Fall Camp Preview: QB's

TigerSportsDigest.com is taking a look at each position as LSU prepares for the start of fall camp and we're going to move on to the quarterbacks.

Ever since LSU fell to Georgia on Oct. 25, 2008, one of the hottest and most talked about topics in Baton Rouge centered on the Tigers’ quarterback play.


It actually started well before that when Ryan Perrilloux was finally dismissed from the team following his latest violation of team rules nearly six months earlier – May 2.


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The Tigers entered the 2008 season with Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee battling for the starting job. Hatch eventually came out on top but split time with Lee before a concussion against Auburn sidelined him for one game then a lower leg injury suffered three games later ended his campaign.


When Lee was handed the reigns in the Auburn contest he performed admirably for a young redshirt freshman signal caller and led the Tigers to victory. However, one ill-advised pass on a screen play that was picked off and returned for a touchdown late in the first half was a memory that LSU fans would hold onto all year.


There’s no denying that Lee struggled in his first year under center as he completed 143 of 269 passes (53.2 percent) for 1,873 yards. His 116.93 passing efficiency rating placed him sixth in the Southeastern Conference which even in a down year for signal callers is still respectable. Those numbers alone should be looked at in a positive light taking Lee’s youth and inexperience into consideration.


However, the numbers that stick out to many when they think back to 2008 is Lee’s 16 to 14 interception-to-touchdown ratio and the seven interceptions returned for touchdowns – including five over four consecutive games.


Les Miles had pulled the redshirt off true freshman Jordan Jefferson earlier in the year but he was expected to petition for a medical redshirt when he sustained an injury shortly thereafter. That plan was shelved when Jefferson entered the Troy game in week ten and he took over as the starter when Lee went down with an ankle injury the following week in a loss to Ole Miss.

Jordan Jefferson enters fall camp with a leg up in the race for the starting job

At first glance, Jefferson’s numbers weren’t much better than Lee’s. In fact, in several areas they were worse. The Destrehan product completed only 36 of 73 tosses (49.3 percent) for 419 yards and his passing rating was 112.87. That only told part of the story though.


Whereas Lee had a tendency to lock in on a receiver and make some risky throws, Jefferson took care of the ball better which was evident from his 4 to 1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Jefferson also gave the Tigers a running threat – 49 attempts for 149 yards and a touchdown – when things broke down in the pocket compared to Lee who was a pure pocket passer.


Lee guided the Tigers to a 4-4 record in his eight starts while Jefferson was 1-1, but could have easily been 2-0 had it not been for a defensive meltdown against Arkansas where the Tigers blew a 30-14 lead in the final quarter and a half of play.


Jefferson’s lone victory as a starter was in the Chick-fil-A Bowl which just so happened to be LSU’s most complete and dominant performance of the year as the Tigers routed Georgia Tech, 38-3.


Against the Yellow Jackets, Jefferson completed 16 of 25 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed for 25 yards on 10 attempts. Once again, the numbers weren’t eye-popping by any means but the young gun slinger gave LSU a dual threat in the backfield and earned the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player Award.


Shortly after the big season-ending win, Hatch announced that he was returning to Harvard and LSU went into the spring with Jefferson and Lee battling for the job, along with 2009 signees Russell Shepard and Chris Garrett, who both enrolled early.


The general consensus after the spring was that Jefferson held the upper hand and he showed a lot of promise after completing 8 of 10 passes for 97 yards in the spring game. That performance is what capped a strong spring for Jefferson but there is even more reason for fans to be excited.


“What people see is a big, athletic and strong guy,” said LSU receivers coach D.J. McCarthy, who sees plenty of the quarterbacks in action. “But what coach Crowton was able to do is work on reading the coverages and his fundamentals. They talked about throwing with his feet and making sure he’s taking five steps back if the play calls for that. All of that helps with the timing of the routes. Little things like that is what people don’t see. He improved even more than people think.”


Although Miles indicated it after the spring he announced that Jefferson would be the starter if the season started today when he spoke at SEC Media Days on July 24.

Jarrett Lee plans to make things interesting this spring

That may have been music to many ears but those fans who may have dismissed Lee as not being needed in 2009 better realize that LSU is only one play away from losing Jefferson in the same manner that Lee and Hatch went down last year.


“He [Lee] has to know that we’re confident in him and that he can get the job done,” said McCarthy. “He’s shown better decision making and he’s shown the ability to take control of the field and of the game. He’s grown a lot as a player and he knows we have confidence in him.”


The season that Lee went through where more than a few fans voiced their displeasure in Tiger Stadium would be tough for many young men to overcome. Some would have opted for a new beginning at another school but Lee has handled things just as he did when the media approached him week after week last year and asked about the pick sixes – with class.


“That kid has shown a lot of resilience,” said McCarthy. “Here’s a kid who could have run away and transferred and felt like the world was against him, but he’s the type of guy that always stayed positive and has gotten a lot better.”


McCarthy acknowledged that having two experienced signal callers will benefit the Tigers this season and the growth he’s seen in both Jefferson and Lee has been remarkable.


“It’s night and day,” he said. “Last year you had two guys who had never taken a snap before in college and they were just trying to get the snap count down. Now they’re taking control of the offense in 7-on-7 and writing their own scripts for the guys when they do their passing drills. They know the nuances of the offense, like if a back is lined up wrong or if a receiver ran the wrong route. They have control now and they have the respect of the players.”


“They’ve been there and they’ve done it,” added McCarthy. “Nothing they see or will be approached with is anything that they haven’t seen.”


If anything, last season showed that one quarterback is never enough and often times two isn’t sufficient with the brutal hits that a quarterback will take. Should Jefferson and Lee both go down to injury the Tigers will have to turn to a true freshman and then they will find themselves in the same predicament they were in last year – a starry eyed 18 year-old kid who is in awe.


That is where having Shepard and Garrett participate in spring practice could pay huge dividends at some point this season.


Shepard and Garrett were both highly recruited coming out of high school with Shepard as the No. 2 quarterback in the country, albeit based more on his running skills than his passing skills, and Garrett was No. 27 which was considered too low by many.


Most expect Shepard to get on the field in some capacity – namely receiver and under center in certain situations – this season because he is such a dangerous threat running with the ball. Miles and all of the coaches have remained tight-lipped on if and how that will happen, but it was obvious from the spring that both have the skills to be very good SEC signal callers once they get a better grasp of the offense and adjust to the speed of the game.


“Russell is a phenomenal athlete that is still learning the quarterback position,” said McCarthy. “You get an athletic guy like that and all of the little things kind of get thrown off to the side like his footwork and so on. He’s learning how to be a pure quarterback and he’s taken to that.


“Garrett is more of a true pocket passer who is learning how to be a little more mobile with what we like to do on offense. He’s a crafty guy who made some nice passes in the spring and got the ball in the playmaker’s hands. He’s kind of like a Matt Flynn.”




9   Jordan Jefferson   6-4, 209, So.

12 Jarrett Lee   6-2, 216, So.

10 Russell Shepard   6-1, 180, Fr.

14 Chris Garrett   6-4, 225, Fr.

17 Barrett Bailey   6-4, 208, Fr.

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