Jefferson is back and that will benefit LSU

COLUMN: Senior QB's return and the potential impact he can deliver for the offense benefits the Tigers in their question for a national crown

It was inevitable that more questions about booing and Jordan Jefferson come up Monday when Les Miles met with the media.

Sports talk radio in Baton Rouge crackled with the subject as everybody with an audience speculated the why and how of the fans reacting the way they did when Jefferson entered Saturday’s game against Kentucky.

No matter which camp you fall in, the discussion can go on until the end of the season and there won’t be a resolution that makes everybody happy.

So here’s a thought: Move on. What’s done is done and nobody can un-ring that bell.

Ready or not, Jordan Jefferson is back and will play a key role for the Tigers this season

What’s clear is that Jefferson will remain a viable alternative for the Tigers as Jarrett Lee’s backup and, more importantly, a more serious running threat than Lee.

This isn’t going to be a column debating whether Jefferson should’ve been reinstated or if he played too soon.

Bottom line – I’m of the belief that the kid has paid the price for whatever he did at Shady’s Bar that night and will always have to deal with that stain on his reputation.

So if he’s cleared legally to play and his coach thinks he can help a great team be even better, I see no issue whatsoever in Jefferson getting a chance when the situation is right.

If you want to completely grasp just why Miles has welcomed back the senior quarterback who was a starter for two seasons, look across the field this week when the Florida Gators come to Tiger Stadium.

Coming into this season, Florida’s offense under first-year coordinator Charlie Weis was in good shape. John Brantley was back as a senior after an up-and-down 2010 season and he seemed to have grasped what Weis wanted from him.

Similarly to Lee, Brantley’s numbers weren’t huge: Through four games he has completed 55-of-86 passes for 752 yards with four touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.

But he was – catchword alert! – managing the offense efficiently and the Gators were winning.

Then Brantley came out against Alabama and rifled a 65-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose on Florida’s first offensive snap. By the time the third quarter arrived, Brantley was in a groove with 190 yards on 11-of-16 passing.

Then, as quickly Brantley had apparently taken a quantum leap, his season ran into a brick wall when he was sacked and his left leg twisted awkwardly underneath him when Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw crunched him on a sack. The unofficial prognosis is a high ankle sprain that will keep him out for 3-5 weeks.

The impact on the Gators’ offense? Massive.

John Brantley's injury last week is a perfect example of why Les Miles welcomes Jordan Jefferson back.

Against the No. 1-ranked team in the country in its own raucous and hostile stadium with a defense similar to Alabama’s if not better in some ways, Florida’s offense will be in the hands of one and maybe two true freshmen.

Granted, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissette were among the country’s top-rated QBs last season.

In high school.

Let that roll off your tounge for a second.

The country’s 17th-ranked team will take the field at Tiger Stadium with two kids who less than a year ago were playing with and against mostly other players who never had a shot at playing D-I football.

As prep stars, Driskel and Brissette could either throw the ball further than defenders could cover their receivers or simply run away from trouble.

Now in five days one or both wet-behind-the-ears QBs have to look for ways to keep the LSU defense – with 5-8 future pros on the first unit – off balance.

Flip that to LSU’s sideline.

With Jefferson back and with a full week of practice under his belt, the Tigers have the most experienced backup quarterback in the country.

If Lee gets roughed up this weekend or at any point this season, or if he’s struggling enough to need a break, Miles can turn to a quarterback who has started 27 games (17 vs. SEC foes) and helped guide the Tigers to 20 victories in those starts.

You think Will Muschamp and Weis wouldn’t love that fallback plan about now?

This isn’t an effort to campaign for Jefferson’s skills as a QB. I’ve been as critical of him in that regard as anybody who covers LSU. He still has tons of room for improvement.

But LSU has an incredibly beneficial situation with Lee and Jefferson right now – arguably as solid a 1-2 quarterback tandem as any other national championship contender this season, at least from an experience standpoint.

Ryan Perrilloux: LSU needed backup quarterback to reach the top in 2007

Miles has alluded a few times to the 2007 season when LSU needed both Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux to complete the journey to the top. Perrilloux got two starts, none more important than the SEC Championship Game when he flashed his brilliance at times in a 21-14 triumph over Tennessee.

For the Tigers to make that same kind of rewarding trip, it’s a near virtual reality they’ll need more than one quarterback. Now with Jefferson back, that reality is a lot easier to imagine.

It may this week against a young but fast and athletic Florida defense. It may be on the road at Tennessee. I would say it’s very safe to count on Jefferson being integral in the game plan against Alabama’s ferocious defense.

So get used to the idea, because it’s more than that now. Jefferson is back and he gives the LSU offense a wrinkle that could – and in all likelihood will – make a major difference at some point this season.

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