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Four Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Take Scrimmage Stats Too Seriously

With spring practice come spring scrimmages.  Often closed to the media, reporters and fans alike are left to sift through officially-released stats and statements, looking for insight into how School X’s football team is coming together.

There’s only one problem with spring scrimmages.  You can’t tell much about ‘em.  Here are four quick reasons why you should take scrimmage reports with a grain of salt this spring:

1.  When it comes to closed scrimmages, you’re left to trust that coaching staffs are releasing accurate information.  You might remember the suggestions made last year that Jordan Jefferson’s passing numbers at LSU might have been “adjusted” just a bit by a coach who wanted to build up his quarterback to the Tiger fanbase.  When push came to shove and Jefferson actually stepped on the field in the fall, well, let’s just say he hadn’t evolved into Aaron Rodgers after all.  When scrimmages are closed, there’s no telling what really went on behind those locked gates.

2.  Even when scrimmages are open, how do you know that what looks good isn’t really a sign of something bad?  Perfect example: “Man, our running backs are putting up some monster numbers this spring!”  That could indeed mean that your favorite school’s running backs and O-lineman are going to be fantastic.  But another translation might be that your squad’s run defense, D-line and linebackers are abysmal.  If a passing game looks good in the spring, does that mean the offense is actually good?  Or does it mean the defense is porous on the back end?  You can’t tell from a scrimmage.

3.  Coaches focus on certain plays and players for their own purposes.  These scrimmages are not actual games.  A perfect example of this actually comes from the NFL ranks.  During exhibition games — and those are more game-like than college scrimmages — coaches will often call plays with the sole intent of getting tape of a player executing a specific call.  Some NFL coaches could care less about winning and losing exhibition games because they’re simply trying to see which of their left guards does a better job on “686 Pump F-Stop.”  College coaches control their scrimmages, too.  More likely they’re grading players, not trying to win practice sessions.

4.  When you see that the Red Team “beat” the Blue Team, ask yourself: Who’s on each team?  Does your coach run his first-string offense against his second-team defense?  Or does he believe in using the 1s against the 1s?  Is one team stacked with starters?  Is the other unit packed with scrubs?

We realize we’re going to be bringing you many headlines regarding scrimmages in the coming weeks.  Just remember when you read those stories that you really can’t tell a whole heckuva lot by what’s written and said.

Until your school lines up against another school this fall and uses its best players and best plays to try to actually win a game… everything remains a big bit of guesswork.

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Jefferson Didn’t Like LSU Game Plan In BCS Title Game, Either

Add another name to the list.  This time, the name of a quarterback who looked incredibly limited during LSU’s loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.

Jordan Jefferson told WCNN-AM in Altanta yesterday that he, too, was unhappy with the Tigers plan of attack in the big game:


“I think we should’ve spread them out a little bit more, put the ball in different passing areas, use our talent on the receiving side,” Jefferson said. “We had that in as far as play-calling, we just didn’t get to it.

We have great guys in those areas and sometimes we just wonder why we don’t use those guys. But we’re not the one calling the plays. We still have to go out and execute what the coaches and coordinators are calling. We can’t complain as players, but sometimes we do question that…

I definitely didn’t expect for it to play (out) like that.  Alabama was a little bit more prepared than us. There was a lot of things that we should’ve did different to catch a rhythm on offense. To win a type of game like that, you’ve got to win all three phases – offense, defense and special teams – and we just didn’t get over that hump to winning those phases. We kind of fell short in that game.”


Tiger fans will love the part about Alabama being a little bit more prepared.  I’m sure that won’t be used against Les Miles on pro-Tiger messageboards.

While Jefferson shot down “many rumors that are not true,” he did confirm that LSU practiced one plan and then called another on gameday.  The ex-Tiger said that his team had studied Utah’s 2007 Sugar Bowl victory over Bama before this year’s BCS title game, but to no avail.


“We were going to spread out our guys to make sure we’d get them the ball.  But once we got in the game, it wasn’t how we practiced.”


The biggest question now?  When are players and ex-players going to stop talking about what went wrong that night in New Orleans?

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Miles Shoots Down Rumored Brouhaha At LSU

You can add another name to the list of LSU folks denying that a pre-BCS title game fuss led to an uninspired performance in the biggest game of the year.  The new name?  Les Miles, who was asked if there was any truth to the rumor of player dissension:

“Not at all.  We took the field just like we always have.  There’s never been any issue prior to a game.  There has never been a player-coach interaction before or after a game that was negative.”

Most of the rumors and messageboard posts claim that part of the team wanted Jarrett Lee at quarterback and part wanted Jordan Jefferson.  Miles never did go to Lee during the game, but his explanation at a presser yesterday was the same one he delivered after the contest last Monday night.

“I do think about the ability to change quarterbacks,” Miles said.  “That was a question that I had.  I brought it to my staff. … I can tell you that Jarrett Lee did come to mind, we do have confidence in Jarrett.”

But, LSU crossed the 50 or the first time all night early in the fourth quarter.  Down 15-0, Miles felt Jefferson still gave his team the best chance to come back.

