A gamer

Week by week, LSU fans learn a little bit more about their new quarterback, Jarrett Lee. Over the course of a month, Lee has gone from hero (Sept. 20 at Auburn) to terrified freshman (Oct. 11 at Florida), and everywhere in between.

In starts against Mississippi State and South Carolina, Jarrett Lee completed 64 percent of his passes while throwing for two touchdowns. But he also threw interceptions in each of those starts.

On the year, the redshirt freshman has completed 84-of-141 passes for 1,041 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions.

There was the second half comeback at Auburn where Lee overcame a late interception in the first half that Auburn returned for a touchdown to finish 11-of-17 with two touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 1:03 left on the clock.

Then there were the three drives he engineered in the second half at South Carolina, with the assistance of Andrew Hatch, where he was 6-of-9 in leading LSU back from a 17-10 deficit.

Statistics or not, it seems Lee is developing a reputation for coming through in the clutch after leading the Tigers to a pair of come-from-behind wins on the road.

“Sometimes you make mistakes and you move forward,” he said. “You’re out there to have fun and that happens once you can slow the game down.”

As evidenced by his performance in Columbia, Lee’s numbers grow and he spreads the ball around more as the game wears on. After a number of overthrows and telegraphed passes, Lee completed upwards of four critical passes in the game’s crucial minutes.

“The pitch and catch is getting better every week,” said senior wide receiver Demetrius Byrd. “He’s throwing us the ball and we kind of dropped a few last week. We’ve got to keep his confidence high.”

Bu those drops, along with several miscommunications, were a hindrance throughout the win against South Carolina. Byrd and Brandon LaFell dropped almost certain touchdown passes, and then Lee overthrew a wide open Byrd on another play. On the third attempt, the duo got it together for a long 36-yard gain.

“We don’t say anything harsh,” Byrd said. “We’ll joke with him and I’ll say ‘Don’t put me on a stretcher Jarrett.’ We can’t let him take things too seriously and get mad, we’ve just got to let him know we’re here for him and we’re going to go up and catch the ball.”

Lee agreed with his receiver. He said the excitement and speed of a game can makes it hard to stay calm when a situation calls for poise.

“That adrenaline rush can get to you sometimes and you get excited,” he said. “You’ve just got to understand that and settle down.”

Although Lee has a reserved demeanor with the media, Byrd insists his signal caller has come into his own since taking over the starting role.

“You can look into his eyes and see that he’s getting more comfortable,” Byrd said. “We can see it in the huddle and then on the sidelines. He doesn’t let things bother him too much and he’s able to shake things off and come back and make the big play when we need it.”

Although there are still too many times where he locks onto his receivers and throws into double coverage, Lee is a different quarterback in the second half. As if LSU fans needed any reminding, it seems the young quarterback makes the right calls when the game is on the line.

“When we go in the locker room and come back out, he’s a whole new Jarrett. He’s on point,” Byrd said. “He’s calm, he makes the reads and calls the right audibles that he wasn’t calling in the first half. I need to go tamper with his secret box and see what the secret is.”

Despite the impressive numbers, Lee said there is no secret to the second-half upswings. With 20 minutes to wait during intermission, he said the encouragement of the Tigers’ veterans is all the help he needs.

“I’m a quiet guy, so I just go in and recollect myself and chew a couple sticks of gum,” he said. “Being such a young guy it helps when players and coaches come up and try to help me. Coach Crowton does a good job of settling me down then we put it together in the second half.”

Even as Lee adapts to the college game, his offense is adapting to new clock rules. Many college teams are trying to run a no-huddle offense to combat the new 40 second clock, and Lee enjoyed LSU’s experimentation with it.

“I really like it,” he said. “The speed of the game is much faster and we got more plays off. I think it really helped us out. We worked at in practice all last week and it really helped us out.”

Lee has now played a part in two road games against teams that were ranked in the top 10 when they met. Saturday will mark his first start in Death Valley against a nationally ranked team when the Georgia Bulldogs come to town.

If we’ve learned this much from the redshirt freshman after four weeks of conference play, imagine what we’ll know Sunday morning. Not to mention the five games following that.

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