The redshirt freshman infuriated Tiger fans with an ill-advised pick-six, and then astonished them with a brilliant second-half performance. After halftime Lee engineered four scoring drives, tossing two touchdowns in the thrilling victory over Auburn.
And that’s about how it’s gone for Lee. The Texas native has shown flashes of brilliance for such a young quarterback, but has offset that progress with frustrating miscues including five pick-sixes in eight appearances.
“I knew it was going to be tough but that’s just part of the process,” Lee said. “It’s all about staying positive each and every day and trusting in the coaches and the game plan.”
As the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide make the trip to Death Valley, LSU fans can’t help but think about Lee’s performance in the Tigers’ past two marquee matchups. Lee interceptions accounted for three defensive touchdowns in big losses to Florida and Georgia.
“The Georgia and Florida game, I felt like I put too much pressure on myself instead of just going out and having fun,” Lee said. “So this game I’m going to just go out and have fun. Still feel confident in the game plan but just go out and have fun and not put as much pressure on myself.”
That should be welcome news, as Lee has acquitted himself nicely for stretches of the season. Despite the interceptions, the freshman ranks third in the SEC in pass efficiency and is completing 56 percent of his passes, which is better than former greats JaMarcus Russell and Matt Mauck fared in their first seasons of work.
While that may be good company to be associated with, Lee knows that he has a ways to go to accomplish the same feats as Russell and Mauck, and he also knows there is only one way to get there.
“At practice it’s just reps,” he said. “Just going in and watching film of the opposing defense. Being on time with your receivers and just getting on the same page with everybody.”
But it’s easy to forget the youngster’s progress in such frustrating circumstances. As loudly as Lee was lauded following the Auburn win, he has also experienced the boo birds of Tiger Stadium.
Some of the Tiger faithful jeered the freshman during the struggles of the 52-38 loss to Georgia, and those remaining late into Saturday’s 35-10 win against Tulane let Lee have it when his interception accounted for the Green Wave’s only touchdown.
“That’s part of the game. It’s going to happen and you just have to move on,” Lee said. “It’s going to happen and you just have to move on from it and move on to the next week. If something happens that fans don’t like, it’s part of the process and it’s going to happen. You just have to move on and improve.
So now, with both good and bad times behind him, Jarrett Lee will now face arguably the SEC’s best defense in Alabama.
Former LSU coach Nick Saban prides himself on defensive prowess and will be sure to throw everything but the kitchen sink at a young quarterback who has made crippling mistakes.
“Oh you have to be quick with every SEC team but Alabama is a great team that is physical and fast,” Lee said. “The reads you’ve been making against previous teams, you just have to be that much faster and improve.”
Against a defense that brings so much pressure and gives multiple looks, LSU fans will be very interested to see if Lee has kicked his habit of staring down his choices in the passing game. In several instances this season, it seemed everyone knew where the pass was going before it left Lee’s right hand.
“That’s something you have to work on by watching film and getting in there with your coach. Improve each and every week, just improve the next week,” Lee said. “It’s something I have to get better at with looking off defenders and just keep working.”
The road has had its ups and downs to this point, and with another showdown looming, Jarrett Lee’s continuing maturation process promises to continue for better or for worse Saturday afternoon.
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