“Jordan Jefferson had put us in that position (at Bama’s 32 thanks to an 18-yard quarterback scramble), and the way the pass rush was going in that game we just felt like we needed a mobile quarterback to make a play like that and then understand that if you finish just one drive and score seven, it’s a completely different game.  We just felt like we needed that guy who might be able to get loose with his feet.”

Since the title game, LSU has lost out on star quarterback prospect Gunner Kiel and seen three underclassmen declare for the NFL draft.  What was bright and cheery on the Bayou last Sunday has turned dark and dreary in the minds of many over the last 10 days.

But Miles isn’t stressing.  “We return a team that in my mind will have just as much talent and be just as capable as any that we’ve had… The fundamental of this program is to win championships and this team is a championship team.  We won the West.  We won the conference and certainly in our view the conference is the best in the country.  We spent 11 weeks as the number one team int he country and repelled all comers.  We played eight nationally ranked teams, beat the national champs in the regular season and played in the last game where only two teams get to play.  I cannot bemoan this team’s success, and by any measure this is a great year.”

True enough.  But what about the quarterback spot next year?

“We’ll throw the football more,” said Miles.  “I think there will be a fun approach, a different view of our quarterback position now, and I think it will allow us to throw the football more effectively and to approach a gameplan that can feature some receivers and some balls being thrown down the field maybe a little bit more efficiently.”

Perhaps there would be a lot less griping in the LSU camp today if Miles and company had just tried that approach a time or two against Alabama in New Orleans.

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SEC Headlines – 1/10/12 Part Two

Here are the headlines from the other half of the league, plus a smattering of BCS Championship Game coverage:

1.  Here’s a statistical look at new Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

2.  Looks like Mike Dyer is finally making his move to Arkansas State official… but Onterio McCalebb is leaning toward returning to the Plains.

3.  Knile Davis is expected to return to Arkansas for his senior season, too, according to a teammate’s tweet.

4.  The Hogs’ Top 5 finish is their first since way back in 1977.

5.  Rick Stansbury wants better defense from his MSU squad.

6.  Ole Miss redshirt freshman Jelan Kendrick is hoping for more minutes now that Dundrecous Nelson has been booted from the team.

7.  Alabama was dominant at the Superdome… and it’s earned them the Sports Illustrated cover.

8.  The loss was stunning for LSU.

9.  Nick Saban turned out to be a prophet.

10.  AJ McCarron stepped up on the game’s biggest stage.

11.  The Tide are still waiting for final word on linebacker CJ Moseley’s injury.

12.  UA kicker Jeremy Shelley’s leg provided the difference on the scoreboard.

13.  Story of the day: Les Miles stuck with Jordan Jefferson even as Rome burned… but at least he “considered” going to Jarrett Lee.

14.  The Tigers’ big play defense turned in no big plays.

15.  Don’t forget… LSU arrived a year ahead of schedule.

16.  Meanwhile, Bama will look to reload in the fall.

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LSU Not Happy With Oddsmaker Sheridan Or Talk About Player Grades

When quarterback Jarrett Lee lost his starting job to Jordan Jefferson on November 12th against Western Kentucky, rumors of academic issues popped up on The Bayou.  Les Miles said academics had nothing to do with Jefferson passing Lee on the depth chart.

In the weeks since then, more rumors have begun to circulate regarding multiple LSU players and their academic eligibility for the BCS Championship Game, should the Tigers make that game as expected.

Yesterday, both Miles and LSU AD Joe Alleva addressed the rumors.  Here’s Miles’ comment first:

“Academic issues are certainly very private in my mind.  Our guys go through a series of midterms, finals and papers.  The overview is something that each guy has and certainly I have of the team.  That is not something I am going to share.  The reality is that this time of year everybody responds and comes back.  If you have a ‘C’ or a ‘B,’ it is time to pick it up.  There is no difference with our football team.”

Okay, well that’s pretty much double-talk.  Alleva’s statement was a bit more straight-forward… and harsh:

“Despite media and messageboard speculation, no LSU student-athletes have been declared ineligible for postseason competition.  The current semester is not complete and finals are still ahead.  So it is grossly unfair to our student-athletes, and it is both premature and irresponsible to speculate on the final grades and postseason eligibility of our student-athletes.”

So what made Alleva decide to speak out about rumors?  USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan tweeted the following yesterday:

“Rumors out of Baton Rouge: Quarterback Jarrett Lee will be ineligible for BCS national championship game due to grades. 

If true, LSU fans need not worry as Jordan Jefferson is the man and Zach Mettenberger is a capable backup.”

No word on whether or not Sheridan heard these rumors from Auburn’s bag man.

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UA’s Petrino Curses LSU’s Miles For Doing Unto Him What He’s Done Unto Others

With five minutes remaining in 41-17 beatdown on Saturday, Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino didn’t take too kindly to Les Miles sticking the final three points on the board with a 37-yard field goal attempt.  The fact that the Tigers led 38-17 and had starter Jordan Jefferson pass on five of seven plays to get into field goal range likely played some role in his disgust as well.

