Dominant theme

COLUMN: After a 38-7 victory that improved No. 1-ranked LSU to 7-0 this season, the hot topic remains a two-quarterback system. Like it or not, the madness to Les Miles' method seems to be working.

Quarterback rotation? Or situation? Or controversy?


Or in LSU’s case, is it just the way things are?


Miles: 'I think the diversity of attack with both quarterbacks is what we want.'

Somewhere there’s an answer wrapped up nicely but buried – which is apparently just fine with Tigers coach Les Miles and the one quarterback who is speaking to the media.


Not surprisingly, LSU’s two-quarterback system was a dominant theme Monday as the Tigers began work toward facing Auburn on Saturday.


Unlike the immediate of Saturday’s 38-7 romp past Tennessee when Miles grew a little testy on the subject, he calmly fielded questions during his weekly ‘Lunch with Les’ interview segment.


The gist of his answers? Same as it’s been since Jordan Jefferson was reinstated prior to the Kentucky game – that Jarrett Lee is the starter and will be in the game in most key situations.


“I think the diversity of attack with both quarterbacks is what we want,” Miles said. “That is certainly going to give defensive coordinators issues as they prepare calls and as they prepare formation attacks. Again, I like the diversity of our quarterback play and I think it should continue.”


As for the two QBs involved, Lee reiterated he has no qualms about splitting time with Jefferson, who will not be made available to the media for the time being.


Like he did Saturday after a three-touchdown pass performance when he did not start the second half, Lee stuck to the company line Monday saying “We don’t have a problem with it. We’re fine with it. We’re winning ballgames. We have a goal that we want to get to at the end of the year.”


So, there’s that.


Lee took it a step further and explained – accurately – why this two-headed monster seems to be working so well.


Since Jefferson returned for the Kentucky game, the Tigers have nudged their offensive production up by an average of 44.7 yards a game and have blazed to three SEC wins by an average margin of 38-8.


“There’s things that Jordan and me do differently that the other might can’t do and that’s why we’re doing this situation right here,” Lee said, sounding more Texan than ever. “Coach Miles, Coach (Steve) Kragthorpe and Coach (Greg Studrawa) are doing a great job of subbing us in when the right time is needed.”


A big reason the current setup works is because of Lee’s personality, combined with what he went through in 2008 and ’09.


Never a prima donna or high-maintenance player, Lee’s laid-back – sometimes ‘aw-shucks’ – attitude makes him capable of handling the emotional tug-o-war most high-level college quarterbacks would struggle with.


Those struggles haven’t been evident with Lee, and the way he has fielded one question after another the last few weeks are an indication that he’s rolling with this latest obstacle just fine, thank-you.


“I don’t know if Jarrett Lee is what I would consider laid-back,” Miles said. “I think he’s attention to detail, I think he’s hard working. I think he is a teammate. I think he wants for success for his team. I don’t think he precludes just his success at quarterback. I think he enjoys Jordan Jefferson’s success at quarterback. That feel makes a difference in how certainly his team he sees and virtually everybody sees it. He’s just doing the right thing. He’s just being Jarrett Lee.”


Or is he Lee doing his Manchurian candidate shtick and just regurgitating what he thinks sound best?


“When it comes to practice and games, my mindset totally changes,” Lee said Monday. “I get focused and zoned in. Whatever helps us win. Whoever needs to come in and make plays, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re winning ball games right now, we’re moving the ball, right now we’re happy with the situation. We just want to continue to win.”


Yep, sounds familiar and it should because when Lee locks in on a phrase, he sticks with it.


But the truer gauge right now is what Lee’s teammates see.


Last week it was Rueben Randle talking unabashedly about Lee’s swelling confidence.


This week, Russell Shepard took the baton and ran with it.


Shepard: 'For two seniors to step in and handle it the way they've handled it, you have to look at it and just look at it and be in awe.'

“He’s been through the highs and the lows of being a quarterback – not just in the SEC, but at LSU,” Shepard said when asked how and why Lee is handling the renewed competition so well. “We feel like this is a different place when you think of college football. Very few places compare to this. Our fans are very involved and they’re very passionate.


“In ’08, mentally he took a beating and everybody shamed him and said you don’t need to be here. He kind of took that and reformed that and kind of gave him the courage and the want to prove those people wrong. When you have somebody on the field like that, somebody that you know has been through all that, and still steps in and is still that leader for us, that’s amazing for this team.”

“It’s hard. Especially when you know at the quarterback position there’s one position. … For two seniors to step in and handle it the way they’ve handled it, you have to look at it and just look at it and be in awe. We haven’t had any type of division with the team or any kind of controversy within the team.”


Last year when the roles were reversed, Jefferson clearly grappled with coming off the field, for making room for Lee in a rotation. Jefferson admitted at SEC Media Days in July he’d prefer to be the full-time quarterback.


Times have changed, though, and because of circumstances in and out of Jefferson’s control, he’s the situational QB.


Shepard lauded Jefferson for how he’s handled what could be an awkward return.


“A month ago we thought Jordan would probably be in jail with a felony charge,” Shepard said. “When you can step in and move on like nothing has happened and he’s still happy that he’s splitting reps with another quarterback, those two quarterbacks, their character is really showing now.”


Showing to the tune of 7-0, a No. 1 ranking and – from all outward appearances – a team with two quarterbacks co-existing peacefully.

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