if things don’t improve.

But it’s hard to point a finger at Crowton considering his past work with passers.

He began his career in 1982 under LaVell Edwards at BYU.  From 1991 to 1993 he tutored future NFL quarterback Glenn Foley at Boston College.  As Louisiana Tech’s head coach in 1997, his team was third in the nation in passing and in total offense with future NFL quarterback Tim Rattay at the helm.

A year later, Rattay threw for a ridiculous 590 yards against 4th-ranked Nebraska.  The Bulldogs had the top passing offense in the nation in 1998 and Rattay was named an All-American.

After Louisiana Tech, Crowton became offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears where his 1999 squad ranked #3 in the NFL in passing and set a franchise record for passing.

Next, Crowton served as head coach at BYU for four seasons.  In 2001, the Cougars led the nation in total offense and in scoring.  Future NFL pick John Beck was his signal-caller in 2004. 

After losing his job at BYU, Crowton became the offensive coordinator at Oregon.  Again, his offense ranked in the Top 10 nationally in a number of categories.  His quarterbacks were future NFL’ers Kellen Clemmens and Dennis Dixon.

After coming to LSU in 2007, the Tigers immediately won a national title with him calling plays.  Matt Flynn threw for nearly 2,500 yards and wound up being drafted into the NFL.


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