Petrino’s message to Miles from across the field was caught by CBS cameras and, well, if you can read lips it’s not hard to figure out what he had to say:

After the game, Miles tried to speak with Petrino, but the Razorback coach wanted no part of that conversation:

Now one could easily defend Miles for trying to put more points on the board.  His squad is playing for a slot in the BCS title game and style points might count to the human voters.

But Miles needs no defending.  A week earlier he took his foot off the gas and had his team kneel four times at the Ole Miss five-yard-line with five minutes to play.  He was ripped for that move, as well, so perhaps this time he decided to err on the side of running it up.

Or perhaps Miles fears Arkansas a bit more than Ole Miss when it comes to the recruiting trail.  The Hogs have reached the 10-win plateau two years in a row at this point.  Perhaps LSU’s coach wanted to show recruits the difference between his squad and Petrino’s.

Whatever Miles’ motivation, Petrino was in the wrong.  Mainly because Petrino hasn’t exactly been Bobby the Lenient this year, either:

51-7 over Missouri State — five of last 13 plays were passes

52-3 over New Mexico — scored last TD up 45-3 with 4:28 to play

38-14 over Auburn — scored last TD up 31-14 with 5:50 to play on pass from starting QB

44-28 over South Carolina — scored last TD up 37-28 with 4:07 to play

49-7 over Tennessee — scored last TD up 42-7 with 6:37 to play

44-17 over Mississippi State — scored last TD up 37-10 with 3:20 to play

Petrino has done a fantastic job in Fayetteville and he’s turned the Razorbacks into a national power.  But he’s no longer at Louisville.  Sure, he can still win big with his potent offense, but he’ll need to field a top-flight defense if he ever wants to win an SEC championship.  Until he gets himself one of those, it’s likely he’ll continue to find himself in situations like the one that so riled him up on Saturday.

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LSU – Alabama: The View From Arkansas

TJ Carpenter

I think LSU wins this game. LSU seems to take sick sadistic pleasure out of going into hostile environments and beating their opponent.

I don’t think Bryant Denny will be a factor. Alabama’s offense is great, but it may be their downfall. Say what you will about Jarrett Lee, but he and Jordan Jefferson have both been in a big situation like this one before. AJ McCarron hasn’t. If McCarron makes a mistake, say goodbye Crimson Tide. The team that makes the most mistakes in this game will lose.Say what you will about LSU’s offense. They don’t make mistakes.

Alabama will come into this game believing in their offense to a fault. LSU will win a wild one in Tuscaloosa…. or not. Who knows, I just want to see this game!

TJ Carpenter is host of The TJ Carpenter Show on The Hog Sports Radio Network from 1-4pm (listen live at TJ Carpenter contributes to and


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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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Report: UF’s Brantley To Miss LSU Game

According to a report by ESPN’s Joe Schad — the same man who reported last Saturday morning that Jordan Jefferson wouldn’t play for LSU over the weekend (and he did) — Florida’s John Brantley will sit versus the Tigers this weekend.

“Florida quarterback John Brantley is not expected to play against No. 1 LSU on Saturday after suffering a high ankle sprain against Alabama last week, a person close to the QB confirmed Sunday night.”

When Alabama’s defense was finished with Brantley, it looked as though the senior signal-caller had suffered a knee injury and the worst was feared.  If you believe Schad and his source, it seems as though that more serious injury has been averted.

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SEC Headlines 10/2/2011 Part One

Arkansas 42 – Texas A&M 38

1. Razorbacks rally as Tyler Wilson throws for school-record 510 yards.

2. 281 receiving yards for Jarius Wright.

3. Two teams combine for 1,209 total yards of offense Saturday.

4. Mike Sherman takes heat for fourth-down decisions.

5. Aggies now 0-7 against the SEC since 2000.

LSU 35 – Kentucky 7

6. Jordan Jefferson booed by “a significant and clearly discernable, subset of the crowd.”

7. Les Miles glad to have him back.  Says victory is revenge for 2007 loss to Kentucky.

8. LSU defense holds Kentucky to 155 total yards.

9. An “almost shocking, lack of explosive offensive playmakers,” for the Wildcats.

Georgia 24 – Mississippi State 10

10. Mississippi State 0-3 in conference play for the first time since 2006.

11. Georgia’s offense sputters in second half but defense dominates.

12. A manufactured slight? Georgia players thought Mississippi State was stomping on midfield logo.

13. Three interceptions for Aaron Murray Saturday -threw eight all of last year.

14. Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell questions decision to send field-goal unit on to the field.

Tennessee 41 – Buffalo 10

15. Four touchdown passes for Tyler Bray and 180 receiving yards for Da’Rick Rogers.

16. Derek Dooley:  ”It was a really good first half. I was disappointed in the second half.”

17. Coach frustrated by big plays: ”On defense, it’s the same old story.”

18. “The Vols are about to move from the low minors to the major leagues of college football.

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