Things can be sticky for a Southeastern Conference coach coming off a five-loss season, especially when your play under center remains somewhat of a mystery.
When your popular choice at quarterback completes on 80-percent of his passes in the spring game, however, the sleep at night comes a bit easier.
“Jefferson was nice out there, and it is what should happen,” head coach Les Miles said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “There are 29 more practices before the fall, so it is nice to see advances being made.”
Surprisingly, a typically tight-lipped Miles let his words flow on his feelings at the spot.
“I don’t make too much of naming a leader, because competition is the definer,” he said. “But, if we had to start today, Jefferson would be that starter.”
Hitting on 8-of-10 passes for 97 yards, the sophomore gunslinger had key throws to set up a pair of first half touchdowns, giving Tiger fans a brief glimpse of what can be expected in the fall.
“It is those types of drives that win us games,” Jefferson said. “Every drive we have, we want to make it like that. I trust the offensive line, and they trust me.
“Now, I just play pitch and catch with my receivers.”
His primary target on the year should be senior Brandon LaFell, the Tigers’ leading receiver last season.
With his final spring under his belt, LaFell said that all signs point to 2009 being his biggest year yet.
“The spring went well for me, especially because I started off slow when I injured my back at the Chick-Fil-A bowl game, and it kept nagging me,” he said.
“I came in and got used to the quarterbacks and got comfortable, and I think things went well. I give myself a B-plus,” he added with a smile.
As for his growing relationship with Jefferson, LaFell said that the signs of improvement are already there.
“The quarterbacks are way better this year, especially with being more vocal,” he said. “They call plays and tell us how they want us to be, and they see the holes in defense. They look good, so I am excited.”
Music to Tiger fans’ ears, Miles echoed his receiver’s sentiments.
“Each phase of spring has places that must improve, and offensively we needed greater quarterback play than last fall,” he said.
“That has happened. They will play with more confidence, and the receiving corps will be just as good, or better, than a year ago.”
Of course, the running game is right where it left off.
Charles Scott, who led the Southeastern Conference in rushing touchdowns during his junior campaign, recorded a pair of scores in the first half of Saturday’s scrimmage.
With the addition of Russell Shepard, the playmaking freshman at the quarterback spot, things seem to be looking up for the Tigers.
“With guys like Shepard, you have the potential to give the offense a different style of athlete,” Miles said. “You take Trindon [Holliday] out with track and look at guys like Shepard and see what he has, and I feel like you have improvement on offense.”
In typical Miles’ fashion, however, the headman said that the path to the fall remains a long one to travel.
“Certainly our football team needs development, and we are by no means ready for a game,” he said. “But, I like where we are at.”