--- With the 11th hour shift from Jordan Jefferson to Jarrett Lee the hot topic in Baton Rouge, Les Miles spent the majority of his 10 minutes with the media following Wednesday’s practice talking about how the fifth-year senior fits into the game plan.
“I think there are a number of things Jarrett does differently than Jordan,” Miles said. “I think it’s certainly a different style of offense.”
Gone is the threat of the quarterback scramble, but Miles said he has faith that Lee’s strengths far outweigh the negatives.
And for those concerned that Lee will fall into the same mental traps that buried his confidence and put the Tigers behind the eight ball in games in the past, Miles stressed that those struggles are a thing of the past.
Lee is 5-4 as a starter for the Tigers, but all but one of those starts came in the 2008 season – when Lee was only a redshirt freshman. On Saturday against No. 3-ranked Oregon, the fifth-year senior will take the field with 30 games appearances under his belt.
“He’s got so much more experience than when he took the field as a starter before,” Miles said. “Now, having played some part-time role last year in every game, it allows him to draw from a number of experiences.”
--- This week Lee’s teammates voted him as a captain for the season opener against the Ducks, a move Miles said spoke volumes about the level of respect Lee has earned during his time in Baton Rouge.
“It’s pretty obvious he is a great teammate,” Miles said. “That is part of the package. I think his team has confidence in him.”
After a 16-interception season in 2008, Lee was booed in Tiger Stadium and slammed in the media, and many fans expected that once Jefferson was named the starter permanently, Lee would head out of town.
“We talked about the prospects and what all was out there,” Miles said. “There was a point in time where he envisioned that.”
But the 2009 off-season came and went, and Lee stayed.
And when the debate on his future got hottest after Lee started one game – a close call against Louisiana Tech – in 2009, he remained on the team.
Even when he went without a start last fall, Lee bailed LSU out of two SEC games. No matter, he was still – and presumably always would be – Jefferson’s backup.
Multiple times, Miles and Lee sat down to discuss the idea of a transfer – but Lee never budged from his commitment to the Tigers.
“I think anybody recognizes his career is important to him and he wants to compete,” Miles said. “We discussed it very openly. I told him the truth. I told him he would have every opportunity to compete for the job. We wanted him to stay. He needed to finish what he started.
“It was his decision. It was not any influence that I tried to display.”
As for trust in Lee navigating the team through the treacherous road that is SEC play, Miles spoke with confidence in a quarterback that has seen it all – good and bad.
“He’s been in our stadium and baptized under fire,” Miles said. “It can’t get any hotter than the places he’s been in football.
“I think he will understand it and be as comfortable as you can be.”
--- Of course, Miles couldn’t go the entirety of the media session without being asked about the legal issues that have Jefferson sidelined.
The one big question: Would Miles consider lifting the suspension of Jefferson before the legal proceedings played out in their entirety?
Miles said no.
“The issues for me are stuck into what is our discipline here,” he said. “I am going to maintain that.
“I hope he can defend himself very effectively and abide by the constraints of the legal system, and let it be expedited so he can step to the field.”
While Jefferson’s attorney, Lewis Unglesby, has publically stated that he will plead for Miles to lift the suspension, Miles said that as of Wednesday evening the two have not spoken on the matter.
--- On Monday, junior wide receiver Rueben Randle called LSU’s practice one of the most “up-tempo and high-energy workouts” the team has had in weeks.
With game day fast approaching, Miles said that he is confident that his team has put the distractions of the fight and subsequent investigation behind them.
Now, focus is solely on the Ducks.
“Football, that routine has not been upset that much,” Miles said. “We changed the cast a little bit, but our practices have been the same. The style of effort we have seen is the same.
“The best part of the routine is football. Guys can step on the field and put everything in the background and concentrate on the task at hand.”
--- On Monday, Miles said that the lone Tiger missing from the lineup would be starting left guard Josh Dworaczyk, who is scheduled to have knee surgery in a week.
While freshman La’el Collins has taken first-team reps in Dworaczyk’s place, Miles will turn to senior T-Bob Hebert on the first series this weekend.
“I think Collins will play some, but I think T-Bob will probably be (the starter),” Miles said.